October 5, 2013

Richmond Shows Toughness in Program's Varsity Debut

Towson, Loyola, Georgetown also show early looks at Play for Parkinson's

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Richmond's inaugural roster includes 24 true freshmen, including midfielder Marc Badger. "We didn't know what to expect as coaches," Spiders coach Dan Chemotti said. "We knew they weren't going to know what to expect as players."
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- When it was done -- Richmond's debut as a varsity program -- coach Dan Chemotti was immediately reminded of his past.

The Loyola Greyhounds, for which Chemotti was an assistant for five seasons through the team's 2012 national title year, took the field at Episcopal High School for a scrimmage against Georgetown right after Richmond played Towson to an unofficial 8-7 final score in favor of the Tigers on the very same field.

Current members of the Loyola staff approached their former assistant to say hello, but he didn't want to impose too much. Chemotti shot a good luck to Greyhounds junior attackman Nikko Pontrello, but then followed his team off the field after doing a media interview.

At the same time, Chemotti was very much in the present. Richmond athletic director Keith Gill was in attendance at the annual Play for Parkinson's fall ball event to watch the Spiders in their first intercollegiate varsity action. He had to at least been impressed early on.

Richmond led 6-3 at halftime against returners from a squad that won the CAA tournament last season. Albeit Towson was without its best player, honorable mention All-American Tom DeNapoli (undisclosed injury), senior leader and short-stick midfielder Rob Zoppo (illness) and its most experienced goalie, junior Tyler White, who is rehabbing from a torn ACL.

"Our legacy starts today," Chemotti said of the message leading into the Spiders first scrimmage. "How do we want to set the tone? How do we want to start this thing off? There are a lot of things that we're not going to be able to control today, but we can control our effort and how hard we play."

Towson coach Shawn Nadelen expected nothing less from his opponent.

"I've known Dan for a long time," he said. "Any team that is coached by him is going to come out prepared and intense. They took it to us early. Defensively they have some really nice options and they are very fundamental."

There will be growing pains. The Spiders' roster includes 24 true freshmen, seven sophomores and four juniors.

Richmond, led by Chemotti, made its varsity debut Saturday at Play for Parkinson's. The team opens the regular season against Virginia.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Chemotti said, at this point, the defense's progress is ahead of the offense, but he's confident the latter unit will develop with time. He also said faceoffs will likely be taken by committee during the year.

Leaders have begun to emerge. Chemotti identified sophomore defenseman Tom Monzo and freshman long-stick midfielder Brendan Hynes as two who have been vocal leaders.

"We'll vote for captains," Chemotti said. "If they're voted, they would have my support. Those are two guys we want our guys following."

In its second and final scrimmage of the day, Richmond lost to Georgetown, 11-3. The Spiders have one more week of practice and then Chemotti and his staff, defensive coordinator Paul Richards and assistant coach Steve Layne, will hit the film room to evaluate the team heading into its inaugural season in the new Atlantic Sun men's lacrosse conference. They open Feb. 8 with a non-conference game against Virginia.

Richmond is one of four new Division I men's programs for the 2013-14 season, along with Boston University, Monmouth and Furman.

"We've been waiting a long time for this," said Chemotti, who was hired less than a year ago but was charged with putting together a varsity lineup in short order. "The guys have done a great job this fall. They've really prepared themselves mentally and physically. I was really happy with our effort. We need to be quicker to the ground balls, clear the ball a little better and finish some shots, but overall we asked them to compete. We didn't know what to expect as coaches. We knew they weren't going to know what to expect as players. We just wanted to come out here and know that when the first scrimmage was finished that we had played hard. I think that was the case."

Towson Battles

The Tigers were without several key players, but rallied to beat Richmond. They then had the tough assignment of moving to another field to face a star-studded Team USA split-squad group. Team USA White went up 6-1 after the first quarter, led 10-2 at halftime, and 16-3 at the start of the third quarter before Towson's tank appeared to be completely on empty. The final was 26-4.

"I was disappointed with how we came out in the Richmond game," Nadelen said. "We came out flat, not a lot of energy. I thought we answered in the second half. With the USA game, we came out with better energy. It's tough to get things rolling when they dominate faceoffs but I thought we stayed pretty competitive through three quarters."

Senior midfielder Andrew Hodgson scored Towson's first goal in the U.S. scrimmage to make it 3-1 with emotions running high early on.

With White sidelined, freshman Matt Hoy started in goal against Team USA. Sophomore Ryan Adler also saw time. Towson is looking to replace the graduated Andrew Wascavage, who led the CAA in saves per game last season. New assistant coach Scott Rodgers, previously at Marquette and the former Notre Dame All-American goalie now with the MLL's Ohio Machine, was brought on by Nadelen to work with the position in need.

"That's why I sought out Scott," Nadelen said. "I know what he brings to helping goalies come around and get it dialed in. He's aware of everything, and not just goalie play. Scott's a really good voice for the team. He does a good job keeping the guys up-tempo and engaged."

Nadelen said DeNapoli, who was very vocal throughout both scrimmages on the sideline, "should be fine," without getting into specifics.

"He's just not 100 percent healthy," Nadelen said. "He's a very talented guy and we didn't want to push him into a bad situation to worsen it."

Loyola's New Era

Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey sees a different look in the middle of Loyola's huddles compared to this time last year. The core of the Greyhounds' 2012 national title team, many of them juniors when they won the school's first title, graduated last year. Names like Ratliff, Hawkins and Mike Sawyer aren't on the roster anymore, although there are still two other Sawyers: senior Matt and freshman Nick.

"A lot of starry eyes in that huddle," Toomey said. "It reminds me a lot of that team that just graduated. They played as freshman and we watched them grow up. The good news is we have some senior leadership. I'm very optimistic about this group."

There are known commodities in senior attackman Justin Ward, a 62-point producer a year ago, and senior defenseman Joe Fletcher, the only collegian on the U.S. men's national training team. Fletcher was busy Saturday. He played in Loyola's scrimmage against Georgetown and played in two Team USA scrimmages. Starting goalie Jack Runkel also returns for a senior year.

But this is generally a new-look Loyola team. The Greyhounds changed its attack and midfield combinations just about every quarter, Toomey said, as they are still working through pairings. But its primary attack unit appeared to be Ward, Pontrello and sophomore attackman Zach Herreweyers.

Among the midfield lines observed: senior Kevin Ryan, senior Matt Sawyer and redshirt freshman Brian Sherlock; Ryan, sophomore Tyler Albrecht and freshman Romar Dennis; and Sawyer, Albrecht and Sherlock. Sophomore Jeff Chase was also a regular.

Junior Blake Burkhart battled hard on faceoffs, but there is still getting used to win play without Ratliff and Hawkins, who manned those posts with considerable effectiveness the previous two seasons.

Seniors Pat Laconi and Kyle Duffy and junior Mike Kutzer saw the bulk of time at short-stick defensive midfield. Against Team USA, the Loyola defense looked a little different without Fletcher, but most of the time junior close defenseman David Manning and long-stick middie Pat Frazier were on the field.

Loyola has several freshmen in the mix for regular playing time. Dennis is a 6-foot-5, 205-pounder who scored a first-half goal against Team USA Blue. Sherlock is a North Carolina transfer. Toomey also mentioned rookies Jordan Germershausen (attack) and Nick Sawyer (attack) in this group.

"We need some guys to step up," Toomey said.

Georgetown Splits

Georgetown came away with a 1-1 record on Saturday. They led Loyola 3-0 after the first quarter, but fell 15-8 before closing the day with the win over Richmond. (Note: Because of the event schedule, I wasn't able to see much of Georgetown).

"Typical fall," Hoyas coach Kevin Warne said after the Loyola scrimmage. "Whatever you practice in the fall, it's amazing how the speed changes when you're playing another color jersey. Offensively we did a lot of good things. We're going a lot more movement and playing to our strengths. We got a lot of good shots, we just didn't can them. That will come."

Check back to LaxMagazine.com for more from Saturday's Play for Parkinson's event, including a close look at the U.S. men's national training team.

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