The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team crashed out of the 2010 NCAA tournament against Army on May 16—an uncharacteristic first-round loss for the 11-time national champion. Eight months later, the Orange is eager to return to action and finally to leave the bitter taste behind.
“This is a new team, a new season and that’s the one big thing we need to focus on,” said long-stick midfielder Joel White, part of the senior class that won back-to-back national championships in 2008 and 2009. “We have our own agenda this year, but at the same time you have that bad taste in your mouth. I know the guys that were on that field last year didn’t like the feeling.”
The team won’t have to wait long to avenge its double overtime 9-8 loss to the Black Nights. Syracuse faces Army on Feb. 27. “This is definitely the year for redemption for our class,” said senior midfielder Jovan Miller. “We’re like brothers now and after we lost to Army we were really saddened. …We want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Coach John Desko is sure to have the squad ready for Army and its regular season opener at the Carrier Dome against Denver on Feb. 20. “I think [our] experience means a lot and the kind of schedule we have will help prepare us for the rest of the season,” said Desko.
The Orange kicked off its preparation for the 2011 campaign on Jan. 13 with its annual media day, which was sandwiched between two practices at the new Manley indoor practice facility. Syracuse—ranked first in this year’s Lacrosse Magazine annual preseason Division I rankings and the 2011 Face-Off Yearbook rankings compiled by Inside Lacrosse—returns six starters, including four Inside Lacrosse Preseason All-America First Team selections.
The team, long known as a high-scoring, attacking powerhouse, will rely heavily on its defense, which led the nation last year. The Orange allowed just 7.4 goals per game in 15 contests in 2010. The team surrendered double-digit goals just twice and held its last 11 opponents to fewer than 10 goals. “I think for a lot of years people have associated us with our high-scoring offense, but I think in the past couple years, our strength has been with our defense, especially with John Galloway stepping up in goal,” Desko said. “In a lot of our games that were tight last year, we didn’t have to outscore teams. We just had to be patient on offense and let our defense get stops.”
The Orange’s defensive core consists of senior goaltender Galloway, White and senior close defender John Lade—each preseason All-America first-team picks. White is Syracuse’s career leader in points by a defensive player (22), while Galloway is the program’s career leader in goals-against average (7.55).
But don’t expect the Syracuse offense to struggle. A trio of seniors will lead the Orange’s midfield corps, including preseason first-team All America Jeremy Thompson, second-team pick Jovan Miller and preseason honorable mention Josh Amidon.
Last year, Thompson notched 15 goals and eight assists, won 78-of-134 (.582) faceoffs and was third on the team with 46 ground balls. Miller, one of the Orange’s primary short-stick defensive midfielders, scored 21 points (15 goals, 6 assists). Amidon was the team’s highest-scoring midfielder and ranked fourth on the team with 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists).
Senior Stephen Keogh, also a preseason All-America second-team member, will lead the Orange attack. Keogh tallied 31 goals a year ago.
JoJo Marasco, the team’s top freshman scorer in 2010, is the newest owner of Syracuse’s exclusive number 22 jersey. He joins Gary Gait, the Powell brothers (Casey, Ryan and Mikey), Cody Jamieson and several other star players. Marasco was named to the preseason All-America honorable mention team after notching nine goals and eight assists last year. “I think it’s great that they feel they want the challenge of wearing number 22,” said Desko. “I think [JoJo] accepts that and he’ll wear it well.”
One of Desko’s toughest tasks will be integrating the team’s 19 freshmen. “We have a whole new group and the seniors will have to do a lot of teaching. They will have to lead by example on and off the field,” Desko said.
The team is out to defend its BIG EAST crown. The team went 6-0 in the conference’s inaugural season, outscoring its league opponents 87-41.
The Orange’s schedule is stacked with three trips to NFL venues and will play host to three of last year’s semifinalists. It will also play nine home games. The Orange host a three-way scrimmage with Le Moyne and Hofstra at the Carrier Dome on Feb. 5. Syracuse faces Maryland and Canisius in exhibition games at home on Feb. 10.
Dan Brannigan is the Lacrosse Editor for The Juice Online.