Editor’s Note: We’re breaking down each and every NCAA D1 team one by one to get prepped for the rapidly approaching season. Welcome back to the Alphabetical 2013 NCAA D1 Previews! We move another spot down the list and the Syracuse Orange, located in Syracuse, NY, are up for Preview by Chris Rosenthall!
Even for Syracuse, you had to assume 2012 wasn’t going to be easy. Sure, the Orange have always seemed followed the “Reload, not Rebuild” mantra, but how are you supposed to instantly replace guys like John Galloway, Jeremy Thompson, Stephen Keogh and Jovan Miller?
Needless to say, it wasn’t easy, and the Orange went from 15-2 in 2011 to a 9-8 record and needing the Big East Automatic Qualifier to even make it to the NCAA tournament just one year later. After graduating three of their top five scorers, John Desko & co. will rely on a largely new-look offense to turn things around in 2013.
Derek Maltz is last year’s leading goal-scorer and the only returning starter at attack. Maltz filled Stephen Keogh’s finisher role perfectly, cutting through defensive seams on his way to 28 goals (nine on extra-man) and nine assists. Maltz is a big target who catches everything and needs a very small window to operate. He also has more range on his shot than you’d traditionally associate with a crease finisher, making him effective when the team clears out the crease as well.
Much like Tommy Palasek, who transferred from Hopkins the year before, UNC transfer Nicky Galasso is expected to take over quarterback duties immediately, although he didn’t play in last week’s scrimmages and was rumored to be seen in a boot. It has also been rumored that he could miss 2013 with the injury. His 2012 season at Chapel Hill was largely derailed by a foot injury, but in 2011 he led the Tar Heels in scoring (24g, 32a) on his way to being named ACC Freshman of the Year.
As of now it looks like the third attack spot is most likely going to Billy Ward, who scored nine points in 11 games last season, and started at attack this fall. When asked about Ward, Desko says he’s “One of those guys who does everything right…he’s quick, got a good change of direction, he feeds the ball, he moves well off the ball, he’s shooting as well as he has since he’s been here at Syracuse.”
The Syracuse midfield runs through Jojo Marasco, who’s coming off a junior year where his total goals and shooting percentage dropped a bit (from 23 goals and 26% in 2011 to 12 goals and 18% in 2012). Head coach John Desko believes that wearing the #22, and being viewed as the team’s biggest threat last season resulted in opponents sliding to Marasco very quickly, even when he was already being covered by an LSM.
You’d expect Marasco to carry even more of the scoring responsibility now that Bobby Eilers (22g, 8a) has graduated, but coach Desko had an interesting opinion on the matter: “Do we need him to score more? It would be nice if he could score more,” he said. “I don’t know if the other team’s gonna let him score more, so he’s gonna have to take what the other team gives him. If he’s got good shots, we certainly encourage him to take it, and he’s gonna have to move the ball a little quicker and make good decisions on where he passes the ball when he’s being double teamed.”
One middie who seems likely to take a big step forward this season is Hakeem Lecky (6g, 1a). Lecky is absurdly quick (“One of the better first steps in the game of lacrosse,” says Desko) and still growing into his game (he first picked up a lacrosse stick in high school and had to redshirt his first year at Syracuse) but there’s likely going to be a time where he demands more defensive attention than he received in 2012. Desko praised Lecky’s abilities to invert or dodge from up top, and his post-dodge decision-making will be the key to an improved 2013 season.
After playing on the second line last season, midfielder Luke Cometti (11g 1a) will probably get the starting spot alongside Marasco and Lecky, but Syracuse hasn’t been afraid to get an attackman some runs at the midfield position lately. We saw a lot of this later in the 2012 season (especially during the Big East tournament), and it won’t be surprising to see more in 2013.
“We want to make sure we get a midfield out there that’s going to have the ability to take the short sticks and make good decisions with the ball,” said Desko. “Our goal really is to get the six biggest offensive threats out there, and if four of them happen to be attackmen, then one of them is probably going to play in the midfield.”
The biggest concern at midfield remains the face-off position, where the Orange only won 46% of their draws last season. Who’s going to handle face-offs this time? Desko says the position is open, and hasn’t ruled out calling on Brian Megill (“It’s certainly an option for us. It’s a lot to ask of him athletically, but he’s up to it”) again if needed, but returning starter Chris Daddio (49%) is still in the running as well.
On the other hand, a new challenger has appeared in the form of freshman Brendan Conroy. Conroy won 83.3 percent (314-377) of his draws and grabbed 160 ground balls last year at St. Anthony’s (NY), and could emerge as the reliable face-off option the Orange have been looking for.
The Syracuse defense is anchored by Brian Megill, first round MLL draft-pick (7th overall – Denver Oulaws) and the only member of the 2012 team to receive All-America honors. Megill did pretty much everything last season – he covered the opponent’s top attackman, lined up on the wing from time to time, led the team in ground balls and even went 22-47 on face-offs.
2012 starters David Hamlin and Brandon Mullins (he started the last ten games, if you want to get technical about it) return to complete a defense that allowed 9.24 goals and caused 8.59 turnovers (20th and eighth in the nation, respectively) per game last season. Sophomore Bobby Wardwell will start at goal after taking over the job halfway through last season.
Syracuse is still a young team (only two seniors are locks for the starting lineup), and they’re counting on some of their returning players (along with a few additions) to step up and improve on last year’s record. They’re looking forward to taking advantage of the new NCAA rules (Desko specifically mentioned the 30-second clock and a reduction in dead ball clearing situations), returning to the fast-paced game Syracuse is known for and officially making that 2012 season a fluke, not a trend. If Nicky Galasso can return to his 2011 form, the face-off concern is addressed, and a few scoring threats emerge at the midfield position, they’ll be well on their way.
Click HERE to see Alphabetical 2013 NCAA D1 Preview posts for Air Force, Albany, Army, Bellarmine, Binghamton, Brown, Bryant, Bucknell, Canisius, Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Denver, Detroit, Drexel, Duke, Fairfield, Hartford, Harvard, High Point, Hobart, Hofstra, Holy Cross, Jacksonville, Johns Hopkins, Lafayette, Lehigh, Loyola, Manhattan, Marist, Marquette, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mercer, Michigan, Mount St. Mary’s, Navy, UNC, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UPenn, Penn State, Princeton, Providence, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Rutgers, Sacred Heart, Saint Joseph’s, Siena, and St. John’s!