The wait goes on for the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team, and there’s a lot of work to be done for the 2017 edition to get the program back to where it belongs.
When the Orange lost 13-7 to No. 1-ranked Maryland on May 21 in the quarterfinals, the season ended for the third straight year before the Final Four and seventh straight without a national championship.
Coming into the 2016 season, the Orange were trying to replace two starting attackmen and three first-line middies. The team recovered from a midseason swoon to win the ACC championship, reach the quarterfinals and finish with a 12-5 record. That’s not a bad year for almost any other lacrosse program.
There are significant gaps in the roster looming again.
Gone are five starters: attack Dylan Donahue (29 goals, 32 assists) and Tim Barber (28 g, 15 a), middie Derek DeJoe (17 g, 6 a) and defenders Brandon Mullins and Jay McDermott.
That’s 104 points gone from attack, and worse, of the 55 assists recorded by the starting unit, 47 came from Donahue and Barber. Donahue concluded his career as 12th on Syracuse’s all-time points list, posting a total of 227. He’s just the 17th player in program history to record 200 or more points.
Meanwhile, DeJoe went from a 8-point junior year to a 23-point senior year and turned into one of the team’s best outside threats. Syracuse can only hope another player sees such a jump in production.
What’s also concerning are the departures of USILA second-team All-American Mullins and McDermott. Mullins always was assigned the challenge of covering the opponent’s best offensive threat. In 2016, he led the team with 31 caused turnovers and collected 41 ground balls. Mullins earned earned first team accolades last season and second team honors in 2014.
The good news is that the team returns standout face-off specialist Ben Williams, who needs no introduction, and goalie Evan Molloy, who took over mid-season and recorded a 7.74 goals against average and .537 saves percentage.
Nick Mariano (35 g, 11 a) and Sergio Salcido (29 g, 24 a) will return to form one of the best starting middie duos in the country. Coach John Desko could move Mariano to attack, where he played at UMass before transferring to Syracuse. No. 22 Jordan Evans (27 g, 8 a) will need help in front of opponents’ cage.
Forming the backbone of the defense will be Nick Mellen, who shined in his freshmen year as undersized and incredibly quick.
The Orange have quality pieces returning in every position but will be missing key contributions too, which could lead to another up-and-down season and a difficult challenge to get back to the promised land.