Lacrosse opens preseason with eye on future

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

If the Ute lacrosse club gets its way (and it’s a long shot), the team will one day reach varsity status-and will receive all the perks and privileges awarded to student athletes. Chief among them: full-ride scholarships.

As for now, the Utes compete in the MCLA-the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. It may be wordy, but it’s the top college lacrosse outfit in the nation at the club level.

Many major college football schools, such as Michigan and Florida State, compete in the 200-team MCLA, but because of Title IX and the cost of supporting a varsity program that may prove to be unpopular among fans, the schools have been reluctant to upgrade lacrosse to the varsity level.

On Friday, the No. 13 Utes will challenge Westminster College in their first game of the year-a scrimmage that won’t count toward the Utes’ overall record, but will likely serve as a form of practice for more important games in coming weeks against No. 19 Arizona and No. 7 Arizona State.

“Other than the guys having bragging rights,” said head coach Rich Levi, “we’re not really concerned about the score.”

The Utes play in the four-team Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference, which Levi describes as “pretty competitive.” Along with Utah, the league consists of Colorado, Colorado State and Utah State.

As for the Utes’ quest to become a varsity squad, a group of “seven lacrosse officers expressed their wishes and explained how committed (they) are to the program” in front of both Athletics Director Chris Hill and U President Michael K. Young, Levi said.

“We’re still waiting to hear back. We don’t really know what we’re up against,” Levi said. “It requires a big commitment from our university but (promoting the team to varsity) would be our ultimate goal.”

The club’s request might be unrealistic, Levi admitted.

The lacrosse team’s argument to Utah bigwigs? That lacrosse is a growing sport.

Of the high schools in Utah, 30 have boys’ teams and 18 have girls’ teams, Levi said. Along with prep lacrosse on the rise, youth leagues are getting more abundant.

That could likely spill over into the college ranks.

The match starts at 6 p.m. at the Spence Eccles Field House Friday.