Members of the VMI lacrosse team have much to be proud of at the season’s end, as the team qualified for postseason play for the first time since 2008. A victory over Southern Conference opponent Mercer University April 2 was also a highlight.
Two players, Hartley Jordan ’23 and Luke Rusterucci ’25, were recognized by the Southern Conference with postseason honors.
With the All-SoCon teams voted upon by the league’s coaches, Jordan was named to the All-Southern Conference First Team, while Rusterucci was named to the SoCon All-Freshman Team.
Southern Conference Tournament (L, 13-5)
Competing in its first-ever Southern Conference Tournament, the VMI lacrosse team held its own against No. 11 Jacksonville but ultimately fell by a 13-5 score in the semifinal round May 5 at Vert Stadium in High Point, North Carolina.
The Dolphins (14-2) led 10-4 going into the final quarter before Rusterucci scored at the 10:16 mark to give VMI (4-11) momentum with 10 minutes left on the clock. Jacksonville clamped down on defense to limit VMI’s opportunities for the remainder of the game while scoring three security goals over the final seven minutes to put the game out of reach.
Jacksonville won 16 of 20 faceoffs and outshot the Keydets by a 47-33 margin. The Dolphins also went two for four on extra-man opportunities while holding VMI scoreless on three extra-man occurrences.
“I’m proud of our guys for playing tough and giving us a chance in the fourth quarter,” said James Purpura, VMI head coach. “With 10 minutes left, we were within striking distance at 10-5, but ultimately, we couldn’t capitalize on offense to get it any closer. We had our chances against a talented and athletic opponent like Jacksonville, but we needed to execute and finish more often. I was really proud of our young defensive unit who played well and gave us some big stops.”
“On offense, we had some opportunities but didn’t finish enough of them. We also struggled at the face-off X, which allowed Jacksonville to dominate possession time. Overall, I’m proud of this group and, in particular, our senior class. They have done a great job of leading a young team and setting a foundation for the program moving forward.”
Rusterucci, Scout Ripley ’23, Jordan, Jack Burke ’22, and Kyle Webster ’24 scored VMI five goals throughout the match. Ripley led the Keydets with nine shot attempts on the evening while Jordan tallied seven.
In a complete game in the cage, Jack Liselli ’24, VMI goalie, registered 14 saves in the contest, while Jacksonville’s Luke Millican logged 10 in 54 minutes of action.
Hampton (W, 21-5)
The VMI lacrosse team earned a dominant 21-5 victory over visiting Hampton University for a big win April 23 at Drill Field No. 2.
Rusterucci and Luke Mryncza ’25 led the way for VMI with 13 combined points, including seven for Rusterucci on three goals and four assists and six for Mryncza on four goals and two assists.
This year’s graduates, consisting of Josh Bass ’21, Michael Santos ’22, Aidan Riley ’22, Alexander Rodriguez ’22, Trejan Cannon ’22, Burke, David Foster ’22, and Mike Tulskie ’22, won their ninth career game at VMI, marking the most wins for a class since 2014.
“I’m happy with our effort today, as it was a total team effort,” Purpura stated. “It was a great way to honor our 1st Class cadets with a win on senior day. We are one of the youngest teams in college lacrosse, but our senior class has done a great job leading, and I’m happy they were rewarded for their efforts.
“We were a little slow out of the gate, but our defense played outstanding and gave our team confidence. We started to finish shots and had a ton of possession time today, thanks to our riding and clearing and our face-off crew. We had 11 different goal scorers, led by two of our freshmen in Luke Mryncza and Luke Rusterucci. We still have a lot to work on, but I’m happy with our continued development.”
The Keydets were dominant on the offensive side of the field and took 83 shot attempts on the day to Hampton’s 21. VMI also showed hustle by picking 49 groundballs to Hampton’s 25 and forcing 23 Hampton turnovers.
VMI won 19 of 30 faceoffs and went a perfect 21-21 on clearing opportunities. The Keydets also held Hampton to 0-2 on extra-man scoring opportunities.
Mryncza led the Keydets with four goals on the day, followed by Rusterucci’s three. Ripley, Bass, A.J. Stamos ’24, Alex Baber ’25, and Riley also logged two goals apiece.
Jacksonville (L, 25-6)
Facing a Top 10 team at home for the first time in seven years, the VMI lacrosse team fell by a 25-6 score to visiting No. 8 Jacksonville April 16 at Drill Field No. 2.
The Dolphins (11-2, 3-0) jumped ahead by an 8-3 score after the opening period and eventually built a 14-3 lead at the half after keeping VMI (3-9, 1-2) scoreless in the second stanza. VMI built some momentum near the end of the opening quarter when Jacksonville committed a team goal at the 5:14 mark, and the Keydets put in two more scores in the final two minutes of the period off goals by Bass and Jordan.
“Credit to Jacksonville,” said Purpura. “They’re a Top 10 team for a reason and showed it today. They dominated ground balls and at the face-off X, which made the possession battle weigh heavily in their favor. I’m proud that our guys didn’t quit, and, for a young team, they got to experience what battling a Top 10 opponent entails. Ultimately, we want to get that level as we build this program, and today, albeit not the result we want, was a valuable learning lesson for us moving forward.”
VMI opened the second half strong with an early goal in the third quarter by Thomas Williamson ’23 as the Keydets took advantage of a man-up opportunity.
The Dolphins responded with 10 unanswered goals over the remainder of the third period and most of the fourth before VMI scored again with 1:23 left on the clock on a goal by Burke. Tulskie would score one more for the Keydets with 29 seconds to play for VMI’s final tally of the match.
Liselli logged 16 saves over three quarters of play before being replaced by Trey Riemann ’25 for the fourth quarter. Riemann was credited with five saves over the final 15 minutes of play.
Editor’s Note: These articles originally appeared at vmikeydets.com.