Photograph by Keith Lucas

It’s a familiar scene in sports after an underdog defeats an entrenched favorite. The jubilant victors come together in a sea of arms and legs, jumping and hugging, to celebrate beating the odds.

That’s what played out at Robins Stadium on Feb. 23, when the men’s lacrosse team hosted Notre Dame. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, the Spiders held off the visitors, then No. 6 in the country, for a 9-8 win to set off the celebration. Upsetting a perennial powerhouse is no longer uncommon for the program, and the victory signaled that peers in NCAA Division I lacrosse shouldn’t be surprised by Richmond’s success.

“We just want to continue to build, year in and year out. So, if we can take one small step forward this year, then that’s a positive,” head coach Dan Chemotti said. “That will be the goal each and every year. We just want to be very relevant in the Division I landscape.”

This could have been a rebuilding season for the Spiders, who lost some of the program’s best players to graduation last year. But new faces — such as senior Teddy Hatfield, who was drafted by Major League Lacrosse’s Dallas Ratters in March, and sophomore standout Ryan Lanchbury, who notched a hat trick against Notre Dame — have emerged to keep the momentum going.

With everything the program has already achieved — NCAA Tournament appearances, conference titles, poll rankings, upsets of annual national title contenders Duke and North Carolina — it’s easy to forget how recently men’s lacrosse came to Richmond. With the program now in its sixth season, Chemotti believes its progress has more to do with internal preparation than external expectations.

“We try to keep the same mentality game in and game out,” he said. “We have a specific brand of lacrosse that we like to play, and we just try to be very consistent with that. Whether we’re playing somebody who’s more highly ranked than us or not, we don’t take a different mindset.”

It's easy to forget how recently men's lacrosse came to Richmond.

Chemotti, who played at Duke and was an assistant coach at Loyola University Maryland — two upper-crust college lacrosse programs — initially built the program on a vision of what might be. That pitch might have sounded like planning for a distant future to some recruits, but for those who first signed on, whom Chemotti calls “the pioneers of the program,” it was an unspoken challenge reflected in their coach’s quietly confident demeanor. When asked if anything surprised him about the rapid development of his built-from-scratch program, Chemotti took a long pause before replying, “Nothing.

“We entered this whole process wanting to be good,” he said. “I give our guys a tremendous amount of credit for committing to the culture and wanting to be great.”