2016 Syracuse Lacrosse Preview: 100th season, business as usual

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The expectations are once again high for this year’s lacrosse team

Despite Syracuse men’s lacrosse entering its 100th year, coach John Desko said it will be business as usual as the team heads into the 2016 season.

“Being the 100th year of lacrosse in Syracuse, that certainly brings a little bit more to it,” Desko told reporters Jan. 11 at the team’s media day. “With our tradition and history of this sport and the success of this sport, our guys are certainly up to that challenge coming into this year.

The team will have some rebuilding to do after losing several offensive producers, including Kevin Rice, Randy Staats and Nicky Galasso, at the close of last season. However, Desko noted that Ben Williams will be handling face-offs, as well as defensive stalwarts Brandon Mullins and Jay McDermott.

Desko acknowledged the team’s weakness in its offense and sees it as a chance to focus on other parts of the game.

“We will probably be relying a little more on our experience defensively and our goaltending and our face-off to get us more possessions so we can bring that offense along,” said Desko.

» Related: Syracuse lacrosse notebook: Donahue returns; SU needs experience

While Desko has confidence in his returning stars, he will be looking for new talent to rise to the occasion. If he stays healthy, returning midfielder Jordan Evans, and bearer of the legendary No. 22, could see an expanded role in the wake of last year’s departures. Cal Paduda will also likely see more action as Desko explores different options with him and Williams in the face-off role.

Coming in from Brown University as a graduate student, Nick Piroli has an opportunity to build on his previous success and contribute to the Orange offense. Nick Mariano, transferring from the University of Massachusetts, also has the potential to be an asset as Syracuse rebuilds.

In addition to the more experienced players, eyes will be on an incoming freshman class that Desko believes is defensively skilled. Young talents Nick Mellen, Andrew Helmer, David Diltz and Tyson Bomberry may find themselves with some significant playing time as Desko and his staff get a better feel for the team they have this year.

“It’s been a challenge for us this fall to, first of all, figure out who we are, between the newcomers, transfers, the freshman and the guys that are returning,” Desko said. “As we go forward you’re going to see some changes during the season as we figure out our players and guys tend to rise to the top.”

New players will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves as the Orange seek to snap its seven-year NCAA Championship drought. Currently ranked fifth in the Cascade/Maverik Media poll, the Orange will have several challenges throughout the season.

Opening the season at home Feb. 13 against Sienna, the Orange will have a three-game home stand before making a road trip to Charlottesville, V.A. for its first ACC matchup.

After taking on the Cavaliers, the Orange will return to the Dome to face St. John’s before heading to Maryland where it will have a shot at retribution against Johns Hopkins on March 12. Ranked sixth in preseason rankings, the Blue Jays dashed SU’s championship dreams in 2015, knocking off the Orange in a 16-15 upset during the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament.

Coming off of the rematch against the Blue Jays, SU will stay on the road to take on third-ranked Duke. From there the Orange will come home to face the No. 1 team in the nation, Notre Dame on April 2.

Local teams will also have a chance to battle the Orange, with matches against Hobart, Cornell, SUNY Binghamton and Colgate all on the slate for the season.

As Syracuse looks to return to NCAA Championship glory, there will be a long road ahead, with challenges along the way. But Desko and his team are ready to face those challenges head on.

“This is Syracuse University, so we feel we can compete against anybody,” Desko said.

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