It's fall ball season. Hope springs eternal. Everyone is 0-0 and in the hunt for the natty.
As such, we're checking in with programs across the country and divisions to see what's happening. We're continuing with Utah Valley coach, Brian Barnhill.
You were down 6-0 against Boston College, and during a timeout, your defensive coordinator yelled at his unit that BC would not score again. They didn't. Walk us through your memories of that game.
Brian Barnhill: The Boston College game is a good illustration of our team's commitment and confidence in each other. The offense was generating a lot of shots that weren't going in and, during the course of the game, our defensive players were supportive and confident in the offense encouraging them to keep attacking.
We could see that our pushing the ball and tempo was wearing on Boston College, so when we called a timeout, the feeling among the coaches was that if we continued to be aggressive, we would start seeing more mistakes from their offense.
The call out from our coach after the timeout was a reminder to our defense and entire team to continue being aggressive. The rest of the game played out as hoped, but the best part was seeing the team stick together and support each other despite being down at the national tournament.
The RMLC-I has been dominated by national champions like BYU, CSU and Colorado. UVU owned the league last year. How much satisfaction do you take in elevating your program?
BB: The program has undergone a big transformation over the last several years. It has been challenging to change the direction of the program because there are no easy conference games in the RMLC – it's full of great teams top to bottom.
There's been a lot of hard work from our players to create an environment and culture that supports each other while still holding each other accountable. That type of culture takes time to establish and it has to be set by the players and their predecessor alumni. Then competing in the RMLC with close competitive conference games these last few years provided our players an understanding of what it takes to win hard games.
Combining the team culture with the game IQ to win against really good BYU, CSU and CU teams – and Utah, as a defending D-II national champion – was gratifying, but not satisfying. The program-building is ongoing and the entire team, from players to coaching staff, continue toward the goal of making Utah Valley's lacrosse program a consistent power in the RMLC and MCLA.
He's on your staff now, but Preston Burbidge is a tough guy to replace. Who are the guys on offense, and all over the field, who will allow you to make another run at the conference title?
BB: We're very fortunate to keep Preston Burbidge around as an assistant coach. He has earned the respect of his teammates and has a tremendous ability to teach the game. He and our offensive coordinator Jake Arbon – and MCLA All-American – have great chemistry with our offensive players.
We return 37 players from last year's roster and have added some talented new players. Blake Yates will continue to anchor our attack line with support from a number of rotating offensive players in Nathan Huntsman, Branson Wood, Zak Fankhauser, Ty Armstrong, Ashton Matheny and Colby Roberts.
We have a very strong goalie room with Max Sturgill leading goalies and returning to anchor the defense. The defense returns a corps of defensive players in Seth Wilikins, Jace Muir, Truman Peterson and David Parchment. We expect several new players to provide significant contributions, including Jack Baird at close defense. He is a very athletic, disciplined defender that can get out on hands and push transition.
Our style of play is fast-paced and pressure oriented which requires a team with depth to succeed so we will be leaning on the team as a whole to make another run at a conference title.
What's the schedule look like? The Wolverines have been traveling of late. Will that continue?
BB: We are fortunate to have a strong schedule this year. We have strong out-of-conference games with Virginia Tech, Liberty, Chapman and will host Northeastern and Arizona State. Our conference schedule is not any easier with BYU, Colorado State, Colorado and Utah.
For travel, we are committed to an east coast trip and a west coast trip each year. The reality of the MCLA is that to help yourself in preparing for conference play, as well as developing a national presence, you have to travel to teams on both coasts.
I've noticed that for the nine years that I've been at Utah Valley, the competitive level of the MCLA has consistently risen year after year and quality teams are not geographically centralized to one coast. So in order to elevate a program, you have to travel and play non-traditional out-of-conference opponents.
What motivates you as a coach? What keeps you coming back to the field every day?
BB: If coaching is only about wins and losses, then I think you're missing an opportunity to influence a group of young men. For me, it is an opportunity to create personal relationships with players and coaches that I wouldn't otherwise have.
For both players and coaches, these are the relationships that extend beyond the field and can be meaningful. It's satisfying to see the players spending as much time together off the field as they do on the field.
In the end, we all have a lot of other things we can be doing with our time, but we – players and coaches – are choosing to be on the field, to be part of a team and to work toward a common goal. It's not easy, and often it's a grind, but doing something difficult and uncommon together with your team is uniquely rewarding.
[Want to participate in the "Fall Check In" series as a coach or player? Email [email protected] to request your five questions]