UR’s lacrosse teamgrew up rapidly
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.”
Lacrosse coach Dan Chemotti has the Spiders rolling. Hewas a teamcaptain when he played at Duke.