Coming off disappointing season, pressure-free Syracuse expects to climb back to winning ways
Laughter echoed throughout the Carrier Dome as players posed for pictures at the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team’s media day. Eric DeJohn looked out into the distance as his teammates chuckled and shouted to the attack in approval.
It’s already evident—this year’s team is going to be different.
“The camaraderie’s huge,” midfielder JoJo Marasco said. “You look just as they’re doing interviews right away all the guys are laughing, and joking around and getting loud. And I think we’re very close as a team since the past couple of years and I think that’s why we’re going to have such a great season.”
The Orange enters the 2013 campaign in an unfamiliar position. For years, and essentially the entirety of John Desko’s career as head coach, SU has been among the favorites to win the national championship. This season, though, the same expectation isn’t necessarily there.
After a disappointing 9-8 season a year ago ending with a first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse begins the season ranked 14th in the country—a far cry from its usual spot in the top five.
But it has led to a different type of attitude. Usually there’s a certain swagger about the Orange as the team plays with a target on its collective back, but 2013 is different.
SU is playing angry. Angry with its preseason ranking. Angry with how last season ended.
“That season is always stuck in the back of everyone’s minds, so I think it’s something kind of motivating everyone is we don’t want to have another season like that,” defender Brandon Mullins said. “… Being ranked 14 is nothing we settle for.”
For Desko, this new attitude was evident even before the first practice of the season. Before the first practice, Syracuse takes a running test that Marasco said is difficult for the players who fail to workout enough during the offseason.
“A high percentage of them came back, made the runs,” Desko said. “So that in itself says they’ve been working in the offseason between where we were in the fall and where they are today.”
The 2013 season also represents the first time the Orange will play without a target on its back. Even after missing the NCAA Tournament in 2007, SU had lofty expectations the next year with one of the top recruiting classes of all time.
Instead of being chased, the 2013 team will have the luxury of playing as the underdog chasing the powers that Syracuse is usually lumped with in the preseason.
“It’s awesome,” attack Derek Maltz said. “You know you don’t have as much pressure usually – you know there’s always pressure when you play for Syracuse lacrosse – but it’ll be a great year.”
Still, there is no wavering of confidence. The swagger that often defined the Orange in the past and the knowledge that SU has more talent than any opponent it faces may be more subdued as opposed to past seasons. But the positivity is still there, even if it’s quieter.
Syracuse knows it has more to prove this preseason than it has in the past, but the expectation is still that the Orange will be there in the end. And when it is, the doubt that clouded the preseason will make the satisfaction that much sweeter.
“We have the talent, we have the team, and I think we’re really going to shock the world a little bit this year,” Marasco said. “We’re really excited about this season. With just the guys on this team, the motivation, the captains, the leaders, I think we’re ready to go out there and show people why we should be in the Top 10, why we should be there.”
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