Orange Watch: 2021 Syracuse lacrosse preview; talent-laden in loaded ACC

Syracuse lacrosse
Syracuse plays in lacrosse. Photo Credit: Initra Marilyn, The Juice Online

Item: They are preseason ranked number two or three depending on the poll, they have multiple players named to pre-season All American teams, talented transfers and recruits dotting the roster, and a Hall of Fame coach. In an ACC conference that’s full of crazy-good talent, Syracuse looks to end an eight-year streak of not making it to the national semifinals Memorial Day weekend.

When we last left the Syracuse lacrosse program on March 12, 2020, it was 5-0 and atop the polls in Division I lax. Then the pandemic hit to immediately cancel the world of sports, and for the lacrosse team it was right in the middle of a Thursday afternoon practice.

Now as the 2021 season unfolds, SU finds itself playing catch-up to Top 10 ranked brethren Duke, North Carolina and Virginia, the latter two having won one game already, and the former having already played and won twice. As of Feb. 11, the Orange is still 10 days away from its opener (more below).

The Team: Every significant player from last season returns in 2021, highlighted by the fact that seven players have been selected for pre-season All American honors. Midfielder Brendan Curry and goalie Drake Porter are first-team selections, anchoring the heart of the squad at both ends of the field.

Fellow middies Jamie Trimboli and Peter Dearth were named to the second team, along with rugged defenseman Brett Kennedy. Midfielder Tucker Dordevic and attackman Chase Scanlon were honorable mention choices, and all Scanlon did last season was lead the team in goals scored and total points in just the five games played.

Throw in returning fifth year seniors Stephen Rehfuss, who led the team in assists in the abbreviated 2020 season, and faceoff specialist Danny Varello, and well, you get the idea of the talent level.

The Coaches: Entering his 23rd season with five national championships, John Desko can finally officially be labeled a Hall of Fame coach after being inducted in October 2020 in the sport’s Maryland-based Hall. Desko joins his three predecessors, Laurie Cox (1957), Roy Simmons, Sr. (1964) and Roy Simmons, Jr. (1991) with enshrinement, an unprecedented accomplishment for one NCAA program.

Under Desko, it’s year two of the points-producing Pat March offense, along with veteran staff member Lelan Rogers’ defensive coordination.

The Schedule: As is custom for Syracuse lacrosse, it’s important to play as many early winter games as possible under the Dome’s roof to avoid the cold extremities.

That will again be the case this season with the Orange opening up next week with their first five games at home, including perennial rival Army (Feb. 21), the first of two games against conference rival Virginia (Feb. 27), and newcomers Vermont (March 6), Stony Brook (March 12) and Hofstra (March 20).

» Related: All Orange lax coaches are Hall of Famers

With too many logistical issues to make the ACC Tournament work this year, Syracuse will play Virginia (away April 24) and Notre Dame twice (home April 3, away May 1), and Duke (away March 25 or 27) and North Carolina (home April 17) once each.

Since upstate neighbors Cornell and Hobart are not playing this season, UAlbany takes the place of a weeknight Dome game (April 8), and relatively new Division I member Utah flies into central New York for the regular season finale (May 8).

After NCAA first-round games at campus sites (May 15-16), Hofstra and Notre Dame host the quarterfinals (May 22-23), with Final Four weekend being staged for the first time at Connecticut’s Rentschler Field in East Hartford over Memorial Day weekend (May 29-31).

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.