Hey! Richmond is playing Division I lacrosse this coming season. The Spiders announced their intent to play at the college game's highest level just over a year ago (September 2012), and will set upon their journey toward points unknown in under three months. There will be growing pains, but the most important thing about Richmond in 2014 is that the Spiders will play.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
Welcome! Try the Brie!
February 8: Virginia
[This is where the police draw a chalk outline of Richmond lacrosse on the Robins Stadium turf.]
The Golden Road
February 22: @Mercer; April 5: @Furman; April 12: High Point; April 20: Jacksonville; April 26: @VMI
Richmond is going to play 14 games in 2014 but only these five games really matter. That's an odd concept to trust, but with the Spiders only entering the sunrise of their existence, looking to exert punishment on nonconference opponents misses the point of Richmond's foray into Division I lacrosse and what a conference like the Atlantic Sun means for its member institutions. The opening league date against Mercer is huge: The game comes early in the Spiders' schedule and is Richmond's first road trip; the date against the Bears provides the Spiders with the opportunity to learn how to get on and off the bus like a high-level college lacrosse program and compete in an important game early in the program's life. With the back-end of Richmond's slate featuring only conference games, the Spiders can focus exclusively on creating momentum toward a possible Atlantic Sun Tournament appearance -- an extra date that provides invaluable practice time -- and, at worst, further competitive opportunity against comparable opponents from an ability standpoint. What the Spiders accomplish in those five games will heavily dictate the volition of the program entering 2015.
The Ladder Rungs
February 15: Hartford; March 1: @UMBC; March 4: Holy Cross; March 8: v. Vermont (Durham, N.C.); March 15: @St. Joseph's; March 17: @Rutgers; March 21: Wagner; March 29: v. Bryant (Manhasset, N.Y.)
Richmond and Furman are taking contrasting approaches in their nonconference schedule: The Paladins are loading up their slate with pure force, featuring some of the nation's strongest teams in an aggressive attempt to grow its program; the Spiders have dotted their agenda with out-of-conference opponents that feature a mix of nationally average teams and some beatable foes. There isn't a right or wrong path when considering the two schools of thought -- "The hottest fire makes the strongest steel" and "Grow organically" -- but there is lots of value in Richmond's method: Playing against comparable programs (from a competitive standpoint) and putting a handful of "reach games" on the slate allows the Spiders to work within a learning curve that doesn't place undue pressure on Richmond to succeed in suffocating circumstances. There are challenges here but the impossible is avoided; it's a focus that appears built upon climbing the ladder in a measured away. This out-of-conference schedule is conducive to program building, even if a chunk of wins fails to inure from playing these opponents. It shows the steps to success and lays a path for the Spiders to follow as lacrosse slowly develops at the school.