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Syracuse Lacrosse Alumni Game – Family & Fury!

Most established lacrosse teams at both the high school and college level have alumni games. The Syracuse Lacrosse alumni game is something special.

The Syracuse Lacrosse alumni game is something special. Listen to any current or former player talk about it and you will hear that theme repeated over and over again. John Galloway introduces the act, and sets the stage with this quote from the 2015 edition of the game:

The annual alumni game in Syracuse isn’t really about the game. It is one of the few chances we get on a yearly basis to celebrate the tradition this family has. Our program is built on a bunch of guys who love the game. We get a chance to show off our new girlfriends, families, children and even grandchildren while also giving them a glimpse of the program that made us the men we are today. Nothing is more special than having the little kids run around the dome field after watching their dad strap it up with the orange and blue again.
People from other programs have now tried to emulate what we do in our alumni game. Most have done a good job, but no program can imitate the tradition Syracuse has. From Coach Simmons in the press box to the children seeing their dads play in the Dome for the first time, the game oozes pride and tradition only found in Syracuse Lacrosse.

Most established lacrosse teams at both the high school and college level have alumni games. Many times, it takes the form of a pickup game, followed by a tailgate party where former teammates catch up. Another common format is for the alumni to play the current team at the institution. This is probably the more entertaining of the two options, as you get a few stud players on the alumni team while everyone else plays the laziest form of lacrosse on the planet: old man lax.


Wesleyan Alumni Lacrosse
Many small programs also host games, but it’s not the same as playing in the Carrier Dome or against SU alums!

With one side playing like this, it makes for an interesting matchup as the other team is full of players in game shape, running plays, and speaking a common language on the field. One team is trying to impress the coaches and develop chemistry while the other is just trying to put up a good fight.

Then you get to the schools whose alumni base is a little more star studded than most, and these games reach another level. Only a few places can really put together an alumni team that can also compete with the top college programs. Schools that come to mind are Maryland, Hopkins, Duke, Virginia, and of course, Syracuse.

Syracuse Lacrosse prides itself on tradition and their family atmosphere. What else would you expect from a program entering its 100th season while still just on their fourth head coach? This is especially relevant in the two game format that Syracuse puts on.

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The early game is the “Legends Game“. This is full of players from any year, all playing against each other. At any given moment, you could have players on the same team from every decade going back to the 80s or even 70s. You could go back further than that, but the number of players willing to suit up in their 70s and beyond is pretty low. Once this group has finished up their game, which is full of laughs and guys showboating for their kids in the stands, the Alumni All-Stars take over.

While each year is different, you can always expect the alumni team to feature plenty of All-American honors, MLL players, and international experience. This year was no different, and even some of the refs were alumni, who officiate MLL games. This is even more impressive since there really is no formal process to put the team together. Some players find out once the athletic department publishes the roster while others just show up with their gear and hope there’s a jersey left.

With that amount of skill and experience on the field, it always turns into a contest as the current Orange team works to figure out their identity during this fall session. Even though Syracuse is one of those teams that annually reloads instead of rebuilds, how they put their starters together each year is always slightly different. For the past few years, this game is the first public glimpse as to how they are trying to accomplish that feat for this season.

Syracuse Lacrosse Alumni Game

While the feeling on the alumni sideline always possesses the laid back atmosphere of an alumni game, that changed each time one of them stepped onto the field and their competitive nature took over. Starting in goal for the current Cuse team was Warren Hill, who looked fantastic. Despite playing most of his time against an attack line of Kevin Rice, Randy Staats, and Tim Desko, he helped hold the Alumni scoreless for nearly the entire first half. Brandon Mullins will absolutely be the anchor on the defensive side of the field this year. As with most positions, his supporting cast rotated for much of the game, so there was no real way to tell who has the leg up for any of the starting vacancies.

However, what can be said is that they all held up great in their 1v1 match ups defensively. The one downside of playing an alumni squad is it limits the amount of time the defense can work on the area in which they struggled the most last year, which is against offenses with a high amount of rotation, cutting, and passes switching the field quickly. Even so, the defensive performance was impressive against the talent they were facing.

It’s no secret that Dylan Donahue will be the top target for opposing defenses when playing Syracuse this year. The questions are all about who will surround him. It seemed like Tim Barber and Jordan Evans were playing attack for the most part, but they rotated out quite a bit. The midfield was also in constant flux. A few names you did see plenty of though were Matt Lane, Sergio Salcido, Gale Thorpe, TJ Ford, and Ryan Simmons. Lane and Simmons were also involved in a few of my favorite plays on the day. Drew Jenkins was playing in his old defensive middie spot for the alumni and really held up well. A few times, he was caught guarding Lane, who has a good 13 inches on him in height and close to 100 pounds in weight. Jenkins was able to turn Lane away while he also made a fantastic play on Simmons where he stripped him from behind with an ice pick. It’s plays like that in alumni games which make them so fun. A couple years ago, Jenkins probably wouldn’t have seen the field again for a while if he had tried that in a game. It’s also a good way to keep the current team on their toes because anything can happen at any time.

One player that really impressed was #22 Jordan Evans. He has some lofty expectations on him just by wearing that jersey, but I think fans are going to really like what they see. He made a few plays that really showed his quickness and overall field awareness. Filling the space left by Kevin Rice is going to be difficult, but Evans showed that he has the ability to make his time on the field matter. Many NCAA fans may also have been curious about FOGO Ben Williams. He was not part of the equation for this game and Cal Paduda was taking the majority of the draws (and doing well, too).

In the end, the current team scored a few late goals to walk away with the 11-9 win. Despite being down 6-0 for most of the first half, the alumni were able to stage quite a comeback to make their younger counterparts sweat it out a little bit. Once it was a one goal game, the alumni really started peppering recent Merrimack goalie transfer and local Liverpool, NY native Dom Madonna, with shots. Things got so intense towards the end that Madonna was even called from an illegal body check after leaving his crease going for a ground ball in front of the cage. The Orange killed off the penalty and used some great passing on the other end to score their last few goals and provide themselves with breathing room going into the last minute.

I was able to catch up with Drew Jenkins after the game. Regarding the current team, he was really impressed by Hill in goal and the play of the entire defense. He also noted that it will be exciting to see the attack this year, especially with Donahue running the show. The midfielders are still unproven, so this is a very important area to watch for the rest of fall and into spring. For players like Jenkins though, games like this are about much more than just seeing what the new team is looking like. Where he’s currently living, there isn’t much lacrosse to be played so he’s left with the gym and wall ball to keep his skills up.

When asked to reflect on the highlights of the day, he simply said, “just being on the field again and being able to play with and against my old teammates…” before quickly adding, “I wish I got to play some more o(ffense) though“. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t?

At the end of the day, that’s what game like this are all about. Players disperse around the world after their time in school is done. Some go on to win world games medals and MLL Championships, others are left to pickup games and the occasional weekend tournament if they’re lucky. But once a year, they can come together under one of the most iconic roofs in college sports and show their family and friends that there is still plenty left in the tank. No matter where life has taken them, the big orange S at the middle of the field can bring them back together.

2014 Syracuse Alumni Game Highlights from IL

You can view photos from the 2015 edition of the game HERE, from Syracuse.com.

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