MISSOULA – Montana’s club lacrosse team won a conference title and advanced to the national tournament last year. Now they’re about to do something truly historic.
The Grizzlies will travel south of the border to take on the Mexican National Team this weekend.
No U.S. based team has ever played a game in Mexico or against the national team, but the exhibition came together pretty easily for Montana. Mexico wants to build some more experience before heading to the World Championships in Israel later this summer, and Griz head coach Tucker Sargent knew one of the Mexican players and made the call at the right time.
“I wanted to do something different with our team and something cool for the preseason, something that was just not the norm. We play a lot of the same teams a lot,” explained Sargent. “Honestly, it just happened because I called him and said, ‘Do you want to play a game?’ And he was like, ‘Dude.’ He literally said back to me, ‘Dude, I’ve been looking for someone. I’ve been trying to get teams to come. If you guys get tickets down here, we’ll take care of everything else.’ So I went to our team and said, ‘How do you guys feel about going to Mexico?’ And I got a pretty good response.”
The Griz players have to pay for their own tickets to Mexico City, and about two-thirds of the team will leave Wednesday for the trip. They’ll practice and scrimmage with the Mexican team and then play one game over the weekend.
The exhibition will help the hosts prepare for the World Championships, but it will also provide many great advantages for the Griz.
“We’re using this as our preseason,” added Sargent. “Mexico City right now is 75 and sunny every day, so we’re going to go down there. The elevation is 7,500 feet, so it’s going to be good conditioning.”
“They could be really good. We could be on par. I have no idea,” admitted junior midfielder Hayden Smith. “Our team is going to be pretty flat because we haven’t practiced in a couple weeks, but I think it will be super fun. I think that’s a great way for us to recruit for the team. I think it’s just going to be huge for the program.”
“These experiences are what guys take away after college,” continued Sargent. “So I really try to foster this sort of thing, where this is what you remember.”
Montana will also bring sticks and equipment to hand out to kids and give some coaching on the trip, to try and grow the sport that has a very small following in Mexico.