The NCAA D1 season is now underway! During the first couple of weeks of lacrosse season we’ll be finishing up the Alphabetical 2014 NCAA D1 Previews! Like last year, we are going through all of the D1 men’s teams for 2014 (there are 67 this year!) and we are now moving on to the Syracuse Orange, located in Syracuse, NY.
Syracuse (16-4 in 2013) is coming off of a season that was a whole lot of “Friday Night Lights” (the television show), unfortunately mixed with a little bit of “Friday Night Lights” (the movie): five one-goal wins (including games against Virginia, Princeton and Cornell) in the regular season, late-game NCAA tourney heroics against Yale and Denver, and ultimately, a heartbreaking loss to Duke in the championship game.
This season, the team looks to retain their position among D1’s elite programs, and they’ve earned the top spot in the preseason coaches’ poll. Their roster remains largely intact, and while a few stars have moved on, several new potential stars are waiting in the wings.
After Tommy Palasek and Tim Desko left two years ago, many lacrosse fans assumed attack depth would be a point of concern for the Orange. After the emergence of several suitable replacements last season, Syracuse now has the opposite problem on their hands; all major contributors are back, along with a host of others with tremendously impressive resumes of their own.
Junior Kevin Rice went from occasional appearances in 2012 to starting every game in 2013, finishing the season with 23 goals and 32 assists. As his numbers would indicate, he’s a versatile attackman who is equally comfortable feeding from behind the cage or dodging on a wing, and he’s scored a total of ten assists in the team’s three preseason scrimmages. Rice put up gaudy numbers in the season opener against Siena.
Senior co-captain Derek Maltz is the team’s top returning goal-scorer (32 goals in 2013). The reliable finisher demonstrated a knack for clutch performances last season, tallying the game-winner against Rutgers with ten seconds left, then putting away Denver with only 19 seconds remaining in their Final Four matchup. While Maltz has started every game the past two seasons, it wasn’t uncommon to see him removed from games last year as situations or matchups dictated; it’s going to be interesting to see how his role evolves with the influx of talent at the position.
Based on last season’s scoring, you’d have to assume the third spot should go to Redshirt Sophomore Dylan Donahue, who scored 41 points (27g, 14a) last year while splitting the third attack spot with Billy Ward (who’s now listed in the Syracuse program as a midfielder). Donahue scored the game-winner against Yale that sent Syracuse to the Final Four, and has been the team’s most dominant scorer this preseason. Donahue also went OFF against Siena. That was a sign of things to come.
Newcomer Randy Staats scored 156 points (73g, 83a) last season for Onondaga Community College, where he was named the NJCAA offensive player of the year. Although he scored three goals against Towson while playing attack last weekend, Staats (Cody Jamieson’s cousin, by the way) can play attack or midfield, and for what it’s worth, he and Nicky Galasso are two of only three players with multiple positions listed by their names in the Syracuse roster.
Speaking of Galasso, the oft-injured 2011 ACC Freshman of the Year is injured once again. 56 points as a freshman at UNC, injured the past two seasons, and already hurt heading into this one. It’s an upper body injury this time, in contrast to the stress fractures that derailed his 2012 and 2013 campaigns, so there’s that, but we still don’t know when he’ll be ready to play. Regardless, if he can get on the field, Galasso is an offensive weapon (he scored 500 points for West Islip high school, tops all-time in Long Island) in an already loaded arsenal.
All that and we’re still talking about attackmen…
With prime facilitator Jojo Marasco and leading goal-scorer Luke Cometti gone, expect Senior Scott Loy and Redshirt Junior Henry Schoonmaker to take far more than the 58 shots they each fired off last season. Ohio native Loy (selected in the fourth round of the MLL collegiate draft by the Ohio Machine) went from scoring six goals in 2012 to 20 last season while Oregon product Schoonmaker saw his point total climb from seven to 23.
Redshirt Junior Hakeem Lecky (eight goals, one assist in 2013) ran with the first midfield line two years ago, but was moved to the second line last season. Lecky has always been known for an incredible first step, but will need to improve his accuracy or distributing in order to be regarded as a key offensive threat. If his preseason performances (two goals against both Hofstra and Towson) are any indicator, he could be well on his way.
A significant chunk of the Syracuse spotlight will be dedicated to Jordan Evans, top-ranked freshman in the nation and new owner of the #22. Evans scored 82 goals and 100 assists last season for Jamesville-Dewitt High School on his way to earning Nike/US Lacrosse National Player of the Year honors. Like most 22s before him, Evans can play either midfield or attack, and like everyone who’s worn it in the past two decades, he’ll be expected to make an immediate impact. He scored a goal in his first game.
Syracuse loses Brian Megill, but the #11 jersey (donning the 11 is a fairly recent tradition among top Syracuse defenders – Steve Panarelli, Joel White, etc.) has been passed down to Redshirt Sophomore Brandon Mullins, a Preseason Honorable Mention All American who has recovered from an ACL tear that cut his 2013 season short. Junior Sean Young stepped up in Mullins’ absence, and in his Syracuse debut (he transferred from Towson), held Hopkins’ Brandon Benn to only two shots.
Senior LSM Matt Harris led the team in caused turnovers last season, and sparks transitions with highly efficient ground ball work. Among lesser-known players, one to keep an eye on is Redshirt Sophomore Bobby Tait, who demonstrated takeaway ability as well as solid ball handling in last weekend’s scrimmage at Towson. Dominic Lamolinara returns in goal, but despite giving up 8.65 goals per game last season, he hasn’t been guaranteed a starting spot; Bobby Wardwell, who started five games last season, is still in the conversation.
Finally we come to the highly-publicized kryptonite of the Syracuse lacrosse program: the faceoff. Last season Chris Daddio, Cal Paduda and a host of others combined to win 42% of their draws (their third straight season with a sub-.500 faceoff percentage), a number that dropped to only 26% in the NCAA tournament. Granted, a 1-23 performance against Bryant in the first round makes it pretty tough to make that average respectable, but still: Twenty. Six. Percent. Daddio and Paduda are back, along with Ricky Buhr, who shared face off duties with Daddio in 2011 and 2012. Mike Iacono, Junior transfer from Nassau Community College, is stepping in to help as well. Expect to see big improvements here.
If they’re not doing victory laps around M & T Bank Stadium on Memorial Day, Syracuse will be in the midst of their longest championship drought since they hoisted their first trophy back in 1983. Granted it would only be a five-year drought, but that’s just the absurdly lofty standard set by the Syracuse lacrosse program.
Booking a return trip to the dance is no easy task these days, and moving to the ACC has made Syracuse’s traditionally difficult schedule even more demanding, removing the likes of Providence and Georgetown from the lineup and adding Maryland, Duke and North Carolina in their place. Even before they begin to tackle their new conference, they’ll have to deal with Albany, who handed the Orange a double-overtime loss in the Carrier Dome last season. With traditional opponents such as Hopkins and Cornell still on the schedule, there’s very little time to relax once the season begins.
The Orange wrapped up their preseason with a scrimmage against Towson. As you can see in the video up top, I caught up with head coach John Desko after the 13-12 Syracuse victory to discuss the team’s progress, Randy Staat’s debut, and some newcomers to keep an eye on.
For more NCAA D1 Lacrosse coverage, check out Alphabetical 2013 NCAA D1 Preview: Air Force, Albany, Army, Bellarmine, Binghamton, Boston, Brown, Bryant, Bucknell, Canisius,
Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Delaware, Detroit, Drexel, Duke, Fairfield, Furman,
Georgetown, Hartford, Harvard, High Point, Hobart, Hofstra, Holy Cross, Jacksonville, Johns_Hopkins, Lafayette, Lehigh, Loyola, Manhattan, Marist, Marquette,
Maryland, Massachusetts, Mercer, Michigan, Monmouth, Navy, North_Carolina,
Notre_Dame, Ohio_State, Penn, Penn_State, Princeton, Providence, Quinnipiac, Richmond,
Robert_Morris, Rutgers, Sacred_Heart, Saint_Joseph’s,Siena, St. John’s, and Stony_Brook.