Despite the Utah football team having more or less another building year, the Utes found national success in other programs, as well as Star Lotulelei’s fight for the NFL draft.
Lotulelei’s refusal to give up after attention was called to his heart showed the NFL what the Utah defensive tackle is made of. While the Red Rocks continue to bask in their success, they earned yet another berth into the NCAA Championships. In basketball, the Runnin’ Utes surprised a lot of people in the Pac-12 Tournament, while the Lady Utes had a spectacular run to the WNIT Championship.
After failing the heart test at the NFL combine and forced to sit on the sidelines while the other potential draft picks fought for scouting attention, Lotulelei was not about to give up. As the news of his heart condition hit national media outlets, the Utah player’s potential draft pick chances plummeted.
Rising to the occasion, with a chip on his shoulder, Lotulelei was cleared to compete in Utah football’s pro day. And he dominated, as his draft potential rose back up to the top 10.
The Utah gymnastics took second place in Regionals, which was enough to earn a trip to the NCAA National Tournament. In the Pac-12 championships, the Utes slipped up mentally on the beam and made uncharacteristic mistakes. The regional tournament served as an opportunity for redemption, and the Utes capitalized. The Red Rocks have qualified for all 31 NCAA Championships, the most out of any team in the country, and this will make number 32.
The Lady Utes were the most impressive, starting their season on a 8-0 burst and finishing it with an impressive post season run in the WNIT. In two weeks of postseason play, Utah won five games and two of those required an overtime to determine the outcome. The Lady Utes played their first-ever April games and had another first by reaching a national post-season championship. The women eventually fell in the WNIT finals to Drexel in the final seconds, 46-43.
“We lost the game, but what they (the Utah players) did in order to get here is just incredible,” Levrets added. “Both teams played well. Drexel just made one more shot.”
On the men’s basketball side, Utah suffered from lack of consistency throughout the season. As the Pac-12 Tournament neared, few gave the Utes any chance in advancing as the number 10 seed. They won their first game against USC, and then even more surprisingly beat Cal. In the semifinals they fell to Oregon, but not before proving a new Runnin’ Utes team is on the rise.
JUST FOR KICKS
The Utah hockey club team ousted its best record on the season and fell just short of the National tournament. It made the playoffs for the second time ever, the first came last year. The Utes entered the regional tournament ranked seventh in the playoff seeding. Utah beat No. 6 Northern Arizona, but fell in the regional finals to No. 4 Weber State, which ended their season one game short of a national appearance.