MISSOULA – The University of Montana’s lacrosse team had its most successful season in 15 years when earlier this month it reached the semifinals of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association Division II National Championship.

Tucker Sargent, head coach and a former Montana lacrosse player who was on the 2007 national champion team, said the Griz lacrosse team has worked toward a return to the national spotlight since he took the helm as coach in 2010.

The team made it to the national tournament in 2017 – its first appearance since 2007 – and again in 2019. Both years, Montana lost in the first round. But this year the Griz won its first two games at the tournament in Round Rock, Texas just north of Austin. The team eventually lost in the semifinals to the University of Rhode Island, which then lost to University of Utah in the finals.

“It’s really fun for the players to be on that stage and see where Montana stacks up against everyone else,” Sargent said. “It was really exciting to see the guys get out there and play for each other and represent the University of Montana and do pretty well.”

Montana’s lacrosse team, like other club sports at UM, draws student athletes from across the country who come to Missoula to study at the University and continue their athletic passions.

The lacrosse roster features athletes from all corners of the nation, including Hawaii, New York, Georgia, Minnesota and Ohio.

“For a lot of these guys, continuing to play their sport is a big priority when they are looking at college,” Sargent said. “We bring in a lot of kids who otherwise wouldn’t come here, and a lot of tuition dollars and a lot of excitement and good will for the University.”

The team also has several homegrown players from Montana, including Jace Jarvis and Ethan Eppard from Missoula, Wyatt Smith of Kalispell, Brenden Cahill of Whitefish and Aidan Potter of Billings.

Jarvis, who played lacrosse at Hellgate High School in Missoula before joining the Griz in 2020, said he remembers the college team visiting his practices in high school to invite the younger players to the Montana home games.

Jarvis, who studies business management at UM, said he continues to feel supported by the team and the community in Missoula. During the national tournament, the team regularly was featured in news articles across Montana and fans gathered at restaurants to watch the games being played in Texas.

“I had a lot of friends and family sending me articles and showing me they were watching the games at some of the local restaurants,” Jarvis said. “It was nice to have that Montana support.”

Sargent hopes to build off the momentum of the 2022 season and continue to grow the program. The team is independently funded and rents time to practice in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. One day, Sargent envisions finding a permanent turf field the lacrosse team could call home and attract more recruits. Improving facilities will help keep the team competitive, especially against rival teams at Montana State and North Dakota State, Sargent said.

In his three years on the lacrosse team, Jarvis has seen the team gain more success on the field and more attention from the community and University.

“We are being taken pretty seriously, which is nice,” Jarvis said. “I hope to move further in that direction.”

- by Kyle Spurr, UM News Service -