(Photo Courtesy of VMI Athletics)
The James Purpura era started off with a bang as the VMI Keydets took down the Lafayette Leopards, 13-12, on the road in their season-opener. It marked the Keydets’ first victory since March 30th, 2019 when they took down Hampton.
However, that lone, season-opening win would be the first and last victory VMI celebrated this past spring. The Keydets failed to come out on top for the remainder of the season, ending with a 1-10 (0-6 SoCon). Three of their losses (Bellarmine, Bellarmine, Cleveland State) came by an average of three goals. Additionally, they had strong starts against both High Point and Jacksonville, finding themselves ahead 6-2 at the end of the first quarter against the Panthers and only trailed by two, 7-5, at the half against Jacksonville.
Following a season the likes of which VMI had this past spring and with as much production as they bring back on both ends, the Keydets will be looking to build on their successes last season and take a step forward in year two of the Purpura era, which coincides with a new-look SoCon with the addition of Hampton and exit of both Air Force and Bellarmine.
VMI found little success in the win column last season. However, as has been the case for the past few years with this program, the Keydets still enjoyed a number of substantial successes. That fact was especially true on the defensive end of the field where VMI ranked second in the nation and conference in caused turnovers per game (10.36), trailing only fellow SoCon foe Richmond. The Keydets were also the second-best man-down unit in the SoCon, finding success 69% of the time in such situations, and drew the second-least penalties in the conference, averaging just 2.73 per game.
The Keydets lose a major piece of last seasons’ defense with the graduation of LSM Eric Lane, who led the team in caused turnovers (18) and ground balls (41). However, despite the loss of Lane, as well as their most experienced goalie in Bill Osteen, this unit, which was fairly young last spring, returns enough talent to keep trending upwards.
Juniors LT Ancona (15GB/17CT) and Tim Lindenbaum (24GB/15CT) served as the Keydets’ top two close defensemen last season, starting in all 11 games, and look to be leaders on the back end again this season. Sophomore Luke McDonald (19GB/13CT) appeared in all 11 contests with nine starts last season as a freshman and is in a similar boat as the aforementioned poles.
Senior Trejan Cannon (33GB/12CT) and Callum Hadley (8GB/4CT) are the Keydets’ top two returners at the SSDM spot and look to be leaders and productive members of that rope unit again this spring.
In cage, Anthony Merida and Jack Liselli both return after splitting time alongside Osteen last season. Merida played and started in three contests, making 29 saves with a .439% save percentage while Liselli played in five games with three starts and made 49 saves with a.426% save percentage. The pair will be fighting for that starting job this spring. VMI also has three freshmen at the position in Trey Riemann, Brandon Williams, and Damian Levin.
Similarly, the Keydets suffer some significant losses on offense with leading scorer Jon Fant (13G/21A) moving on, as well as Ryan Perouty (13G/11A) and Josh Drake (8G).
Junior midfielder Hartely Jordan (13G/11A) is the Keydets’ top returning point-getter and will be looking to be one of the leaders of this offense once again in 2022. Additionally, Scout Ripley (21G/1A) and Michael Santos (15G/2A) return after starting all 11 games last season and being top-five scorers. Ripley and Santos each saw starts at both the attack and midfield spots.
Outside of the aforementioned three, sophomore AJ Stamos looks to be one of multiple guys who could step up big-time this spring. Stamos saw seven starts as a freshman and tallied four goals and four assists for eight points.
Where the Keydets will likely need to improve the most if they want to win is at the faceoff dot. VMI ranked 61st out of 64 teams that played last season in faceoff win percentage (.348%). Preston Lalicker (59-for-149) is the team’s top returner at the dot after splitting time with now-graduated Brice Basic last season.
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