Syracuse lacrosse: Beware the ides of March

Syracuse must replace Kevin Rice, among others
Syracuse must replace Kevin Rice, among others

The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team is going on a four-week, five-game tour of some of the best teams in the sport, and we’ll know a lot about its postseason prospects and success in the 2016 season after the brutal stretch.

Beginning March 4, the Orange, ranked No. 8 in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll, travel to No. 7 Virginia, come home to face St. John’s on March 12, hit the road for two straight against No. 6 Johns Hopkins and No. 3 Duke on March 19 and 27, respectively, then finish at home on April 2 with No. 1 Notre Dame.

Syracuse will be looking to replace roughly 60 percent of the team’s scoring from 2015. Gone are two starting attackmen—Kevin Rice and Randy Staats—and the entire first-line midfield—Nicky Galasso, Henry Schoonmaker and Hakeem Lecky. Among others, gone too are goalie Bobby Wardwell, defender Sean Young and long-stick middie Peter Macartney.

» Related: Fall ball lacrosse provides glimpse into 2016 Syracuse team

The new-look Orange will feature senior Dylan Donahue, a 50-goal scorer in 2015; he was just the seventh player in program history to hit the mark and first since Tom Marachek in 1991. Senior defender Brandon Mullins, junior faceoff specialist Ben Williams and senior goalie Warren Hill will help guide the relatively young team.

As for its opponents during four-week gauntlet, the Cavaliers crashed out of the 2015 NCAA playoffs in the first round after a season beset by injuries but is expected to rebound in 2016. The team has three preseason second team All America midfielders and goalie, and a third team nominee at attack. The Orange beat the Cavs 15-9 last year.

Syracuse should be able to handle the Red Storm, which is making its first trip to the Carrier Dome since 2011. The Orange beat St. John’s 14-6 last year.

Duke boasts a 15-member senior class that won the NCAA championship as freshmen and sophomores. Syracuse swept its two meetings against the Blue Devils in 2015.

The Blue Jays are expected to feature an explosive offensive led by first-team preseason All America Ryan Brown and an emerging star in Shack Stanwick. Syracuse and Johns Hopkins split their meetings last season, with the Blue Jays knocking out the Orange in the NCAA quarterfinals.

The No. 1 Irish, a semifinalist in 2015, have a first-team All-America at attack, midfield and defense. Notre Dame has some question marks at goalie and faceoff but is pretty stacked everywhere else.

As tough as it will be, the five-game stretch is nothing out of the ordinary for the Orange. It’s the third straight season Syracuse has scheduled the same stretch of opponents. In 2014, the team dropped two—one to Virginia and one to Duke. It only lost one of the five last year, at Notre Dame in double overtime.

Syracuse’s 2016 slate also features eight home games, five on the road and the ACC championship in Kennesaw, Ga.

In addition to hosting No. 5 North Carolina on April 16, the Orange will face in-state rivals Siena (Feb. 13 opener), No. 11 Albany (Feb. 21), Army (Feb. 28), at Hobart (April 5), at No. 15 Cornell (April 12), Binghamton (April 20) and No. 20 Colgate (May 7).

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About Dan Brannigan 71 Articles
Dan is currently the editor of Common Ground magazine for Community Associations Institute (CAI) where he has won an Association Media & Publishing award for newswriting. Dan has also won a New England Press Association award while working for the The Inquirer and Mirror in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he grew up. Dan is a 2005 Syracuse University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @djbranni.