Can Richmond Take Back the SoCon?

(Photo Courtesy of Richmond Athletics)

Down 7-1 with 10:23 remaining in the second quarter of the SoCon title game, the Richmond Spiders found a spark. A five-goal run that lasted through the end of the third saw the Spiders cut the High Point lead down to just one goal (7-6) with one frame left. However, a 4-2 game-ending High Point run put the final nail in the coffin, serving the Spiders their second conference loss of the season and denying them a third consecutive conference title.

The loss marked Richmond’s second against a conference opponent during the 2021 season and just their first in a conference title game since 2017, when they fell to Air Force for a second-straight season before winning two straight (2018, 2019). The Spiders also fell to High Point in the first-ever SoCon title game back in 2015 after beating them in the ASUN title game in 2014.

Simply put, Dan Chemotti has led a program at Richmond that has done nothing but churn out one successful season after another. Three NCAA Tournament appearances (2014, 2018, 2019), seven-straight conference title game appearance (2014-2019), and two conference titles in just eight seasons as a program is more than impressive.

After a sour ending last spring, losing to Air Force in the regular-season finale and falling to High Point in the conference title game, nothing short of this squad being back in the mix and possibly the preseason favorite to win the conference, again, should be expected of Richmond heading into the 2022 season. That is especially true with how much talent this team brings back on both ends of the field.

Playing strong and sound defense has been a staple of this Richmond program since its inception. With the exception of 2014, which was their first-ever season of play, and 2018, Richmond has never ranked outside of the top-25 in scoring defense. Three of those seasons saw the Spiders churn out top-10 scoring defenses, ranking 2nd and 3rd nationally in 2015 and 2016, and having the 8th-best scoring defense this past season in 2021, allowing 9.62 goals per game.

Richmond will have a newer-looking defense, in some respects, in 2022, but if precedent holds, coordinator Paul Richards shouldn’t see much of a drop in his unit from last spring to this one. After all, the Spiders have been down this road before and have almost always stayed consistent no matter what their returning production looked like.

Coming into this spring, the Spiders lose SoCon Defensive Player of the Year Sean Menges (LSM), staring close defenseman Jason Reynolds, who will be using his fifth year of eligibility at Notre Dame, and three-year starting goalie Jack Rusbuldt. The trio has made up the core of this Richmond defense for multiple years now, and are practically impossible to replace.

While Richmond does lose a lot on the back end following last season, per usual, they return quite a talented core as well. That includes a trio of poles with starting experience in redshirt senior Ray Baran (26GB/12CT), senior Jake Saunders (18GB/17CT), and Jack Fabean (12GB/7CT). A starter since his redshirt freshman season in 2019, Baran is the most experienced of the group. Sunders and Fabean both had their most productive seasons in 2021, starting in six and seven contests, respectively.

The Spiders rope unit, with Menges gone as well as Tate Gallagher, who was their top SSDM last season after playing offense most of his career, looks to be headlined by junior LSM Jake Kapp. The Ohio native had a strong sophomore campaign with 21 ground balls and seven caused turnovers. Senior Brett Reid is the Spiders’ top returning SSDM from a year ago, where he recorded 14 ground balls, four caused turnovers, and scored two points off a goal and an assist. Junior Mustang Sally and fifth-year returnee Tim Adams also look to be contributors at the position after much action last season.

What Richmond does have returning on defense out in front of the cage is pretty proven and battle-tested, and should be pretty strong this spring. However, the question remains: what will things look like in between the pipes?

Jack Rusbuldt replaced a program great in Benny Pugh and became one himself. Now it’s time to see who will arise as the next great Richmond net-minder. Of the three currently on the roster, redshirt sophomore Devin Craven has the most experience and looks the most likely to take over as the starter this spring. He played in four games as the backup last season and making nine saves with a .750% save percentage. Redshirt freshman Zach Vigue, who hasn’t seen any game action yet, and freshman Bo Brown are also on the roster.

Defense has certainly been a crux of this program throughout his young history, but the Spiders have had similar success on the offensive end of the field. That includes last season, ending the year ranked 22nd in scoring offense with 12.46 goals per game while also having the 14th-best team shooting percentage in DI lacrosse (.312%).

As good as those numbers are, they could increase in 2022 with as much talent as this Richmond squad returns.

Ryan Lanchbury (Attack) returns for his fifth season at Richmond following a season in which he put up 67 points off 28 goals and 39 assists to not only lead the Spiders’ offense and be named SoCon Offensive Player of The Year, but further solidified himself as one of the best offensive weapons to step foot in Robins Stadium. Lanchbury comes into this spring as the Spiders’ second all-time leader in career points with 212 (122G, 90A), as well as ranking second in career goals and assists.

In addition to Lanchbury, the Spiders will also return top-five scorers in junior attackmen Dalton Young (35G/9A) and Richie Connell (35G/7A), as well as Luke Grayum (8G/7A), who was the team’s sixth-leading scorer last season as a freshman and started the final three games at attack. The only two big losses on this offense is that of midfielders Tyler Shoults and Mitch Savoca.

The Spiders also picked up a pretty impactful player via the transfer portal this summer, landing the services of former Mount St. Mary’s attackman Luke Frankeny. The North Carolina native was a four-year starter for the Mountaineers and put up 33 points off 27 goals and six assists as their third-leading scorer this past season while also racking up second team All-NEC honors.

With all the talent and experience this offense brings back, as well as the addition of Frankeny, there is no reason to believe this unit can be one of the best in the SoCon and a top-25 unit nationally once again this spring.

Richmond also returns a good deal of talent at the faceoff dot with senior Jacob Griffin coming off a 2021 campaign in which he went 78-for-132 (.591%) and earned first team All-SoCon honors. Freshman Jared Chenoy could also see some time at the dot after a stellar high school career that was capped off with a good showing in the Nike National Senior All-Star Game.

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