It’s time for the real season to begin.
Syracuse punched its ticket to the postseason Sunday night with an opening round road game against fifth-seeded Georgetown.
While everyone takes a deep sigh of relief, the unseeded Orange will have work to do, as John Desko no doubt would concur, to reach elite status in the 16-team field. The tilt against the Hoyas is Saturday, May 15 at 7:30 pm at College Park, MD.
“We look at it as a whole new season,” Desko told reporters following the Robert Morris victory. “The guys have a good attitude and it’s going to help us.”
It’s been nearly a decade, or since 2013, since the Orange reached the championship game.
The Orange were on the way last year before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the season when no. 1-ranked SU was cruising along with five straight convincing victories to start the season.
A new year brings excitement
So, what played out this year nobody could have envisioned. After eligibility requirements were relaxed, Stephen Rehfuss, Jamie Trimboli, Peter Dearth, Drake Porter, Danny Varello and Spencer Small returned to campus for another year. In addition, the first team midfield of Trimboli, Brendan Curry and Tucker Dordevic was looking to continue to thrive as one of the nation’s best. Porter, the steady net minder, was a pre-season All-American.
It appeared the team that has won four ACC tournament titles and nine regular season titles in the last decade, was headed in the right direction. Then the season-opening home defeat to Army startled the Orange. SU bounced back with an impressive 10-goal win against Virginia before three non-conference games. SU’s two wins against UVA, the last NCAA champion, were the lone bright spots in the brutal ACC slate.
Strength of schedule
The Orange, Desko noted, played one of the toughest schedules in the country and the wear and tear showed each week. A deep talented roster helped the Orange get to the postseason…mostly on pure grit. A few notable performers include Owen Hiltz, the frosh who came to SU as the no. 2 recruit in his class, and junior Owen Seebold, who joined the starting lineup after Chase Scanlan’s suspension.
Changes at the X
The Orange’s top faceoff specialists, Jacob Phaub and Danny Varello, struggled with the new faceoff rules. Last summer, the NCAA eliminated the one-knee, motorcycle grip with the intent of reducing clamping on to the ball and long stalemates.
Phaub, the Orange’s top FO specialist, has had trouble with consistency. However, he is seems to be peaking at the right time. In the recent win at Virginia, Phaub won 24-of-27 faceoffs, the most wins by a SU player in one game since 2003. Varello, who was second in the ACC for FO percentage in 2020, has stepped up in relief on several occasions.
Not too early look ahead
While the Orange, no doubt, will miss the leadership of Rehfuss, Porter, Trimboli, and Dearth, the fifth captain, junior Brendan Curry, will be back to lead the midfield. Along with Hiltz, Seebold and Tucker Dordevic, SU will roll out another potent offense.
The talent pool won’t dry out anytime soon. The next two incoming classes will feature a number of athletes destined to make an immediate impact on the program.