The first highly anticipated college lacrosse games of 2019 will be played on February 1st and 2nd and they will feature the two newest additions to Division 1 lacrosse. The University of Utah and St. Bonaventure University will join the other 71 teams in what should be the most exciting year of lacrosse yet.
These teams will bring new blood into college lacrosse and they will continue to create more parity at the Division 1 level, but their impact off the field will be just as important as they help grow the surrounding lacrosse communities and inspire young players. New teams have a bigger impact than just adding another dot on the map of college lacrosse. Utah and St. Bonnies will help inspire a new generation of players.
Lacrosse was not a popular sport when I was growing up in the suburbs of Detroit. There weren’t many local teams for me and my friends to look up to except my older brother’s high school team, the other high school teams in the area, and the Michigan and Michigan State club teams. In 2009, Detroit Mercy started a Division 1 lacrosse team and they became my favorite team immediately. I didn’t have the chance to go to many games, but I would watch their highlights on YouTube and I knew all of the leading scorers’ names.
Michigan also added varsity lacrosse in 2012 and I went to their first game against Detroit Mercy. It was one of the first times I had ever seen a Division 1 lacrosse game in person after so many years of only watching on TV or YouTube. I was so excited that I had goosebumps the whole game. These were the best lacrosse players I had ever seen. They were so fast, shot the ball so hard, and made plays I thought I would never be able to do. I lost my voice cheering for Detroit Mercy as they beat the Wolverines in the first ever Battle of the Mitten. I wanted to be just like them.
A few years later, I would actually find myself playing against both Detroit Mercy and Michigan as a member of the Canisius lacrosse team. Coincidentally, Detroit Mercy became a team I learned to hate as they were one of our biggest rivals, but I will always remember how much the team meant to me as a young high schooler.
That is the biggest effect these new teams will have. Young lacrosse players from Utah or Western and Southern New York will have the chance to watch a Division 1 game in person and have players to look up to as their heroes. These young players will get hooked on the game and could find themselves playing for or against Utah or St. Bonnies one day.
Head Coach Brian Holman helped win a national championship with North Carolina and he took a leap of faith by going out west. Will there be a new lacrosse dynasty in the mountains? I can’t wait to see how Utah does in their first season with such great leadership guiding them and homegrown Utah players, as well as players from all over the country, ready to prove they belong.
I owe a lot to Coach Mearns as he gave me a chance to fulfill my dream of playing Division 1 lacrosse when I walked on to the Canisius lacrosse team. Mearnsy is one of a kind and I had the opportunity to have 4 years of his unique Canadian lingo, sideline antics, and complete dedication to his players and the game of lacrosse. It will be weird to see him on a different sideline, but I will be cheering him and the Bonnies on as they embark on their first season.
On February 1st, Utah will play Vermont in the first game of the 2019 season and St. Bonaventure will play the next day against High Point on February 2nd. While many teams in are buried in snow, the Utes and the Bonnies will play their historic first games. What better way to kick off a new season and an exciting new era of college lacrosse than to have the two newest teams be the first to go to battle.
Go Utes. Go Bonnies.