(Photo Courtesy of Utah Athletics)
During the first three seasons of its existence, Utah went a combined 20-12 as a DI independent under the leadership of Brian Holman. That includes a 2021 campaign in which the Utes churned out a 4-7 record, which featured a one-goal loss to a top-10 Denver team to start the season.
Now heading into its fourth season of play as a DI program, the sports’ western-most DI and only Pac-12 program enters a new era. An era in which they will be led by Andrew McMinn and be in a conference, Atlantic Sun (ASUN), for the first time in program history, and will be looking to continue building on the foundation laid the past three seasons.
Utah is one of two programs, along with McMinn’s former Robert Morris squad, making such a move this offseason. Air Force, Bellarmine, Cleveland State, and Detroit Mercy are also moving into the newly-formed ASUN lacrosse conference this spring. Utah played each of those now conference foes, except Detroit Mercy, this past season and went 2-2. The Utes beat Bellarmine and Cleveland State while falling to Air Force and Robert Morris.
Heading into this new era of Utah lacrosse, the Utes will be looking to take the necessary steps forward in hopes of eventually elevating themselves to the level of many other power five lacrosse programs. Joining a conference and having that ASUN auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament is a step in that direction, but how soon it will be until the Utes are at the top of the conference has yet to be seen.
This Utes team has talent and in year one of this new era should be expected to compete. Especially considering the sheer amount of talent they bring back from last season. And most of that talent is still fairly young.
On the offensive end of the field, Utah returns practically everyone from a unit last season that left a lot to be desired, ranking 40th nationally in scoring offense (10.27 goals per game) and having four single digit performances.
Redshirt sophomore attackmen Tyler Bradbury (14G/25A) and Jordan Hyde (20G/4A) return to lead this offense following a 2021 season in which the pair led this Utes’ offense as the team’s top two point-getters. Fellow third-year sophomore attackman MJ McMahon (11G/2A), who saw just four starts in 11 showings, as well as a pair of midfielders in Carson Moyer (8G/4A) and Branden Wilson (8G/3A) return after bring top five scorers for this squad last season.
Sophomores Drew Wasserman (8G/3A) and Peter Hagan (5G/2A) are just a few of a multitude of others names to watch for this spring after seeing significant time last season. Wasserman’s older brother, Casey, will also join the Utes as a grad transfer from Towson and could make a significant impact on this offense that features a number of younger players.
Things look fairly similar as the Utes only lose one starter, Dan Tracy, from unit last season that allowed 11.5 goals per game.
LSM Samuel Cabere is Utah’s most productive returning pole following a season in which he led the team in caused turnovers with 14 while also grabbing 58 ground balls. The Utes will also see starting close defensemen Rylan Lemons (14GB/8CT) and Joey Boylston (10GB/7CT) return after being full-time starters last season as a sophomore and freshman.
Additionally, SSDM Josh Rose (21GB/3CT) returns to add more talent to and help lead the way for that Utah rope unit this spring.
The biggest question for this defense coming into the 2022 season lies in between the pipes. Zack Johns saw action in seven games with five starts last season and made 54 saves with a .529% save percentage while Zion Dechesere made six starts in seven contests and boasted a 50% save percentage off 72 saves. The two look the most are the most experienced and look the most likely to get that starting nod this spring, or possibly share time in cage again like last season.
Cole Brams returns at the faceoff after serving as the Utes’ top option at the dot for the past two seasons. A redshirt sophomore, Brams is coming off a 2021 campaign in which he went 129-for-257 (.502%) at the dot. That includes a season-opening 60% (12-for-20) performance against Denver’s Alec Stathakis.
Utah has a lot of promise as the sport’s westernmost DI and only Pac-12 school on the men’s side. And while this program is still in its infancy, if the Utes put all the pieces together this season and McMinn is able to steer the ship as well as he was back in Moon Township, Pa., we could very well see Utah lacrosse rise to the top of ASUN sooner rather than later.