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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Brighton girls lacrosse reaping the rewards of player development

Feb 23, 2024 09:49AM ● By Jerry Christensen

Ready for all competition. (Photo Brighton High School)

Brighton girls lacrosse looks to be back in contention for the Class 5A state title. 

The long-awaited season begins as the snows recede from Brighton’s home Freestone Field.  However, through the winter, coach Melissa Nash’s teams have been hard at work in the weather-protected fieldhouse at Brighton assembling what Nash believes will be a dynamic team.  

“We have six seniors who have been part of the Brighton lacrosse program since they were in junior high (Ayla Cole, Alex Heugly, Zoey Keefer, Izzy Gurley, Emily Grace and Ansley Phillips),” Nash said. “Most of this group of seniors have been playing together since seventh grade and now will graduate together.” 

Two of those seniors are already signed to play at the next level in college. Zoey Keefer signed with Division II school, William Jewell, in Missouri. Ayla Cole is finalizing her college decisions and has several offers.

For the last three years, Brighton girls lacrosse has finished third in the state with several players receiving Utah High School Activities Association and USA Lacrosse awards (Hannah Bangerter, Lauren Ellis, Courtnie Wright, Izzy Gurley and Alex Heugly). Three players competed on the Utah National Team this summer: Gurley, Keefer and Charly Eichner. All three bring experience and skills back to Brighton this year.  

Cole, a star defender, is back on the field this year after a year setback due to a 2023 preseason car accident that broke her collarbone and wrist. She has been on the Utah World Team and Utah National Team. 

“I had to stand and watch from the sidelines while my team played shorthanded,” Cole said. “At first, it was tough, but as time went by, I was able to understand the field from a different perspective. I understood that though I was out, I was still there to contribute to my team. I became an expert at the field’s layout and where the team should set up against opponents.” 

Heugly, a four-year varsity starter, national team member and tricky, speedy lacrosse player, is looking to have her best year yet. Nash said she has improved year after year, and her lacrosse IQ will be invaluable on the offensive side of the field. 

“My lacrosse highlights include making varsity as a freshman,” Heugly said. “The biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome include trusting my abilities to compete against incredibly talented athletes, not doubting myself and not getting discouraged when games don’t turn out how I expected.” 

Nash is looking forward to the 2024 season. 

“I hope we can continue to prove that Brighton lacrosse is a powerful, smart, hard-working team and improve on our success from years past,” she said.. “I am always proud to be a Bengal and grateful for the support of our parents and admin team. Come catch a free game at Freestone Field this spring—in hopefully dry, warm weather.”