If you build it?

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Lacrosse has historically been an East Coast sport, but in recent years it has begun to creep up on Americans throughout the country. In March, it yelled “Boo!” and pounced on us from behind when rape allegations and lewd stories about drunken lacrosse hooligans at Duke surfaced and seized the national spotlight. Suddenly, the dark side of an unfamiliar sport was exposed on the cover of Newsweek.

But lacrosse had begun to pick up momentum before news about the sport turned ugly. In April of 2005, Sports Illustrated named it the fastest-growing youth sport in the country.

Rich Levi, who will begin his inaugural year as head coach of the U’s club team in the fall, has been involved in lacrosse since he was a kid. Levi believes that the game is unique and addictive because of the stick skills involved.

At first it’s difficult to even play catch, he said, but then “you get a feel for it, your skills develop and the stick starts to feel like it’s part of your arm.” He compared lacrosse to skateboarding in that it takes time for it to feel natural, but when it starts to, you realize that you’re hooked.

Levi graduated from Brown in 1993 after playing for three years on the university’s varsity team. Thirteen years later-living in Utah because of his love of the West and powder skiing-he decided to cash in on his senior year of athletic eligibility. He took a full load of classes at the U and tried out for the lacrosse team. Known as “Uncle Rick” to his teammates, the 33-year-old stepped back onto the lacrosse field.

Levi held his own against his 20-year-old competition in the full-contact sport that combines the body checking of hockey with the pick-setting of basketball, and at the end of last season, he took home the team’s “unsung hero” award.

No longer eligible to play, Levi put down the stick and picked up the whistle. He hopes to be a long-term coach and plans to cultivate the program, enabling it to rise from the club level to the varsity level so that one day his job will be full-time.

The U plays in the Rocky Mountain Conference, which Levi believes is the strongest conference in the country at the club level. Levi plans to play an aggressive, goal-attacking offense against the tough competition, which includes Colorado State, Colorado and Utah State.

Two captains, Tommy Fernandez and Stefan Turkulap-who is coming back from an injury that kept him out of play last season-are returning this year. The two are big goal scorers and strong leaders, Levi said.

File photo

Clint English has played in 28 games over the last two years, and now embarks on his junior year with new coach Rich Levi.