MEXICO CITY – Montana head coach Tucker Sargent wanted to do something special for the preseason this year. He fell into a remarkable trip his team will never forget. The Grizzlies journeyed to Mexico City for a week full of lacrosse.
The Griz didn’t know what to expect when they arrived south of the border. The club team was surprised as soon as they stepped off the plane.
“I was thoroughly impressed with what the Mexican lacrosse community did for us,” said Sargent. “It’s like they rolled out the red carpet.”
Montana players had to pay for their own plane tickets, but their hosts took care of everything else.
“The Mexican players were really friendly, and they went out of their way to make us feel comfortable,” said senior midfielder Aaron Tate. “But as soon as the game started it was a real, serious lacrosse game. We were both playing to win.”
The entire trip came together to give the Mexican National Team some experience for the World Championships this summer. After several practices and scrimmages, the Griz prevailed in the signature showdown, 12-6.
“We had to work hard to win that game,” said Sargent. “It wasn’t certainly a rollover. It was a great experience. We definitely saw some things that we need to work on down there, so overall I think the trip was 1,000 percent worth it.”
The Grizzlies did much more than win an exhibition, however. Only about 500 people play lacrosse in Mexico, most at the college level, so the Montanans tried to grow the sport by holding a clinic for young kids.
“We took small, little groups of kids and we broke off into little segments,” explained Sargent. “And we were teaching just the very basics — explaining the stick, how to cradle the ball, how to pass.”
They also spent some time coaching a recently formed high school team that traveled several hours to meet the Grizzlies.
“And that was really fun just because they were so hungry for experience and knowledge, a higher-level of how to play the game,” added Sargent.
“The part that will stick with me the most is when the little kids we were working with found out they were able to keep the lacrosse sticks we brought and how excited they were. That was really a special moment,” said Tate. “After the game they were asking us to sign autographs on their shirt and take pictures with us.”
Montana won a conference title and advanced to the national tournament last year, and it brings back a strong team expecting more greatness. But years from now, the players might remember this trip more than anything else in their time as a Grizzly.
“This is a thing that can set our program apart from other programs, that we were able to start practicing, start playing together earlier — not only that, but be together down in Mexico and navigate a foreign country together, just really brought us all close before the season started,” Tate said.
Montana will open its season at Seattle University on Feb. 10.