(Photo Courtesy of VMI Athletics)
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: James Purpura (Third season, 2021-Current)
VMI 2022 Record: 4-11 (2-3 SoCon)
Key Departures: Josh Bass (M), Trejan Cannon (SSDM)
Key Returners: Scout Ripley (A), Luke Rusterucci (A), Hartley Jordan (M), James Boynewicz (LSM), Alex Baber (D), Jack Liselli (G)
Transfer Additions: N/A
As VMI heads into the program’s third season under James Purpura, as well as into a new conference: the MAAC, they are coming off the best season the program has seen in quite some time. VMI went 4-11 (2-3 SoCon), eclipsing three wins for the first time since 2019 and winning their first conference victory since joining the SoCon in 2015. The Keydets also made the SoCon Tournament, which marked the programs first postseason berth since 2008. That last postseason appearance came when the Keydets were a member of the MAAC the first time around.
The growth that this program saw last season was coupled with an influx of young talent as the Keydets saw multiple freshman and sophomores earning starting roles and being key contributors on both ends of the field. A sign that the future could be bright in Lexington.
Heading into the MAAC era, many are looking at this VMI program and the progress made in just a few short years under Purpura and wondering if they can keep it going. The Keydets join the MAAC along with Mount St. Mary’s, LIU, Sacred Heart, and Wagner. The league has traditionally been one of the more upwardly mobile conference in college lacrosse and whether VMI can benefit from that will be very intriguing.
Can Offense Keep Marching Forward?
VMI saw improvement in many areas last season. That included its offense, which averaged 9.6 goals per game this past spring. During the 2021 season, the Keydets’ offense averaged 8.8 goals per game.
While there may be a new voice running the offense on the sidelines this coming season, the personnel is hardly any different. Attackman Scout Ripley (28G/13A) returns for his senior season after being the team’s leading scorer a year ago. Luke Rusterucci (16G/23A) was VMI’s second-leading scorer as a freshman. Senior midfielder Hartley Jordan (25G/11A) is also back, as is junior midfielder AJ Stamos (12G/10A). Each were top five point-getters a year ago.
Josh Bass (16G/9A) is the only full-time starter who has graduated. Michael Santos (8G/2A), who saw seven starts at attack, has also graduated. In short, this VMI offense returns a lot of talent from a unit that saw improvement a year ago. Witt that fact in hand, can they keep it up?
Who Replaces Trejan Cannon at SSDM?
It was a pair of freshmen in Alex Baber and James Boynewicz who headlined the VMI defense out in front of the cage last season. But the most exciting player on the back end, and on the whole of the roster, much of the time was short-stick defensive midfielder Trejan Cannon. The senior grabbed 29 ground balls, 19 caused turnovers, and also scored a goal.
With Cannon’s graduation, the Keydets will be looking to find a replacement at that SSDM spot to help bolster their rope unit. Sophomore Chris Golini (1G/5GB/4CT) and senior Callum Hadley (6GB/4CT) each saw action at the position last season and could take on bigger roles in 2023.
Can VMI Surpass Four Wins?
In both 2019 and 2022, VMI hit four wins. They also reached that win total in 2012. However, since the 2008 season that has been the highest win total the Keydets have been able to reach in a single season. That 2008 season saw the Keydets go 6-11 and advance to the MAAC title game. Three years earlier in 2005 was the last time the Keydets didn’t have a losing season as they went 7-7. The last time the Keydets went above .500 was in 2000 with a 7-6 record.
Things have not always been pretty for the Keydets. But after the improvements seen during the first two seasons of the Purpura era and the benchmarks hit last season by this program, it’s plausible to ask if VMI can get surpass that four-win mark with its 2023 schedule.
Potential Breakout Player
Luke Mryncza, Midfield, Sophomore
As a freshman last season, the Nashville native played in all 15 games and started each of the Keydets’ final eight contests. During that time he recorded 13 of his 16 total points (12G/4A) on the year. After a productive end to his freshman season, expect Mryncza to take another step forward as a sophomore in 2023.
With its 2022 recruiting efforts, VMI put together a 21-man recruiting class.