Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.
Head Coach: Dan Chemotti (10th season, 2014-current)
Richmond 2022 Record: 11-5 (4-1 SoCon)
Key Departures: Ryan Lanchbury (A), Ryan Dunn (A), Luke Frankeny (M), Griffin Kology (D), Ray Baran (D)
Key Returners: Dalton Young (A), Lance Madonna (M), Jared Chenoy (FO), Jake Saunders (D), Zach Vigue (G)
Transfer Additions: Derrek Madonna (M, Hobart), Trent Grainger (FO, St. Bonaventure), Brandon Smith (M, Randolph-Macon)
The Richmond Spiders have become the blueprint for which many newer programs wish to follow. In just nine seasons of lacrosse, the Spiders have established themselves as one of the best mid-major programs in the game and are routinely a top-20 squad.
Last season, perhaps, was the best of those years for a program that is still fairly young compared to most. Richmond boasted an 11-5 record that included an upset win over in-state power Virginia a fourth conference title and NCAA Tournament berth. The Spiders ended the season with an 11-10 overtime loss against Penn in the NCAA first round.
It was that phenomenal season from Richmond that put the cap on its SoCon era. The Spiders will be moving to their home conference, the Atlantic 10 (A-10), next spring and joining High Point, Hobart, Saint Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure, and UMass. Year one in the A-10 will be a test for Richmond as they not only enter a tough conference, but do so with multiple major personnel question marks.
Another Year, Another Elite Defense?
One of the hallmarks of this Richmond program over the years has been its defense. The Spiders featured the 8th-best scoring defense last season, allowing 10.06 goals per game, while being ranked 17th in defensive efficiency according to Lacrosse Reference. The 2018 season is the only one in which Richmond has allowed more than 10 goals per game in its nine seasons of play. There have been three seasons (2021, 2017, 2016) in which the Spiders held their opponents under 10 goals per game on average.
In 2023, this defense will look very different. The Spiders’ top pole from a year ago, Jake Saunders (33GB/23CT), is back for a fifth-season and starting goalie Zach Vigue returns after a standout redshirt freshman campaign where he took over as the stater in mid-March and ended the year with 128 saves and a 55.8% save percentage. Starting close defensemen Griffin Kology and Ray Baran are both gone with Kology transferring to Virginia and Baran having exhausted his eligibility. The team’s top SSDM Shayne Grant (20GB/9CT) has also graduated.
Richmond has turned over and replaced talent quite seamlessly on both ends before and they could very well do it again. But can they do so once more and continue to remain as one of the best and most productive defensive units in college lacrosse?
How Productive Will The Offense Be?
The situation is quite similar on the offensive end as well with Richmond losing three of its top-five scorers from last season, which includes the program’s all-time leaders in goals in Ryan Lanchbury (40G/41A). Ryan Dunn (25G/22A), and Luke Frankeny (34G/10A) also exit the program. The three combined for 172 points and 99 goals to help lead the way for an offense that averaged 14 goals per game and ranked ninth in team shooting percentage (32.3%).
Having no Lanchbury, Dunn, or Frankeny leaves some pretty big holes in the Spiders’ offense heading into the 2023 season. But the cupboard is far from bare. Senior Attackman Dalton Young returns at attack following a 39-goal, 23-assists campaign last season that saw him close the year as the team’s second-leading scorer. Junior Lance Madonna (25G/12A) and redshirt sophomore Cooper Dainton (9G/5A) are the Spiders’ top returning midfielders. Those three form a solid core for this offense to be built around. Henry Alpaugh (3G/7A), Max Merklinger (8G), and Mitch Pfeiffer (5G/2A) were some of the Spiders’ top reserves last spring and, along wither multiple others, should be expected to take on more weight in 2023. The Spiders also bring in Derrek Madonna as a grad transfer from Hobart. Now playing alongside his brother, Lance, Madonna brings an array of talent to Richmond and especially so as an elite shooter. He had 33 goals and six assists for Hobart in 2022.
It’ll be another season in which the Spiders have multiple key pieces to replace offense. Can they do it again and continue to maintain the efficiency that has become expected?
Does Richmond Stay on Top in The A-10?
Richmond has had nothing but success through its first nine seasons as a DI program. Four conference titles, four NCAA Tournament appearances, and eight overall conference title game showings speak for themselves. Now in the A-10, the Spiders will be entering a league that should be much tough from top to bottom. Former SoCon foe High Point, whom Richmond holds a 10-4 all-time record agains, will also be joining the A-10. So will former NEC powers Hobart and Saint Joseph’s, as well as St. Bonaventure and UMass who come from the MAAC and the CAA.
Even in year one with the Spiders looking to be one of the top dogs, each week will present a extreme challenge as the A-10 will be a grind for all involved. In this new league with tougher competition, the biggest question surrounding Richmond may simply be whether or not the Spiders will remain as dominant in their conference as they have previously.
Potential Breakout Player
Max Merklinger, Attack, Sophomore
As a freshman in 2022, Merklinger played in 14 games as a reserve and scored eight goals. That included a two-goal performance against Georgetown. With multiple spots to be filled on that starting attack line, the sophomore could very well step into the fray and be a much more productive asset for the Spiders’ offense this spring.
Richmond brings in a very strong 14-man freshman class that could very well make an immediate impact. The class is headlined by attackmen Aidan O’Neil (Tabor Academy, Mass.) and Jackson Carawan (St. Francis De Sales, Ohio), as well as LSM Aidan Fairchild (Patriot, Va.). All three are all rated as four-star prospects by Inside Lacrosse.