The University of Utah has slowly established itself as a nationally recognized brand in varsity athletics due to the performances of the school’s varsity sports teams over the past two decades. Despite the school’s Division I programs, don’t overlook the school’s 21 club athletic teams.
While none of the club’s athletic teams have won a national championship, it’s still worth exploring some of the notable feats you may not have heard of in the Utah athletic community this school year. .
One of the favorite sports clubs of U fans is the club’s hockey program. As Utah football spent the fall chasing a Pac-12 championship, the men’s hockey team had one of the best seasons in its long history. Although the season was characterized by a series of ups and downs, the men’s hockey team finished the season in the standings No. 20 in the nation.
The U women’s hockey team is still considered the newcomer to the neighborhood. Nonetheless, in their second full season as a program, the club’s women’s hockey team nearly doubled the size of its roster and added a new coach, Braeden Yeo, daughter of the current interim head coach. of the Philadelphia Flyers, Mike Yeo.
Another sports club with an impressive feat this year was the club’s alpine ski team. Around the same time the varsity ski team won another national championship, the club’s women’s alpine ski team quietly finished second in Western Region Championshipswhile the men’s alpine ski team placed third in the same competition.
The club hockey program and downhill ski team are just the tip of the iceberg for club teams that have had remarkable seasons this school year. Plus, the club’s Ultimate Frisbee, Wakeboard and Kendo teams are all worth checking out next year.
Arguably the biggest story to come out of the U’s club sports community this season was the relaunch of the men’s lacrosse program. The men’s lacrosse program, originally founded in 1979, has been on campus for several decades, competing in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association before officially becoming a varsity sport in 2019.
The transition from a school club to a varsity sport was generally seen as a victory for the lacrosse club as an organization, but not necessarily for most of its members. While the club’s best players eventually got a chance to play the sport at Division I level, the team could only accommodate around 40 players, a fraction of the club’s more than 100 members.
Due to a rule put in place by MCLA, the college league to which Utah now belongs, universities were not allowed to have both a Division I team and a club team. Because of this, a majority of Utah’s surprisingly large lacrosse community was ultimately denied the opportunity to play an organized version of the sport in college.
Among those affected by the club’s transition were U students and lacrosse fanatics Michaelis Linardakis and Connor Kuhl. To address this issue, in 2019 Linardakis and Kuhl began hosting practice and pickup games on campus to keep the club alive and keep the lacrosse community at U together, even if they couldn’t. to play games.
“We started with the lunar goal of creating another MCLA lacrosse team at the University of Utah,” Linardakis said. “It was not an easy task. Our first practice, which was literally just a pickup game with 14 guys.
Over time, the club began to gain ground. Ahead of the 2021-22 season, the club finally received its big break, as MCLA lifted its rule, which meant the club could start competing again. When it was officially announced that the club could begin competing in the MCLA, the team quickly gained traction.
“I saw literally 160 people sign up for trials,” Linardakis said. “It was heartwarming to see so many talented guys show up.”
Entering its first season this year, the club’s men’s lacrosse team currently sits fourth in the MCLA Division II National Rankings and will likely move up to Division I next year.