People would think that athletic coaches would pay mind to preseason rankings. Who wouldn’t want to be ranked against some of the best lacrosse programs in the country?
The University of Richmond's men's lacrosse team was ranked No. 18 in the country by U.S. Lacrosse Magazine in its Early 2021 rankings. When the COVID-19 pandemic prematurely ended the team's 2019-20 spring season, the team was nationally ranked with a 4-3 overall record and a 1-0 mark in Southern Conference play, according to Spider Athletic news.
So what do preseason rankings mean to the men's lacrosse coaching staff? Head lacrosse coach Dan Chemotti said it meant absolutely nothing. Chemotti's priorities are set on something else — the mere gratitude of being able to play amidst a global pandemic.
Chemotti has a very specific goal this year, which has nothing to do with athletic achievement. He is focusing on big-picture ideas, such as team culture, long-term plans and goals for the team and the joy of being able to coach every day, he said. Chemotti said he diverted one of his former responsibilities, of being offensive coordinator, to assistant coach John Hogan so Chemotti could focus on those team development aspects.
Chemotti is the coach of the only lacrosse program in the country that has appeared in six consecutive Southern Conference championship tournaments, from 2014 to 2019, according to his biography. In three of those six years, Chemotti led the UR team to winning the three SoCon championships.
Chemotti commented on the progress UR as a whole has made in a COVID-19 pandemic environment.
“The fact that we have been able to get this far into the year as a school and program has been amazing,” Chemotti said.
Chemotti said that when all academic and athletic plans were suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, his coaching emphasized the importance of adhering to recommendations from health professionals.
“I told [the team] to do the things that we encourage them to do every day — be leaders, encourage others and do the right things,” he said.
Recent graduate Jack Cook commented on Chemotti's discipline. He said Chemotti expects that discipline to be matched by his players as well. "His leadership of the team has shaped the program to be mature, motivated, and dominant and I am extremely proud to have played for him," Cook said.
Chemotti mentioned that aside from staying healthy, he encouraged the team to stay active and in the weight room. However, he said this had been nearly impossible for the players due to gym closures.
According to Chemotti, the men’s lacrosse team just entered 20-hour practice weeks in the beginning of October.
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“We are still in the honeymoon phase," Chemotti said. "Everyone is just excited to be out there and getting better, even if it’s not at the same rate as we are used to going.”
Chemotti said he is looking to focus on leadership more this year, and has asked goalie and graduate student Jack Rusbuldt to make an impact not only on the field but off the field as well.
“We are pushing him for more leadership," Chemotti said. Rusbuldt is capable of delivering on the leadership front because he is a third-year starter, he said.
Chemotti commented on Rusbuldt's athletic progress over the past few years.
"Rusbuldt has been taking tremendous steps toward attention to detail and work ethic from the moment he first stepped out on the field until today," Chemotti said.
In his redshirt-sophomore season, Rusbuldt was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2019 Southern Conference Tournament and set the Southern Conference Tournament record with 26 saves in the event, according to his Athletics Department profile. He was also named the SoCon Defensive Player of the Week in early March. In the shortened 2020 season, he made a career-high 22 saves against No. 6 Notre Dame, according to his stats.
Rusbuldt said one of his personal goals for the upcoming season is being the best goalie in the country.
“I strive to be the best at all times," Rusbuldt said. "I am a competitive person, striving to have the best save percentage, but that's not the biggest concern.”
Although Rusbuldt has personal goals, he said the team as a whole is his greatest priority. He said without his defenders, none of those personal stat goals would ever be possible.
“I’m time-oriented, so the team always comes first, and a national championship is the ultimate goal,” Rusbuldt said.
Contact sports editor Grace Mittl at email@example.com.
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