The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team’s 2014 recruiting class recently was rated 17th in the country by Inside Lacrosse magazine. I had to check twice. Yup, 17.
When less heralded programs like Villanova (#6), Penn State (#11), Bucknell (#13) and Ohio State (#16) best the Orange in any lacrosse ranking, it’s somewhat shocking. I know we’ve fallen on rather barren times in Central New York: The team hasn’t won a national title since 2009; two straight senior classes have graduated without lifting the trophy; and the days of 22-straight Final Four appearances evaporated in 2005.
But has the program fallen that far off track? Should Syracuse fans be concerned?
At first glance, the low ranking doesn’t seem to bode well for the immediate or long-term future for the team, which will be seeking its 12th NCAA championship when the 2015 season gets underway.
Based on tradition and success alone, the Syracuse program should bring in a top-10 class. Yet the Orange scored just a few recruits in Inside Lacrosse’s “Power 100.”
At the same time, these rankings may further signify a change in the lacrosse landscape. Teams like Villanova, Penn State, Bucknell and Ohio State, among others, aren’t exactly lacrosse bluebloods, but they’re beginning to make headway and break up lacrosse royalty’s grip. Thanks to the sport’s booming popularity across the country, but especially in Pennsylvania, Ohio and farther afield, traditional powers like Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Virginia and Duke need to work harder to bring in the blue chips.
There’s also reason not to worry too much about the ranking. It’s not odd for them to vary. The Orange was up to No. 2 last year but down to No. 9 in 2012.
And if you take a look at the 2014 additions, this class may address John Desko’s biggest needs: faceoff specialists, goalies and defensemen. When you consider the magazine’s ranking doesn’t account for transfers, there’s even less reason to panic.
The class includes 13 freshman and five transfers. Notably, two of the transfers are 2014 players of the year in the National Junior College Athletic Association and both come from Onondaga Community College.
Warren Hill, a two-time All-American goaltender, made 343 career saves and owns a 4.83 career goals-against average for the Lazers. Hill also started in goal for the
Iroquois Nationals at this summer’s Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships, helping the team win the bronze medal. He figures to compete for the starting job.
Tim Barber, younger brother to current Syracuse midfielder Ryan Barber, is a two-time All-American who scored 55 goals and 36 assists as a midfielder for the Lazers in 2014.
Meanwhile, the freshmen class includes No. 58-ranked Austin Fusco, a two-time U.S. Lacrosse All-American defensemen from Yorktown, N.Y. He was named defensive MVP while helping lead the team to the Class B championship last year.
Brad McKinney, No. 60 on the magazine’s recruiting list, a midfielder from Watertown, N.Y., is a U.S. Lacrosse All-American and four-time Frontier League All-Star. He tallied 142 goals and 66 assists in his career—57 goals and 29 assists as a senior.
The class includes three freshmen and two transfer faceoff specialists—undoubtedly the team’s biggest need. One of the specialists is Max Parker, tabbed as Florida’s “Mr. Lacrosse” in 2014. He won 323 faceoffs and nearly 80 percent of his draws as a senior.
So while the 2014 freshman class doesn’t exactly wow the pundits, it may be just what the team needs. When coupled with the transfers, the team’s strong attack unit and midfield group, the Orange should be prepared to compete in 2015. I’d feel a lot more comfortable with the team’s long-term prospects if that recruiting ranking rises back to the top 10 in 2015.