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SALT LAKE CITY — One of the oldest sports in American history made its way to Utah this year, as the University of Utah became the first local school to sport a NCAA Division I lacrosse team.
A game that has its origins with the Native Americans, college lacrosse today is dominated by east-coast schools. The Utes broke that trend this year, however, by becoming the farthest west Division I team in the country. Utah joined Denver and Air Force as the only universities west of the Mississippi River to sponsor a men’s lacrosse team at the Division I level.
After opening the season in February against Vermont, the Utes completed their 15-game schedule this past Saturday with a 16-10 win against Detroit Mercy. The win put an end to a seven-game losing streak and concluded the team’s season with a 5-10 record.
Utah’s James Sexton, a junior attackman, was named to the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Team of the Week for his play in Saturday’s final game. Sexton became the first NCAA player in the country to record 13 points in a single game this season after scoring 5 goals and recording 8 assists in the 16-10 win.
Sexton finished the year with the highest point total for the Utes at 49, while Josh Stout, a sophomore, scored a team-high 43 goals on his way to 48 points for the Utes this season.
After starting the season 4-3, the Utes struggled through the second half of their schedule, traveling to tough road matches against lacrosse powerhouse schools Virginia, Duke and UMass. The end-of-season skid also included multiple losses in heartbreaking fashion.
One-score losses to Fairfield and Mount St. Mary’s and a two-score loss to Hartford made up three Utah losses during their seven-game losing streak, dropping the Utes to 4-10 after a 4-3 start to the year.
Despite the first-season difficulties, head coach Brian Holman described the season as a success.
"Our season could not have gone any better, and going through all the things you deal with is part of the process – losing tough games, winning close games, injuries," Holman said in a statement. "Everyone gets different hands, and if we're true to who we are then we'll find a way to battle and get better. That's the biggest thing — just constantly finding a way to get better.”
Holman has proven to be an asset for the Utes during his three years on the Hill. The Maryland native joined the Utah club team in 2017, helping the Utes to a 16-1 record in and a No. 5 ranking among non-NCAA teams in 2018.
With 31 freshman, four sophomores, four juniors, and only three seniors on the 2019 roster, the Utes have a lot to look forward to next year and beyond.
"I'll never be able to thank this group, doing what they did this year,” Holman said. “The heart, the passion, the overall stick-to-it attitude, they do it. It's stuff that we preach, but they do it. They did it every day. They do it in the classroom, they've done it in the community. ... And they did it really well on the field. It's awesome."