The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team received not one, but two exciting gifts after the holiday break, and they may make all the difference by the end of the 2014 campaign.
Welcome to the program, Randy Staats and Mike Iacono. There was a lot to like about the Orange before. Now, watch out, world.
Staats joins the team after a prolific career at nearby Onondaga Community College, where he was a two-time National Junior College Offensive Player of the Year. He recorded 295 points (120 goals, 165 assists) in two years with the Lazers, including a school-record 156 (73 goals, 83 assists) in 2013 to lead the NJCAA.
OCC went a not-too-shabby 37-0 in Staats’ two seasons, winning national championships each year—both at the expense of Iacono’s Nassau Community College team.
Coach John Desko said he’s hoping Staats’ skills and abilities translate to the Division 1 level; if Staats’ pedigree is any indication, that won’t be a problem at all.
He’s just the latest Lazer to go across the city to join the Orange. Jeremy Thompson, Sid Smith and Cody Jamieson, Staats’ cousin, made the same trip, each making a significant impact with the team in white, orange and blue.
Desko only needs to figure out where Staats will play; he’s talented enough to thrive at midfield or attack.
“He can score. He can feed. He’s got great stick skills and a great sense of the game,” said Desko. “We scrimmaged against him in the fall and he put points up against our defense, so hopefully he’ll be able to do it against other Division I defenses.”
Staats may be the more explosive addition but Iacono shouldn’t be overlooked. He gives the other another option at its weakest position: faceoff. The Orange struggled at the X throughout 2013, and Duke exploited the weakness in the championship game.
Although junior college faceoff statistics are incomplete, Iacono won 78 percent of his faceoffs (56-72) that were recorded. He picked up 113 ground balls, scored eight goals and notched two assists. He’s a two-time NJCAA All-America with Nassau and was tabbed 2013 Region XV MVP.
Desko’s job now is figuring out how to incorporate Staats and Iacono into practice and get them up to speed on the Orange’s system. Iacono figures to compete right away against Chris Daddio and Cal Paduda.
Staats is likely to get reps at both attack and midfield in practice, but if I’m Desko I already like what I see on the offensive third. The Orange return its top three leading attackmen: Kevin Rice (55 points in 2013), Dylan Donahue (41 points) and Derek Maltz (39 points). Desko also could place talented transfer Nicky Galasso, injured before the start of the 2013 season, at attack or new No. 22 Jordan Evans, the top-rated recruit in the 2017 class who finished his high school career with 396 points (205 goals and 191 assists).
Desko’s options in midfield are plentiful too. Billy Ward, Hakeem Lecky, Henry Schoonmaker, Scott Loy, Matt Walters and Derek DeJoe all logged meaningful, productive time last season. Desko has the luxury of slowly incorporating Staats into the midfield. Give him time to gel with his new teammates, and as the season progresses—and if Staats exhibits the same talent and skill he did in junior college—move him up a line or two.
And maybe, by championship weekend, Staats and Iacono will push the Orange over the top.
The best news of all? Both Staats and Iacono have two years of eligibility remaining.
Syracuse has scrimmages against Hofstra and LeMoyne this Saturday. The team opens the regular season against Siena on Feb. 10. I can’t wait to watch.Dan Brannigan