There’s a lot to like about the 2014 Syracuse men’s lacrosse team, and preseason praise is being heaped on the Orange, but let’s temper the expectations a little bit.
Syracuse was picked by ACC coaches to finish first in its debut season in the league, just ahead of Duke and North Carolina. Inside Lacrosse named the team No. 2 in its 2014 Face-Off Yearbook Top 20, just behind Duke. And Quint Kessenich, ESPN and Inside Lacrosse reporter, tabbed the Orange as his top preseason team.
There are good reasons for the hype. Syracuse will return eight of its top 10 scorers, including Kevin Rice who was second on the team with 55 points (23 goals, 32 assists) last year. Also coming back are Sean Young and Matt Harris, a pair of preseason All-America defenders, and starting goaltender Dominic Lamolinara.
Nicky Galasso, the attack transfer from North Carolina, should return healthy after a foot injury in the preseason sidelined him for all of the 2013 season. The also team introduces its new No. 22, Jordan Evans, the top-rated recruit in the 2017 class. Evans, a midfielder from Jamesville-Dewitt, N.Y., finished his high school career with 396 points, notching 205 goals and 191 assists.
That’s good and all, but the team must address a few question marks once practices begin in January and before the team takes the field for its first regular season game in February. For one, it must improve its face-off percentage—a season-long weakness in 2013 that Duke exploited in the championship game. It also must find a way to replace JoJo Marasco’s 42 assists.
And while Syracuse returns eight of its 10 top scorers, only Rice, Dylan Donahue (41 points) and Derek Maltz (39 points) recorded more than 24 points.
Then there’s this: the Orange are just as likely to win the ACC as they are to go 0-5 in league play. The other five ACC teams—Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Maryland and Virginia—also are preseason top 10 teams, according to Inside Lacrosse. Duke comes in at No. 1 followed by No. 3 North Carolina, No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 6 Maryland and No. 9 Virginia.
The margin of error in the ACC is so slim Syracuse garnered 28 points in the preseason league coaches poll while Duke and North Carolina received 27. In addition, not one Syracuse player was named to the preseason all-conference team.
So the preseason praise is nice, but Coach John Desko has much to work on in January.
Syracuse fans also should remember that this team was picked 14th in Inside Lacrosse’s 2013 Face-Off Yearbook Top 20 before going on to a 16-4 record and reaching the championship game for the 17th time in school history.