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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Senior Haley Taylor leads Brighton lacrosse to an undefeated start to their season

Apr 20, 2021 03:13PM ● By Tavia Dutson

Brighton High School’s varsity lacrosse team. (Photo credit Chelsea Owens)

By Tavia Dutson | [email protected]

In May 2017, the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) announced that it would be sanctioning boys and girls lacrosse teams beginning in the 2019-2020 season. After years of high participation in club lacrosse programs, high school lacrosse athletes across the state could not wait to compete as a sanctioned sport.

In March 2020, what was supposed to be the inaugural year of sanctioned lacrosse, UHSAA canceled spring sports due to COVID-19. With only a few games under their belts, Utah lacrosse coaches and athletes were crushed. 

Among those disappointed by the short season was Brighton lacrosse coach Melissa Nash. Instead of letting last season get her down, she chose to look on the bright side by pointing out the ways in which their short season went well.

“We got three games last season; we were one of the lucky schools. We were undefeated which is great,” Nash said.

Nash has been able to instill this attitude into her team. With the abrupt end to last season, the Brighton girls lacrosse team knows that competing in their beloved sport could be taken from them at any time.

“We don't take anything for granted. I feel like we come to practice every day like we are not going to be able play the next day. We practice really hard every day,” said standout senior Haley Taylor.

Coach Nash is excited for a full season under UHSAA. As the UHSAA coach’s representative for girls lacrosse, she has seen the changes that sanctioning has brought to the sport.

“I think lacrosse is going to grow more and more because of UHSAA. Keeping cost down for the players will just allow more people to try out,” Nash said.

Nash, with support from the administration at Brighton, has been able to take advantage of the inclusivity that sanctioning has brought. With one of the biggest teams in Utah lacrosse at 38 players, Nash has welcomed any girl into her program who wants to play.

“We had more girls than ever try out. We don't do any cuts because we just want to give girls a chance to play,” Nash said.

With a team full of outstanding players, the Bengals are looking forward to leaving their mark on this first year of sanctioned play. When asked what their goals for the season were, both Nash and Taylor did not hesitate to say they were eyeing that first ever UHSAA state title.

Instead of using UHSAA’s traditional classification system, lacrosse will continue to use their previous system for the 2021 season. At the end of regular season play, which will primarily take place among traditional region opponents, teams will be ranked using an RPI index. The top 36 teams will then be placed in three 12 team brackets. These 12 teams will then compete for titles in bracket A, B or C with the most competitive teams competing in bracket A.

The Bengals entered the season ranked second only to Park City in preseason polls. After a 4-0 start, you are unlikely to find many betting against them as contenders for the title in May.

For Taylor, a University of Oregon commit, it would mean everything to end her senior season as a state champion.

“My freshman year we won our first game and that was our only win. My sophomore year we ended up going to quarterfinals in bracket A,” Taylor said. “We have come a really long way. Now we are ranked high and going for a state title, so that would be really cool to come full circle.”