Utah’s lacrosse players huddled in the north end zone of Judge Memorial’s McCarthey Stadium, waiting for their coach to finish a long talk with the Mount St. Mary’s coach and address them after a fifth straight defeat.
Opposing coaches often have a lot of good things to tell Utah’s Brian Holman after facing his team, and they’re not just being nice. They’re impressed with everything the Utes are doing in the program’s inaugural Division I season, although that’s not translating to wins lately. Saturday’s game clearly got away from the Utes, who lost 16-15 to the Maryland school after leading for most of the afternoon.
And the missed opportunity fit right into Holman’s approach to the season, with his ability to notice all of the little things while maintaining a wider perspective.
“Bigger picture? I love it,” Holman said. “I think games like this make it even more clear where we're heading.”
The Utes (4-8) were left with a lot to lament, after another loss. “Our goal was to have a winning season, which obviously we can’t do anymore,” James Sexton acknowledged, after scoring three goals.
Utah allowed two goals in the last 41 seconds of the first half, two more goals in the final 12 seconds of the third quarter and the last two goals of the game. That math suggests losing faceoffs was a problem; so were turnovers that prevented the Utes from scoring in the game's last seven minutes, after Josh Stout's third goal gave them a 15-14 lead.
Jared McMahon scored the winning goal for Mount St. Mary’s (7-5), as the Mountaineers repeatedly rallied. They apparently were not fazed when the public address announcer reminded the crowd about the altitude difference between Maryland and Utah during the fourth quarter of a one-goal game, and they made winning plays.
The Utes have done that themselves at times this season, earning two one-goal victories in early March. Utah couldn’t maintain leads of 6-1, 9-3, 12-9 and 15-14.
“Just little things,” Holman said. “We talk about lacrosse as being a bunch of little mini-battles all over the field, if you break it down.”
In a learning context, Holman said, “This game's awesome for us.”
But a win was not part of the reward, even on a day when Jimmy Perkins scored four goals and Liam Donnelly made 16 saves. The Utes failed to make a defensive switch on McMahon's winning goal, and Sexton's desperate shot in front of the net was blocked at the horn.
Utah entered April with reasonable hopes of winning its last four games and finishing 8-7. Now, 7-8 is the best the Utes can do, with a trip to Hartford and home games vs. Cleveland State and Detroit Mercy remaining.
Using the baseline of a season-opening 21-6 loss to Vermont on Feb. 1, “We’ve come a long way since then,” Sexton said.
Holman cites “a huge, upward trajectory,” adding, “Anybody who watched us play that game and sees us play play right now would say we're a different team.”
Mount St. Mary's coach Ton Gravante made that clear to Holman after Saturday's game. The collegiate lacrosse world likes what the Utes have done this season. As Holman related, “The constant comment is like, 'I can't believe you're doing what you're doing.' ”
In Saturday’s case, though, winning was not included.
• Utah loses 16-15 to Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday, after holding leads of 6-1, 9-3, 12-9 and 15-14.
• Utah rallies to take a 15-14 lead after giving up five consecutive goals to fall behind 14-12.
• The Utes are 4-8 in their inaugural season of Division I lacrosse, with four losses to teams currently ranked No. 17 or higher.