Locally formed, nationally feared: student-formed lacrosse club makes nationals again

 

Even as basketball and baseball strive to catch the nation’s eye, the men’s lacrosse club team has already beat them to it.

Repeatedly.

The No. 12 Wolverines made their second consecutive appearance in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association Division II National Championships, falling to eventual champion Davenport in the first round.

“I’d probably rate our season as a seven or an eight,” midfielder Jonothon Andrews said. “With everything we learned this year, with all our newcomers, it turned out alright.”

Despite their club team status, the Wolverines have taken full advantage of a continual talent pool, as well as a more open-minded league. With the NCAA hesitant to reward a successful team in what they deem a weak Great West Conference, UVU team sports such as basketball and baseball struggle for consideration to national tournaments.

Lacrosse, however, continues to reap the benefits of its Division II status. The Wolverines entered the 2010 nationals as a No. 3 seed, advancing all the way the title game before losing to St. Thomas.

“We had an outstanding team last year,” attackman Austin Nielsen said. “We just have a really young team this year with a lot of potential.”

While their club status helps with Division II status, it serves as a double-edged sword when it comes to finances. The team provides its own transportation, equipment, and uses the empty practice fields behind the McKay Education Building.

“At nationals everyone rolled up in their tour buses,” Andrews said. “We were in two Suburbans, a van we had rented from Enterprise, and a truck to hold all our gear.”

The cost? $5,000 out of pocket.

The rewards have followed, however. Tyler “Spud” Spendlove and Kyle Olsen were named to the all-conference first team, and Olsen made Honorable Mention All-America. The sophomore midfielder heads a deep returning core for the 2012 season – a welcome relief after a year of newcomers.

“One of the reasons he was named all-conference was because he never gives up,” Andrews said. “He’s always there for the ground balls. He’s 6-foot, 160 pounds, lighter than a feather, but he can still hit and lay out kids. Our last game he completely took out a kid, and it was pretty entertaining to be honest.

Olsen, who attended Orem High, is just part of the swell of lacrosse talent emerging from Utah Valley. The sport has taken a unique hold south of Salt Lake, and schools such as Orem and Timpview have quickly given lacrosse a place alongside their mainstream sports.

Andrews hopes UVU isn’t far behind.

“Lacrosse has always been one of those sports that’s kind of in the corner,” Andrews said. “Same with rugby. Before I leave in two years, I’d like to see it be one of those sports that people talk about at Utah Valley.”

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