Men’s lacrosse has championship aspirations heading into the 2022 season

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Utah Valley University houses a variety of club teams, one, in particular, being the men’s lacrosse team. This is a team that is not only well-coached but one of brotherly bonding and championship aspirations.

“The team goal is to compete for a national championship. We have a strong team, probably some of the best athletes that we’ve had as long as I’ve been with UVU Lacrosse. And our expectation is that we’ll compete for a conference championship and then compete for a national championship. That’s our expectation,” said Head Coach Brian Barnhill.

Coach Barnhill is entering his seventh year in the program and is very thankful for the support the school has given him. From day one, Barnhill says the school has been “very supportive and very proactive in their promotion and development of lacrosse as a program.”  Barnhill was named the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) coach of the year in 2016.

The effort to go recruit has increased as the program has improved. Barnhill went on to explain, “We are currently ranked 13th in one poll and 15th in another. As a preseason poll, we’ve been ranked in other years as…high as sixth …so we’re in a top 15, top 10 category year in and year out.”

Barnhill said he believes lacrosse is a true team sport. He mentions that this season there are returning veterans that fans may recognize. Take #3 Preston Burbidge for example, a team captain and a fourth-year midfielder. Barnhill described him as, “One of the leaders of the team. All around, probably one of our best all-around lacrosse players on the field.” 

On the defensive side of the field, Barnhill says, “we have a couple of returning… seniors with Remington Peterson, Keaton Stephens, and Kade Arbon in the cage.” Barnhill explains that #11 Arbon, who plays goalkeeper, will likely split time with some talented freshmen recruits coming in. Arbon is described as a vocal leader and general of the defense. 

According to coach Barnhill, midfielder #9 Keaton Stephens is one of the best all-around lacrosse players on the team. Barnhill also said he is, “very smart”.  Stephens played in seven games and had 26 groundballs last season.

Another player to note is defender #38 Remington Peterson, who is a solid one-on-one defender. Barnhill described Peterson as “ probably one of our more physical players.” He played in seven games and clocked 18 groundballs last season. 

The advantage of lacrosse being a club is that anyone can join. If you weren’t recruited out of high school and are interested in joining the squad, Barnhill says that you don’t have to be recruited to play for the team, you can just try out. 

“Where at first it was we’d have tryouts and we’d try to fill our sports,” Barnhill begins. “Now our spots are limited and we’re trying to identify the players that can fit into the program the best. And I will just put my two cents out there that it’s not all about performance. It’s chemistry. It’s how do they fit into the team? How are they as a teammate? Are they trustworthy? Are they good students? Those are factors we consider when we go out and talk to players about coming to play at UVU.”

“An example would be Alec Banton,” Barnhill said, “who comes from out of state from Northern California, and he wears number ten and came out of nowhere and he is a solid player. He’s actually our club president and he motivates, he works hard… I wouldn’t characterize [Alec Banton] as a walk-on but [he] made it through the tryout process and we are happy to have him. And that happens year in and year out.” 

The team has also implemented a redshirt program for players who have been on a mission or haven’t been able to play for a year or two. Barnhill promises that if they show potential and commitment then they can be put into a redshirt program and be given a year to get acclimated so that they can jump into the program and move forward in the following years. There are a half-dozen redshirt players on this year’s roster.

Coach Barnhill is very proud of his team’s chemistry and the environment that they have created. 

“They work together as a team. There’s a good brotherhood that’s involved. So they’ll hang out off the field as much as on the field. They’re inclusive, they’re not exclusive. So transfers coming in from out of state or from different schools have been brought into the fold. And from a standpoint of a student-athlete experience, I really cannot recommend it enough. It’s the team, the players themselves, [who] have created that environment, and [I’m] very proud of what they’ve done with the program.”

The Wolverines will take on the Utah Utes at home in their season opener on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at 1 p.m. MT at Utah Valley University. The match will be streamed on the UVU Wolverine Lacrosse YouTube channel.