We knew to expect the unexpected as the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team took the field in 2012. Essentially, that’s what we got as a young and largely unproven group muddled through some ups and downs in a 9-8 campaign.
The Orange, which lost seven seniors to graduation in 2011 and struggled to find an identity, dropped more games this season than the past four combined. This was the team’s worst season since 2007, when it finished 5-8.
It should be a different story in 2013.
Syracuse loses attack Tommy Palasek, who had a team-leading 54 points on 24 goals and 30 assists, the creative Tim Desko (22 goals, 11 assists), first-line middie Bobby Eilers (22 g, 8 a), defensive midfielder Kevin Drew, reserve attack Colin Donahue and longstick midfielder Joe Moore.
What it returns is a an entire defensive unit, including Brian Megill, who earned second-team All America honors, incoming sophomore Brandon Mullins, a shutdown defender, and Dave Hamlin. Bobby Wardwell earned his chops in net this year and should return a more confident and successful keeper as the likely starter.
The team also returns senior defensive middie Steve Ianzito and three experienced longstick midfielders in Joe Fazio, Matt Harris and Peter Macartney.
On attack, only crease specialist Derek Maltz (28 g, 9 a) returns. Perhaps coach John Desko’s biggest offseason conundrum is deciding what to do with No. 22 JoJo Marasco (12 g, 19 a), a former attack who played exclusively at midfield this season. The upcoming season may be the time for Marasco’s return to the front three.
Desko should have some options to join the offensive fray, including young guns Billy Ward (2 g, 7 a), Kevin Rice (1 g, 2 a) and Eric DeJohn, who redshirted.
The team should have a strong midfield core. Ryan Barber (5 g, 3 a), Luke Cometti (11 g, 1 a) and Matt Pratt (3 g, 1 a), all incoming seniors, return. While dynamic, young midfielders Henry Schoonmaker (6 g, 1 a), Scott Loy (6 g, 1 a) and Hakeem Lecky (6 g, 1 a) have a chance to make a bigger mark, sophomore Matt Walters (5g, 2 a), who joined the man-up unit with a scorching shot toward the end of the season, could provide a spark too.
Desko must solve the team’s woes at the faceoff X. Incoming juniors Ricky Buhr and Chris Daddio struggled all season, winning 45 and 49 percent of draws, respectively.
When fall ball starts, Desko also will be taking a look at talented freshmen, such as attack Derek DeJoe and midfielder Jeff Desko, his nephew.
With a strong defense, solid midfield and more experienced playmakers, the team should improve considerably. Orange fans don’t need to be reminded that Syracuse went on to win two-straight national championships after that year of struggle in 2007. Even if Syracuse doesn’t collect title number 12 in 2013, the team can set realistic sights on returning to the Final Four for the first time in four years.Dan Brannigan