Scriptures and sticks: BYU men’s lacrosse team upholds moral tradition

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BYU sophomore Taylor Lythgoe sat down to clean out his wallet after returning from his mission in Santiago, Chile. Shuffling through expired gift cards and old student IDs, he found a small card he still carries today.

The 2012 BYU men’s lacrosse team. All-American players such as Ted Ferrin and Pat Matheson inspired then-underclassmen Harrison Wardle and Mike Fabrizio, who are now team leaders for the upcoming 2015 season. (Harrison Wardle)

At the first men’s lacrosse team meeting following the 2011 national championship campaign, players were given a small card and asked to make a big commitment. Plain in appearance, one side of the card bore the well-known “Y” logo. The other side, however, read, “This was not all” and directed curious eyes to a passage found in Alma 53:20.

“It’s a scripture about the stripling warriors and how they were rigorous in strength and activity, but this was not all. They were good men too,” said Lythgoe, who studies neuroscience. “I remember that meeting when we got those cards, thinking, ‘Whoa, this is awesome.’”

This “motto” is now a meaningful scripture for not just Lythgoe but for the entire BYU lacrosse team, according to co-captain Harrison Wardle, a sophomore from New Jersey studying business. Fellow captain Mike Fabrizio, from Bountiful agrees. BYU men’s lacrosse is more than just lacrosse.

Wardle’s BYU career began the year after the Cougars won the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association National Championship title in fall 2011. Leaders like now-graduated Ted Ferrin and Pat Matheson earned collegiate All-American honors and set the bar high for Wardle, who will lead the Cougars as a captain in 2015.

Alumni legends Ferrin and Matheson brought a feeling of unity and what was really important, according to Wardle. Wardle remembers Ferrin’s countenance after his last game as a Cougar, a loss in the MCLA tournament semifinals, just a game away from a third national championship. While many seniors were devastated to realize they would never play lacrosse again, Ferrin maintained his composure.

“He was upset, but he still had a smile on his face because he knew what mattered most,” Wardle said, “He really emulated what (Alma 53:20) means.”

The BYU lacrosse cards given out in Fall 2011 inspired the “motto” 2015 captain Harrison Wardle now relies on. BYU lacrosse’s official season begins Feb. 12. (Harrison Wardle)

Fellow captain Fabrizio also remembers the legacy of the 2011 national championship team and hopes to further advance the example it set.

“I definitely look back at those guys who were such great leaders and kind of use them for a pattern that I want to do this year,” Fabrizio said.

It has been four years since a national championship, and Fabrizio, a senior, is hungry for a title. According to Fabrizio, the maturity of the returned missionaries who interacted with players like Matheson and Ferrin will help the Cougars in upcoming years. While they may be “rusty at lacrosse,” their growth and maturity make up the difference.

“In all facets of life the mission is a valuable thing,” Fabrizio said. “That’s something unique to BYU, and I think that goes a long way and contributes to the character of our team.”

Fabrizio’s wife, MarLeice, thinks both his mission and his membership on the lacrosse team help build his character every day.

“(Lacrosse) helps in his career with teamwork and taking responsibility to make himself better, both as an athlete and as an all-around person,” she said.

While being part of any team helps build certain attributes, MarLeice Fabrizio also said that thanks to BYU lacrosse’s unique expectations, her husband and the rest of the players carry themselves differently.

The 2015 Men’s lacrosse team gathers in Midway for a team dinner. Players this year hope for success on and off the field. (Harrison Wardle)

“BYU players are really so different,” she said. “A lot of the other teams are super ‘bros,’ (but BYU doesn’t) cuss when they play, they don’t have super long ‘flow.’ BYU teams look a lot more respectable.”

Like other acclaimed BYU sports teams, the men’s lacrosse team provides devotionals for stakes across the country that host them. Wardle and the Fabrizios all agree that these opportunities for spiritual enlightenment will be some of their favorite memories.

“It’s cool for people to see, ‘Oh, this is what BYU lacrosse is all about, and this is where I want to go,’” MarLeice Fabrizio said. “It helps (attendees) see, ‘That’s the place I want to be and the kind of organization I want to be a part of.’”

“(My experience has) been a lot more than lacrosse, which I think is really special,” Mike Fabrizio said.

Members of the BYU lacrosse team waits under a tent for rain to pass at the Cure Search Walk in Salt Lake City. The Cougars helped raised thousands of dollars to help fight cancer. (Harrison Wardle)

The program also participates in service-minded activities other than traditional devotionals. This fall, the BYU men’s lacrosse team participated in the CureSearch Walk in Salt Lake City. The Cougars were one of the top fundraisers, according to CureSearchWalk.org.

“Some of the best memories I have are service and getting opportunities to help other people,” Wardle said.

Men’s lacrosse is a BYU-sponsored extramural sport, similar to the men’s soccer and the men’s rugby teams. Unlike Division 1 sports such as football or basketball, men’s lacrosse has no scholarships to offer potential players. Regardless, the lacrosse team has tallied four national championships in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. According to the MCLA’s official website, BYU has produced more than 100 All-Americans.

As the Cougars prepare for their upcoming season, Mike Fabrizio again hopes the high standards set by past players are upheld.

“Every year at BYU we expect to be good,” he said, “We expect to win, and we expect to compete for a conference championship and a national championship. That’s how it was even before I came.”

Wardle said the team needs to “be competitive and put what we have to win into every single day. But we need to keep perspective and focus on what matters most.”

The Cougars’ official season starts Feb. 12.

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