Fall Snapshot: Utah Utes

(Photo Courtesy of Utah Athletics)

Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.

Head Coach: Andrew McMinn (2nd Season, 2022-Present)

Utah 2022 Record: 10-4 (5-0 ASUN)

Key Departures: Josh Stout (A), Zion Dechesere (G)

Key Returners: Tyler Bradbury (A), Jordan Hyde (A), MJ McMahon (A), Cole Brams (FO), Samuel Cambere (LSM)

Transfer Additions: Zach Chandler (M, Bowdoin)

Year one of the Andrew McMinn era in Salt Lake City proved to be a success. Utah churned out its firs winning season in program history and did so with 10 wins. They also went undefeated in ASUN regular season play and started the year with wins over two top 25 teams in Vermont and Jacksonville.

Utah came into the ASUN tournament as the No. 1 seed and the favorite to take home the title. However, they needed overtime to take down Bellarmine in the semifinals and then would see their season end two days later with an 18-17 loss against Robert Morris.

In 2023, Utah looks to still be at the top of what will be a tougher ASUN with Jacksonville, as well as Mercer, Lindenwood, and Queens, coming into the league. And with that, the Utes will be looking to replicate their success from a year ago and go even further.

Burning Questions

Can Utah Go Faster?

Upon Andrew McMinn’s arrival as the second head coach in program history, he brought with him a very fun style of play that he had implemented at Robert Morris. And it caught on almost immediately with the Utes’ roster last season, turning them into one of the most fun teams to watch in all of college lacrosse last season.

Per LacrosseReference, Utah ranked 10th overall in offensive pacing. They also led the nation in clearing percentage (91%). If you watched the Utes last season, neither state is surprising. Utah got up and down the field extremely well and was often able to strike in transition at will. They showed it very early on in the year and continued to grow in that fast-paced style as the season went on.

A big part of Utah’s ability to play that style was the success of the Utes’ rope unit, which was headlined by LSM Samuel Cambere and SSDM Rueben Santana. Additionally, midfielder like Jared Andreala played on both ends as well as on the faceoff wings. The utilization of its middies gave Utah those extra legs on both ends to strike fast and hard when needed. With practically all those guys back in 2023, can we see the speed of this offense – particularly in transition – increase?

Who Starts in Cage?

The Utes return nearly all of its starters from a year ago. Of their few losses, one of the biggest is in cage as Zion Dechesere has moved on. He anchored the Utes’ defense with 125 saves and a 48.6% save percentage last spring. Zion Dechesere also split time in 2021 with Zack Johns, making 72 saves with a 50% save percentage in seven games and five starts.

As to who emerges as the starting goalie for Utah this spring, the aforementioned Johns is its most experienced returner. Johns has started seven combined games over the past two seasons. That includes two starts last spring. He made 17 saves with a 38.6% save percentage in the 99 minutes of action he saw this past season for the Utes.

In addition to Johns, the Utes have junior Connor Hollison, sophomore Joey Garcia, redshirt freshman Conor O’Neil, and freshman Colin Lenskold on roster at the goalie position.

Can Utah Win The ASUN?

Utah was perfect in the ASUN regular season last spring. But once the postseason started, they had to fight harder than they ever had before. The Utes got past Bellarmine in overtime but then fell to Robert Morris 18-17 in the offensive shootout that was the ASUN title game.

Outside of the postseason, a 10-8 win over Air Force was the closest game against a conference foe Utah had all season. And it was a season in which they notched early wins over top-20 teams in Vermont and Jacksonville. The latter of which is now a conference foe.

In year one of this larger ASUN, Utah still looks to be one of the top dogs. Jacksonville is the only team, on paper, that many would look at and say is better than the Utes. The battle between those two, as well as the other top-tier teams, will be extremely fun to watch this spring. Utah had the talent to win the league last season and likely has it again in 2023. It’s just a matter of whether they finish how they need to or not.

Potential Breakout Player

Cody Hart, Midfield, Sophomore

The headliner of the Utes’ 2021 recruiting class, Hart had a solid freshman season with seven goals and two assists for nine points. He was especially good down the stretch with six of his points (three goals) coming during the final month of the season.

Freshman Class

Utah brings in a 15-man freshman class with its 2022 recruiting efforts. Three of those players (Zach White, Trace White, Tyler Kloeckl) followed Coach McMinn upon his departure from Robert Morris to Utah. The class is headlined in part by a pair of Inside Lacrosse three-stars in defenseman Nikko DiPonio (Culver, Ind.), goalie Colin Lenskold (Wilton, Conn.), and midfielder Luke Haley (Newsome, Fla.).

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