SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Brian Holman was a national championship winning assistant lacrosse coach at North Carolina.

But in 2016, when the opportunity arose to take the Utes lacrosse program from a club team to a Division One team, he could not pass it up.

“It’s a once in a lifetime type of thing,” Holman said. “Literally from the first day we got here, it’s been like that. The people have been great, the community has been great, the school has been awesome.”

The Utes will make history on February 1st when they play their first game as a Division One team at home against Vermont. 

Getting players to come to Utah to play wasn’t as difficult as Holman thought.

“Once I can get kids out here and they can view what we have and understand the culture that we have on this team,” Holman said. “We haven’t lost many.”

Former Lone Peak High star Josh Stout thought his lacrosse playing days were over. But when Utah stepped up to Division One, he decided to stay home for college.

“It’s a dream come true for me,” Stout said. “It was something I gave up on, but it’s kind of a like a blessing that it happened this way. I get to stay in state, close to family, and also get my dream of playing Division One lacrosse.”

Jimmy Perkins, a transfer from Robert Morris University, said the coaching staff was a big reason why he wanted to play for Utah.

“The coaching staff here is incredible,” said Perkins, one of the team’s best players. “That was what immediately caught my eye. Just an opportunity to play for guys like them, and learn and grow as a lacrosse player was an awesome opportunity.” 

As the Western-most Division One team in the country, the players come not only from Utah, but also from 18 states and Canada. And they all play with a chip on their shoulder.

“Most of us were at the bottom of division one recruiting, or we didn’t get recruited at all for Division One,” said Stout. “So, it’s not like we have something to prove, but we’re a blue collar group. We don’t play very pretty all of the time, but we get down and never give up.”

As the newest of 72 Division One lacrosse programs in the country, the Utes are obviously facing a lot of challenges, but scheduling is not one of them. They’re playing some of the top teams in the country, including Duke, Virginia, Denver and UMass.

“Our goal here is simple,” Holman said. “We want to build a national championship caliber program. We want to go show our kids what these teams look like, how they act and how they prepare.”

“It’s not like scary, but you go in and you’re like, these are the teams you’ve been watching growing up,” Stout said. “You’re like, now I’m here playing them. It’s weird to think about. You’re like, alright we’re ready to go. Let’s go in with the big dogs.”