The Syracuse University lacrosse team enters this season having lost one of the most decorated senior classes in Orange history. Players like Joel White, Jovan Miller and Stephen Keogh have moved on to professional lacrosse leagues, and the Orange now rely on a younger group to bring them to success this season.
“When you look at our roster from last year and looking at our roster again this year, there are a lot of changes as far as guys who are going to be starting. So it’s a different look,” head coach John Desko said.
The Orange takes the field in the Carrier Dome this Sunday at 2 p.m. against Albany in its first matchup of the regular season. Syracuse was upset in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament last year as the No. 1 seed against Maryland, but it has lost seven starters from that team.
Losing so many starters and filling those positions with younger players contributed to the Orange being ranked seventh in the preseason by Inside Lacrosse polls and eighth in the USILA Coaches poll, as opposed to their No. 1 ranking at the start of last season.
But coach Desko said he isn’t getting too caught up in the polls.
“When coaches, players, fans look at the teams and what they are returning and how much we lost and what were returning, I don’t think seven or eight is an unnatural vote for us for this time of year,” he said.
Junior JoJo Marasco is one of the returning players that will look to bolster the offense this season, along with returning seniors Tommy Palasek and Tim Desko. Marasco said he isn’t too concerned with the loss of so many starters.
“We’ve got a lot of good players this year that a lot of people don’t know about yet,” he said. “Hopefully they can go out there and show what they can do.”
Redshirt freshman Hakeem Lecky is one of the new players who will be playing alongside Marasco this season. Lecky has been impressive in the preseason scrimmages, scoring goals against both Maryland and Hofstra.
Lecky brings a lot of speed to the Orange lineup. He will most likely start on the first midfield line with Marasco and senior Bobby Eilers.
Another redshirt freshman making a case for playing time this season is Henry Schoonmaker. He suffered a right shoulder injury last season and didn’t get a chance to show his skills until this fall. Coach Desko said he likes what he sees out of the young guy from Oregon, applauding his ability to shoot on the run.
The defense is another area that lost talent. Defenseman John Lade and White, a long stick midfielder, both graduated, leaving junior Brian Megill to take the reins. Megill will be wearing the No. 11 jersey this season, carrying on a legacy that two All-American defenders left behind.
“There is a little bit of history behind it. And just to be associated with guys like Joel White and Steve Panarelli, the last two guys to wear it, is an honor,” Megill said. “I’m gonna take it, I’m gonna run with it, and I’m gonna do the best I can.”
Megill also said he has a lot of confidence in the coaching staff to get all the young guys prepared to take over leadership roles on the team. Starting alongside Megill on defense will be sophomore Matt Harris and redshirt junior David Hamlin. Both Harris and Hamlin saw time last season. Harris played in 16-of-17 games, and Hamlin got some action when Lade went down with an injury.
“You know the saying, 'Syracuse doesn’t rebuild, they just reload,'” Megill said. “And that’s what we're trying to take to heart.”
The final question mark for the Orange stands between the pipes. Who will start at goalkeeper? Who will try to fill the shoes of John Galloway, one of the greatest goalies in Syracuse Lacrosse history?
After starting the majority of the preseason scrimmages, it looks like Matt Lerman will get the start in the first game of the season. But Lerman didn’t quite shine during the preseason.
The player who stood out was Maryland transfer Dominic Lamolinara. It was his five-save performance in the third quarter against Hofstra that kept the Orange in the game, allowing them to win. Lamolinara also saw time against his former team, registering five saves in two quarters of action and only allowing three goals during an Orange comeback.
“I’m taking advantage of every day I’m here. I’m loving being here. I really want to be a part of this team, and every day, I’m just out there, having fun. And that never gets old,” Lamolinara said.
Coach Desko said the competition for spots at each position is helping his overall confidence level, even without his seven stars from last season.
“I actually feel more comfortable this year with that group than I did a year ago, as far as what I’ve been seeing in practice and how they’ve been learning the offense,” he said. “And maybe it’s the competition there, maybe that we’ve got six or seven guys fighting for those spots.”