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What can we expect from the two new men’s Division I lacrosse programs in 2019?

St. Bonaventure and Utah are ready to make their Division I debuts.

The 2018 season is done. The Yale Bulldogs will now work on defending their national championship and recruit for the future this summer, while 70 other teams will retool for next season and try to knock Yale off the throne.

And then we have the new kids on the block.

2019 will feature two new teams to the Division I landscape. The St. Bonaventure Bonnies and the Utah Utes will field varsity lacrosse teams to bring the total number of Division I college lacrosse teams to 73. As of now, they’re the last two school to add men’s lacrosse at a Division I level.

We haven’t really mentioned these teams this past season, so maybe we should check in on where they are and how they might fare in 2019.

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies announced their program during the 2017 season and have taken the traditional route in terms of starting a new program. Last summer, the team hired former Canisius Golden Griffins head coach Randy Mearns to lead the program. Shortly after he was hired, we had him on a special Crossecast to discuss the new job as well as himself.

Since then, they’ve began to recruit, notably getting three guys from the Hill Academy to play for them including goalie Brett Dobson. Their coaching staff has also begun to take shape with hires of assistants Douglas McSorley and Rick Schunke, who recently served as the head coach at Hilbert College.

They even got a selfie together!

They’ve recently got more engaged on Twitter with the season coming to a close a few days ago, and kicked things off by announcing their locker room project.

So with the program slowly coming to form, the Bonnies will more than likely have their share of struggles in their inaugural season. Mearns is an established Division I head coach with his assistants having other coaching experience as well. We shouldn’t really be surprised if they start slow anyways, since that’s normal for most teams.

Their home games will be at the Tom 80’ and Michelle Marra Athletics Fields Complex, which doesn’t have a ton of seats available. In a few years, could we get some more bleacher seating for the complex?

We also don’t know their uniforms or helmets, but they are an Adidas school. Expect a typical Adidas lacrosse jersey, but I’m not losing hope for a return of these guys!

Utah

The Utes are in a much different situation than most new Division I programs. They’re coming from the MCLA and have a talented coaching staff led by Brian Holman, who also joined us for a special Crossecast episode. He’s joined by his son Marcus Holman, Adam Ghitelman, and volunteer assistant Will Manny, all of them currently playing in Major League Lacrosse. Tim McDermott is their Director of Operations and the team will play their games at the McCarthey Family Track & Field Complex. They’ll get stands in time for next season.

This past season, the Utes won 16 straight before being bounced by BYU in the MCLA Quarterfinals on a late fourth quarter goal. It was a disappointing end to an unbelievable finale to their MCLA stint.

They have their section up and running on Utah’s official website, and they currently have 36 players on their roster. However, if you check Inside Lacrosse’s database, there’s a ton of recruits coming in including Cooper Kneese, the younger brother of current Penn State Nittany Lions goalie Colby Kneese. There’s also OCC transfer James Sexton. So my guess is they’ll be way over their expected 40-man roster, which is a very good sign.

They return a majority of players from a year ago, including former Division I players Aidan Christian, a defenseman from Bellarmine, and Daniel Costa, a goaltender from St. John’s.

I would expect the Utes to have some rough spots competing at the Division I level to start, but not as much as some other new teams. They already have Division I talent and have had a couple of years to prepare for a transition to the NCAA level. In the end, how will their club dominance carry over to the highest level of college lacrosse?

TLN highlighted part of their final club season in the first part of a three episode series:

Both teams face the question of where they’ll call home in terms of a conference. There were a few rumors about possible conferences by both teams, but as it stands, it appears they’ll start their programs as independents. They’ll join Cleveland State, Hampton, and NJIT.

And what about possible opponents? St. Bonaventure might be easier to predict with Canisius, Siena, and Cleveland State as possible opponents. Utah might be a little more difficult to predict. They do have Denver and Air Force nearby, but that’s about it. Could we see North Carolina or even Johns Hopkins play the Utes given the Holman connection? Harvard or Virginia given the Ghitelman connection? UMass or Wagner with the Will Manny connection? Both teams will also have to work around conference schedules since they’re independents, but there are plenty of opportunities for some good matchups for both teams.