3 takeaways from Syracuse men’s lacrosse’s alumni game
Liam Sheehan | Staff Photographer
In an annual exhibition game, Syracuse squared off with its Alumni All-Stars in the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon. The Alumni All-Stars beat SU’s current team, 8-4, in the Orange Alumni Classic, which offered the first real glimpse of a 2017 team that will be without several key contributors from the season before.
Here’s three takeaways from the Orange’s fall exhibition.
Sizing up the depth chart
If nothing else, the Orange Alumni Classic gives head coach John Desko a chance to run through what he believes to be his starting lineup.
Syracuse trotted out an all-sophomore attack line of Brad Voigt, Nate Soloman and Gale Thorpe. Two-thirds of last season’s starting attack, Dylan Donahue and Tim Barber, graduated and played on the Alumni All-Stars. That left Desko to dip into a younger reserve of offensive players on Saturday, battling for starting spots Desko said might not even be settled until the spring.
The starting midfield line nearly mirrored last year, with Matt Lane joining expected starters Nick Mariano and Sergio Salcido. The 6-foot-7 Lane previously has been leaned on as a man-up specialist, and even dabbled as a starter for a pair of games last year. He looked noticeably more mobile as he ran with the starting midfield line, and could possibly challenge for the third starting spot left vacant by graduated starter Derek DeJoe.
“He was more aggressive,” Desko said of Lane. “(He’s) playing with more confidence … it’d be great if he stepped up.”
Nick Weston, Pat Carlin and Joe Gillis pitched in to what could become the Orange’s second line. Underclassmen Brad McKinney, James Trimboli and Riley O’Sullivan could piece themselves into the third-line midfield.
A rotating cast filled SU’s defensive lineup, what Desko referred to as a “work in progress.” Sophomore Nick Mellen is the only returning starter, and he’s out for the fall season with an upper-body injury. Marcus Cunningham, who operated as the Orange’s fourth defender last year, joined redshirt freshman Andrew Helmer and senior Scott Firman as Syracuse’s starting defenders.
“It is a bit of a learning curve in terms of experience,” Cunningham said, “because none of (the defenders) have the most experience. I think we’ll be fine because we’re just going to focus on playing our own system.”
Senior faceoff specialist Ben Williams remains the starter in the X, flanked by wings Paolo Ciferri and Austin Fusco.
Filling the gaps
For the second straight year, Syracuse begins a new season without its leading point scorer from the year before. Donahue’s departure leaves SU’s offense to rely more heavily on the midfield line, where Salcido and Mariano are expected to repeat breakout 2016 performances.
“I feel more comfortable with the offense and the guys around me,” Mariano said, entering his second year with SU after transferring from Massachusetts. “Coming into a new year as a known face, it’s a little bit easier to get along with the guys and to learn the offense.”
Desko fortified his statements from Tuesday, when he said he’d like Syracuse’s offense to run primarily through the first-line midfield. After Saturday’s contest, the head coach referred to Salcido and Mariano as the offense’s “motor,” and nearly laid to rest the possibility that Mariano could move up to attack.
“We would need some other middies to step up,” Desko said when asked about bumping up Mariano.
Denver transfer Brendan Bomberry didn’t get much play until the end of the game, but Desko said he’s still a candidate to play significant minutes with the attack or midfield lines.
Daily Orange File Photo
Since coming into his freshman season as the top-ranked high school recruit, Jordan Evans has battled mile-high expectations. The senior attack sat out of the exhibition with an undisclosed injury, but is expected to be full-go by next week.
The anticipation for a breakout offensive year from Evans still lingers, and as the only returning starter on the attack, it would seem there’s no better time for it than now. Desko pointed to former starting midfielder Derek DeJoe as a player whose performance spiked in his last season, something Desko hopes Evans can replicate.
“With (Donahue) gone, … (Evans has) stepped up in that leadership role and is telling guys where to go within the offense,” Desko said. “I think sometimes that just brings more confidence because he knows the offense really well.”
Evans is likely going to draw teams’ top defender, something he’s been largely shielded from since he arrived at SU. Now he’ll anchor the Orange’s man-up offense and likely be forced to dodge a bit more as the team’s top attack on paper.
Said Desko: “We need his senior leadership out there.”
Published on September 24, 2016 at 7:28 pm