The Las Vegas Desert Dogs of the National Lacrosse League drafted University of Richmond men’s lacrosse player Jake Saunders on Sept. 10.
Saunders, a graduate student defender for the Spiders, was selected as the 16th pick in the first round of the event. He will remain at UR for the upcoming lacrosse campaign and then begin his professional career in the latter half 2023.
“I mean, it’s been a goal of mine for a very, very long time,” Saunders said. “I’ve been playing lacrosse since I was about three years old and ever since I’ve picked up that and a hockey stick, my goal was to be a professional player in either one of them. And it was just awesome to have that dream come true last weekend. It was pretty cool.”
In four seasons with the Spiders, Saunders has played in 33 games and started in 21 of them. Throughout his career, he has picked up 56 ground balls, forced 43 turnovers and recorded one goal and three assists. In the Southern Conference tournament alone, Saunders picked up 10 ground balls and caused four turnovers in two games.
Men’s lacrosse Head Coach Dan Chemotti said Saunders was someone who made the team better regardless of his responsibility, and he was really excited for the opportunity for Saunders. He also said the Desert Dogs’ organization is getting a competitor and a leader in Saunders.
“They’re getting a guy who can make plays in transition,” Chemotti said. “They’re getting a guy who can just dominate loose balls. He does all of those things. And he is a tremendous teammate as well, so he’s perfectly suited for the indoor game.”
Saunders credited his teammates in preparing him for this moment in his career.
“Number one, I wouldn’t be here without any of my teammates,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing, or one of the most important things. Just the group of guys and the camaraderie, meeting all my best friends and competing with them goes a long way and makes you want to strive to be better every single day.”
Saunders also acknowledged his coaching staff for developing him into the player he is today and having confidence in him, and his family, for giving him the opportunity to come to UR to chase his dreams.
The only other player in UR history to be drafted into the NLL is Ryan Lanchbury, ‘22, a former teammate of Saunders. Lanchbury, who played for the Spiders for five seasons, will begin playing for the Georgia Swarm in December.
Lanchbury is still friends with Saunders despite no longer playing for UR. He said he had been following along in the months leading up to last week’s draft and thought Saunders’ play over the summer increased his chance to be drafted.
“I know he’s been working for this for a long time and just to see someone who you care about so much and someone who puts in so much work live out their dreams and reach that first step of the process, it’s really exciting,” Lanchbury said.
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Saunders said he and Lanchbury are like brothers, and that it was a lot easier having seen Lanchbury go through the draft process before him.
“I was sitting beside him on his draft night and he was right there with me on mine,” Saunders said.
Last season, Saunders was a member of a UR team that not only won a Southern Conference Championship but made an appearance in the NCAA tournament — its fourth since 2014 during the program’s inaugural season.
The team finished with an 11-4 record and lost in overtime the first round of the NCAA tournament against the University of Pennsylvania.
The goal for the coming campaign is to make it back to the tournament and win this time around, Saunders said.
“I think first order of business is getting back there and winning,” he said. “And I think, as a whole, our whole team knows and believes that we can make as big a push to the Final Four and hopefully make something awesome happen.”
The lacrosse team had its first practice on Sept. 16, and Saunders said the team is going to hit the ground running right away — and whoever they play in 2023, he said, better watch out.
Contact sports writer Jimmy James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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