By: Tyler Kreitz- ADVNC Dir of Operations
It was when the fireworks went off in Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium that it really hit Chris and I. Pac-12 lacrosse was really happening. We shouldn’t have been so surprised. The signs and posters celebrating the University of Utah’s first-ever NCAA Division I game, touting ‘Salt Lax City’, were everywhere. Not just on the Utah campus but throughout the neighborhood and in Salt Lake City itself.
The fact ADVNC was invited there should have made this seem more normal as well. Utah head Coach Brian Holman and his staff had reached out to Coach Rotelli and ADVNC for good reason. Utah wants to ensure the best lacrosse talent on the West Coast stays west when they go to college. So a DI school west of Colorado, cozied up to a lacrosse club whose western boundary is the Pacific. While this seems so normal now, it was just a short while ago that this was about as common as Eskimos surfing in Hawaii.
Well before this game, about 15 years prior, I wrote an op-ed for Inside Lacrosse on the recruitment of Will Yeatman, then going to play attack at the University of Maryland. Non-traditional hotbed players (i.e. anywhere outside the upper Atlantic) had been going to play NCAA lacrosse for a while, but this was different. Will, a San Diego kid, was recruited.
This was huge, both literally (Will was a 6’7” monster) and figuratively. A West Coast kid was being recognized as being ‘legit’ before going and playing in college or at a prep school. Heck, if Maryland wants you, the lacrosse establishment thinks you’re pretty good. Keep in mind, this was well before clubs like ADVNC existed and the recruiting tournament tours were in their infancy.
Now, just 15 years later, Chris and I were on the sideline of a gorgeous Pac-12 football stadium watching as the Utes battled the Catamounts of Vermont. While the game was a bit of a letdown, (the Utes youth showed in a 21-6 handling) the atmosphere was fantastic. Reflecting on how we got there shows a familiar pattern that will be analyzed later.
However, one thing became evident the day after the game as Chris and I sat in on Utah team meetings and spent time with the staff. It’s that as much as the rapid growth and buzz around the new program has created excitement, Coach Holman’s messages and lessons to his team are the same that Coach Dom Starsia told to Rotelli, that Coach Joe Proud told to me, that Coach Jamie Munro told to Coach Weigel, and that we deliver to our players at ADVNC. Lacrosse out west has grown at an exponential pace, but the messages and lessons fueling that growth have not.
That may have been the biggest surprise of all.