The First Year of The Purpura Era at VMI Will Be About Building

(Photo Courtesy of VMI Athletics)

VMI is one of the few programs that underwent a coaching change this summer, as James Purpura came back to Lexington, where he had previously served as an assistant from 2017-2018, to lead the Keydets as the seventh head coach in program history.

Purpura returns to VMI after a two-year stint at DIII Arcadia, where he led the Knights’ to a program-best 9-9 record in 2019 where they qualified for their conference tournament and was named the MAC Coach of The Year that same season.

Upon returning to VMI, Purpura will be looking to lean on his experience at Arcadia mixed with his previous relationships at VMI to help build on the successes during the Birsner era and take VMI lacrosse to the next level. Purpura spoke to Lacrosse Bucket back in July about his return to VMI, visions for the future, and more.

And while talking about building a culture that translates to wins is wonderful and sounds nice, it is worth noting that this is a program that has only won four games in a season twice (2012,2019) in the past decade and hasn’t made an appearance in the postseason since 2008, when they were in the MAAC and made it to the conference title game.

Not having success in the win column in recent memory doesn’t mean that no growth hasn’t occurred or that they can’t win games. Because neither is true. The Keydets saw a drastic decrease in margin of losses and seen some really good player development during the Birsner era. And Purpura was an assistant for, at least, a few of those successes.

There is certainly a solid foundation for this new staff to build on. 

However, seeing some of these recent successes really translate into the win column won’t happen overnight and will likely take a few seasons until the results are fully come to fruition. But there is no doubt that the potential is certainly there.

Coming into the 2021 season, the Keydets are coming off of a shortened season where they went 0-4. However, their average margin of loss was 4.75 goals. That includes a 14-11 defeat against a No. 20-ranked Lehigh squad. And this year’s VMI squad looks to be heavily veteran-laden.

They will return four of their top five point-getters from a year ago. Senior attackmen Ryan Perouty (9G/5A) and Jon Fant (5G/4A) will be leading the way at the attack spot once again. Senior Josh Bass (5G) and junior Michael Santos (3G) are their top two returns at the midfield spot.

Junior midfielders Josh Drake (1A) Aidan Riley (2G/2A) will also return. Drake started three games last season and Riley started one. Both will be looking to increase their production this coming season.

Defensively, VMI returns two of their three starting poles from last season in sophomore Tim Lindenbaum (6GB/2CT) and junior David Foster (6GB/4CT) Lindenbaum got the starting nod as a freshman last season and Foster had a strong season as a second-year starter. Both should see increased production this season.

Senior LSM Eric Lane also returns and looks to continue his strong play and be a leader on the back end for the Keydets. He led the team in ground balls (17) last season and also added four caused turnovers.

The biggest returner on the back end for this VMI squad is senior goalie Bill Osteen. A three-year starter, Osteen has been one of the most consistent players for the Keydets over the past few seasons. He posted a .453 save percentage last season, which included a career-best 17-save performance against Mount St. Mary’s.

Senior Brice Basic is their top returner at the faceoff dot. Serving as their second option last season, Basic went 7-for-14 (50%). Sophomore Preston Lalicker and freshman Brian Hoedershell should see time as backups at that spot this spring.

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