UR’s lacrosse team­grew up rapidly

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS - BY JOHN O’CON­NOR

Pro­gram started in 2014 is now ranked 18th in the coun­try

Grow­ing pains in a grow­ing sport seemed to last all of about five weeks. The Univer­sity of Rich­mond launched Divi­sion I men’s lacrosse in 2014 and lost seven of its first eight games.

Since that rocky start for a team of mostly fresh­men led by a rookie coach, the Spi­ders have quickly de­vel­oped into one of the na­tion’s finest pro­grams. UR (6-1) won 12-10 at Duke, then ranked No. 9, on March 7. Third-year coach Dan Che­motti, a 2002 Duke grad­u­ate and a for­mer Blue Devils’ cap­tain, rec­og­nized the vic­tory as the big­gest in UR pro­gram his­tory.

“I think it jus­ti­fies all the hard work that the guys have put in from day one and I think it le­git­imizes Rich­mond lacrosse in terms of the level that we’re able to play and teams that we’re able to com­pete with across the coun­try,” said Che­motti, 36.

That up­set at Duke helped pro­pel Rich­mond to No. 18 in the In­side Lacrosse poll, UR’s high­est rank­ing in its three sea­sons. There are 70 Divi­sion I men’s lacrosse teams this sea­son. UR, which is 4-0 on the road, vis­its No. 17 North Carolina (4-3) on Satur­day night.

“Ob­vi­ously the win against Duke got ev­ery­body’s at­ten­tion, but they have been build­ing to a team that’s ca­pa­ble of do­ing that sort of thing,” said Corey McLaugh­lin, the deputy editor at Lacrosse Mag­a­zine.

“They have one of the bet­ter young coaches in the game (and Rich­mond’s rise) shows that there are a lot of good play­ers out there na­tion­ally. If they can get a spot where they can play and teams are able to find them, things like up­set­ting Duke can hap­pen.”

Che­motti no longer di­rects an in­ex­pe­ri­enced group. The Spi­ders are a ju­nior-sopho­more team loaded with veter­ans and co­he­sion.

“The chem­istry from day one was good but it wasn’t great just be­cause the team was com­prised of so many dif­fer­ent guys,” said Che­motti, speak­ing of 2014. Re­cruited play­ers blended with walkons and holdovers from UR’s club pro­gram. To Che­motti, the Spi­ders grad­u­ally have be­come more uni­fied on and off the field.

Though Che­motti was Loyola’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor be­fore com­ing to Rich­mond, he set de­fense as the Spi­ders’ foun­da­tion in or­der to be im­me­di­ately com­pet­i­tive. Rich­mond, al­low­ing 7.14 goals per game, ranks sev­enth na­tion­ally. Scor­ing 9.14 goals a game, Rich­mond ranks 47th na­tion­ally.

The course of Spi­ders lacrosse seemed to change mid­way through their in­au­gu­ral sea­son of 2014. Rich­mond that year played in the At­lantic Sun Con­fer­ence and re­bounded from the 1-7 start to win the league tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship and ad­vance to the NCAA tour­na­ment. In 53 years of Divi­sion I lacrosse, UR be­came the only first-year pro­gram to re­ceive a bid to the na- tional tour­na­ment.

The South­ern Con­fer­ence as­sumed op­er­a­tional con­trol of that league last year, when the Spi­ders went 11-5, clos­ing with a dou­ble-over­time loss to High Point in the SC cham­pi­onship game at Robins Sta­dium.

With six vic­to­ries in its first seven games this year, Rich­mond is off to the best start in pro­gram his­tory. It leads the South­ern Con­fer­ence, whose other mem­bers are Air Force, Bel­larmine, High Point, Jack­sonville, Mercer, VMI and Furman.

The 2016 South­ern Con­fer­ence lacrosse cham­pi­onship will be held at Robins Sta­dium May 5 and May 7, with the top four teams in the reg­u­lar-sea­son stand­ings par­tic­i­pat­ing. The win­ner re­ceives the league’s au­to­matic bid to the NCAA tour­na­ment. UR’s goal is the same as it was that first year in the A-Sun, Che­motti said.

“Qual­ify for the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment and put our­selves in po­si­tion to win that tour­na­ment,” he said. “It’s get­ting harder than ever. There are a lot of teams in the league get­ting bet­ter, same as us.”

MARK GORMUS/ TIMES- DIS­PATCH

Lacrosse coach Dan Che­motti has the Spi­ders rolling. He­was a team­cap­tain when he played at Duke.

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