McAnaney: Syracuse lacrosse still a ‘marquee’ program

Syracuse lacrosse head coach John Desko speaks during a press conference. Mandatory Photo Credit: Chris McGlynn, The Juice Online.

With the 2021 college lacrosse season officially over, we caught up with SNY’s Eamon McAnaney to recap the season on this week’s The Juice on the Cuse podcast, hosted by

It was an exciting one, with Virginia repeating as National Champions in a dramatic 17-16 win, which came down to the final moments against Maryland.

While it was one of the best championship games in college lacrosse history, McAnaney has another game at the top of his list.“The standard bearer will always be ’89 Syracuse-Hopkins,” McAnaney said. “Any time you have the Gaits (Gary and Paul) and Dave Pietramala and other hall of famers, that’s going to be a tough game to beat. At the time, they were the two greatest, and probably still, the two greatest programs in the history of the sport.”

Aside from those names, John Zulberti, Quint Kessenich and Tom Marechek played key roles in a game that wasn’t decided until Johns Hopkins missed an equalizer with two seconds left.

Syracuse was on top of the lacrosse world from then through 2009, but hasn’t won a championship since that year, hasn’t been to championship weekend since 2013, and hasn’t won a Tournament game since 2017.

The Orange had high aspirations this year coming off a 2020 where SU was 5-0 and No. 1 before the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Orange couldn’t pick up where they left off in 2021, and stumbled to a 7-5 record in a season that was marred by off the field issues.

The Orange was ultimately routed by Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 18-8.

But McAnaney still considers Syracuse one of the blue bloods of the college lacrosse world. Even in a “down” year, the Orange managed to knock off eventual champion Virginia twice in the regular season.

SU also landed the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2022, Joey Spallina, and has a class that includes five-star midfielder Carter Kempney and elite goalie Jimmy McCool.

“It’s still a marquee program,” McAnaney said. “(Syracuse) can still recruit.”

McAnaney also dismissed any rumblings about Hall of Fame head coach John Desko being on the hot seat after SU’s recent struggles.

» Related: Gary Gait still missing NCAA Champion from head coaching resume

“I have going to a hard time telling a guy who has (five) championship rings he’s done,” he said. “I would not tell John Desko his time is done. I would let John Desko ride [it] out… he’s earned that.”

While Syracuse has gone through a 12 year championship drought, that’s less of an indictment of Syracuse as it is parity in college lacrosse.

“I know it used to be death, taxes and Syracuse in the Final Four, but it’s not that way anymore,” McAnaney said. “The whole playing field has changed. The kids that were automatically thinking Hopkins and Cuse are now looking at the whole country.

“If I’m Syracuse athletics director John Wildhack, I’m letting two guys decide when they want to step away. Jim Boeheim and John Desko.”

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About Wes Cheng 2907 Articles
Wes has worked for covering the New York Knicks, as well as for covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also been a contributing writer for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), for SportsNet New York (SNY) as a news desk writer covering all of New York professional sports, and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005 with a degree in journalism. Contact him at wes[at]