Murray High School considers a return to fielding lacrosse teams following UHSAA decision
Alex Ramos,18, attended Murray High but played lacrosse for West Jordan the past two seasons. (Kade Brown)
Murray High School enjoyed a lot of success with its so-called “club” teams during the last school year. The Spartans hockey and boys water polo teams each claimed state titles.
But another Murray club team that once thrived, died out a few years ago. Now the question is, will lacrosse make a comeback at the school after the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) Board of Trustees voted to sanction the sport starting in the 2019-20 academic year?
“It’s been kind of a controversial topic (sanctioning lacrosse) for several years,” veteran Murray Athletic Co-Director Keeko Georgelas said. “Some of our other coaches aren’t too excited about it, because they don’t want their athletes drifting off to another sport. I can’t really blame them. But anytime we can create a new activity to involve our kids, that’s a good thing.”
Not too long ago, Murray fielded girls and boys lacrosse teams. On the girl’s side, one of the standout Spartan players was 2012 high school graduate Alexa Pappas. She went on to play for a University of Utah club team, competing in the national championship game two straight years.
“I loved playing in high school and college,” Pappas said. “If Murray ever gets a team going again, and I’m still living in the area, I would definitely like to help them out. It’s such a good sport for boys and girls.”
On the boy’s side, Alex Ramos just graduated from Murray this year and couldn’t agree more.
“We (Murray HS) had a lacrosse team my freshman year; but I played my sophomore season for West High School and my last two seasons for West Jordan,” Ramos said. “I hope it returns to Murray. I definitely know a few guys who would play for them.”
Another couple of people who want to do everything they can to resurrect Murray lacrosse are Kade Brown and Cliff Tomlinson, even though such a change would hurt them more than anyone else.
Brown and Tomlinson are the West Jordan High School boys and girls lacrosse head coaches, respectively. Since the Murray programs died, that’s where most Spartan players have gone in order to stick with their sport.
“When (the UHSAA) finally made the change (to sanction lacrosse) I was a bit surprised, because it’s been so long in coming,” Tomlinson said. “We normally have about eight or nine Murray girls on our team, which is nearly half. I’d hate to lose them. But my goal is to see both schools have healthy programs.”
Shortly after lacrosse received the activities association blessing, Tomlinson sent emails to both the Jordan and Murray school districts offering to help reestablish Spartan teams. “So far,” he said, “I’m just trying create a dialogue.”
As for Coach Brown’s West Jordan boys lacrosse team, he says he feels about the same.
“Lacrosse is a great sport, and I love the Murray High school kids I’ve had on my team,” he said. “But, if our sport isn’t growing, then I am not doing my job. I want lacrosse to thrive all over. So, I’m happy to help them out if they want to get a team going again.”
Lacrosse now becomes the 11th sport sanctioned by the UHSAA. Officials estimate there are as many as 4,000 high school-age kids playing in Utah club programs.
The boys and girls version of lacrosse are radically different, with much more contact allowed between the male players. But one thing they do have in common: both programs currently compete in the spring.“That’s one of the things the activities association has to decide over the next couple of years is whether boys or girls possibly shift to the fall,” Georgelas added. “If the boys shift, that may put a strain on our football (player participation) numbers. If the girls were to move, it could impact volleyball. So, we’ll just have to see what the next steps are.”