Ianzito leads, thrives in Syracuse’s trademark up-and-down style of play
Steve Ianzito could do whatever he wanted on the field in high school. He made contributions on both ends of the field. He got out in transition. He dominated on the wing. He played on the man-up and the man-down.
And that’s exactly why he loves playing the up-and-down style of lacrosse Syracuse is known for.
“You come to Syracuse University, they recruit you as an athlete,” Ianzito said. “If you’re a midfielder you should be able to play both ways.”
A Clay, N.Y., native and lifelong Orange fan, Ianzito was voted captain this past offseason. As a part of a small senior class on a young team, the midfielder has embraced a major leadership role, and now serves as an example to younger players as SU readies itself for the regular season.
Ianzito arrived at Syracuse with little hype. He was a star offensive midfielder at Cicero-North Syracuse High School where he scored 42 goals as a senior and was a 2008 U.S. Lacrosse All-American, but he didn’t crack Inside Lacrosse’s top-100 list. After redshirting in 2009, he struggled for two years to find a place on the field. He recorded just eight points in two seasons and couldn’t find a way off of the Orange’s second midfield line.
At the beginning of his junior year, he still had trouble finding the field, picking up just one ground ball – his only stat – in the first two games of the season. That’s when SU head coach John Desko approached Ianzito about moving to defense.
“I think he was lukewarm at first,” Desko said. “And I think as he did it, he saw … he plays a lot of lacrosse. He’s playing more now than he would’ve if he was one of the offensive midfielders.”
It was a tough first test. He made his debut as a defensive midfielder against top-ranked Virginia. The Orange fell 14-10 and Ianzito didn’t do much on the stat sheet, but he remembers being comfortable for his first time on the defensive end.
It’s a move he now hopes rouses his teammates. As a player who converted positions, Ianzito has a unique perspective having played both sides of the ball. It also sets an example for a team that asserts its will to do whatever it takes to win.
“To see me change positions like that – go from offense to defense – hopefully will inspire them,” Ianzito said. “We need more two-way middies, and that’s why my teammates voted me captain this year. It’s an unselfish move. I loved offense and it was painful to switch to defense at first, but I love defense now, so it changes for the better.”
SU attack Billy Ward is Ianzito’s roommate. He’s seen him grow since he switched to defense and said it’s made him a better leader. Before last year, Ianzito was just another face on the offense, but the move, Ward said, paid dividends.
“He found his role spring of last year as a defensive middie and he’s just taken off with it,” Ward said. “And that’s what it comes down to, you’ve got to find your niche on the team.”
When the NCAA approved rule changes this past offseason to speed up the game, no one was happier than Ianzito. While he doesn’t miss offense too much – he loves “being mean” on the defensive end – it’s an opportunity for him to still be able to play at both ends of the field.
He can get back to the style he played in high school, running up, down and all over the field, and like everything else he does, it will make Syracuse better.
“It’s going to be a fast-paced game,” Ianzito said. “I can play defense, I can get a couple more runs on offense, I’ll be able to dodge some offensive middies who are not that good on defense, running in transition, I just love it.”
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