NCAA Preview: No More Excuses for Syracuse

PHOTO BY GREG WALL

Nate Solomon’s versatility and 41-percent shooting touch bode well for a Syracuse team that’s suited well for the shot clock.


US Lacrosse Magazine released the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Men’s Preseason Top 20 on Jan. 2. Team-by-team previews will be unveiled on uslaxmagazine.com through the end of the month and will also appear as part of the magazine’s NCAA preview edition in February.

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No. 10 Syracuse

2018 Record: 8-7 (4-0 ACC)
Coach: John Desko (21st year)
All-Time Record: 903-347-16
NCAA Appearances: 37
Final Fours: 27
Championships: 10

John Desko has seen enough college lacrosse in four decades as a player, assistant coach and head coach at Syracuse to know that every season presents its own unique set of circumstances and challenges.

The 2019 Orange are thrilled to leave behind one of their stranger years, and not just because Syracuse staggered home barely above .500, went home following a NCAA tournamentfirst-round defeat by upstate rival Cornell — which beat the Orange twice — and failed for the fifth straight season to return to the final four.

The tone was set last year when a mumps outbreak on campus shut down the fall season temporarily, depriving the Orange of nearly three weeks of practice and scrimmage opportunities. Desko is convinced there was a direct correlation between Syracuse getting blown out twice at home in the first month by Albany and Johns Hopkins and that fractured fall preparation.

“For starters, think about the number of freshmen [nine] we played. The fall season tells you a lot about new guys, and that’s just part of it,” Desko said. “We could see the lack of [fall] practice showing early, especially at the defensive end. It was hard to get momentum going, but we were able to raise our game later in the year.

“The great news about this year is we had a normal fall, and we return pretty much anyone who played.”

The Orange, who did play well enough in 2018 to go undefeated in the regular season in ACC play, and inconsistently enough to lose four times at the Carrier Dome — including a stunning late-season 13-12 decision against Navy — indeed lost just two starters in attackman Brendan Bomberry and goalie Dom Madonna.

With the shot clock era dawning, Desko loves the depth the Orange are cultivating at midfield, where junior Jamie Trimboli and sophomores Tucker Dordevic and Brendan Curry are back to form the first line after combining on 68 points in 40 starts. Trimboli is a third-year starter. On attack, senior Nate Solomon and redshirt junior Stephen Reyfuss are back after finishing as the top two scorers.

The defensive end will probably tell the tale the most in 2019. With dependable cover man Nick Mellen back for his third season with the close unit, how well will Tyson Bomberry shut down the interior? Will sophomore long-stick midfielder Jared Fernandez rebound from his promising injury-shortened campaign? Will Peter Dearth lead a short-stick group that could give the Orange a lot more chances to run and gun?

There are many questions for 2019, and no excuses.






z

The Case For Syracuse

The Orange has too much talent, depth and experience and has enjoyed too much normalcy to allow anything but a strong showing this year. They have nine starters back from an offense that will get an additional injection from senior attackman Brad Voigt (14 points) and impressive freshman Griffin Cook, a four-star recruit from neighboring Jamesville-Dewitt High School. They have a stable of midfielders unlike Desko can recall since coaching his alma mater. Redshirt sophomore David Lipka (12 goals) is back to lead a big, athletic second unit. Watch out for the brothers Kim —Andrew and Justin — both in the 6-3, 215 mold. Nick Mellen leads a defense that will seal the leaks that sprang a year ago.

The Case Against Syracuse

Let’s face it. Syracuse stopped scaring people a long time ago. In the age of increasing parity, the Orange mystique has faded. Nearly a decade has passed since Syracuse last won a national title. That’s not to say the well-coached and well-stocked Orange can’t make a run. Syracuse plays as tough a schedule annually as anyone and could make it happen once more. But the thought here is that, in the new shot clock era, the Orange will try to return to their run-and-gun roots, will be in the thick of the ACC supremacy race, and will win more than it loses. But with junior goalie and first-year starter Drake Porter in the cage, the Cuse will give up a few too many in pursuit of another crown.

Path to the Playoffs

Unless Syracuse stumbles so badly it only beats one opponent with a top-10 RPI rating and, say, loses to Hobart, Navy and Colgate — or wins only six games overall — the Orange will be their usual lock to make the NCAAs and probably host a first-round game. Syracuse has another generous path to the postseason, as it won’t hit the road until late March after hosting seven teams at the friendly Dome, including Albany, Hopkins, Rutgers, Virginia and Duke. The only home game in April is a big one against nonconference rival Cornell, which knocked off Syracuse twice. Expect the Orange to enter the ACCs with a chance to at least solidify a top four seed.

Players To Watch

Tucker Dordevic, M, So.
15G, 5A

Jamie Trimboli is the most experienced and productive of the group as a third-year starter, but Dordevic, a 5-11, 195-pound product of Edison High in Portland, Ore., grabbed a starting job at the outset of his freshman year and ran with it. He sat out the fall with a foot injury. He drew a long pole in a number of games last year.

Nate Solomon, A, Sr.
22G, 15A

Stephen Rehfuss is a great finisher who operates the left side and led the Orange with 28 assists. Solomon shot 41 percent, despite drawing the opponent’s best close defenseman often. “We can move [Solomon] around, play him up top at times. He’s unpredictable,” Desko said.

Griffin Cook, A, Fr.

Cook, 5-7, was a two-time USILA All-American and the Central New York Player of the Year at Jamesville-DeWitt High School in Syracuse, where he led the school to the 2016 New York state championship. Desko said Cook reminds him of Kevin Rice. “[Cook] can play midfield, he can invert. He’s a lacrosse player,” Desko said. “He understands the game. He will play.”

National Rankings

Category

Rank

Value

Offense 22nd 11.27 GPG
Defense 43rd 10.67 GAA
Faceoffs 36th 48.2 FO%
Ground Balls 17th 30.47/game
Caused TO 14th 7.93/game
Shooting 12th 32.8%
Man-Up 22nd 38.1%
Man-Down 46th 64.2%
Assists 25th 6.47/game
Turnovers 24th 12.40/game
Clearing 50th 85.7%

Power Ratings (Scale of 1-5)

Offense
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Defense
⭐⭐⭐

Goalkeeping
⭐⭐⭐

Faceoff
⭐⭐⭐

94

Number of goals Syracuse allowed in its seven losses in 2018. The Orange surrendered an average of 13.4 goals in defeat. Those included blowouts at home early against Albany (15-3) and Johns Hopkins (18-7) and a 14-10, mid-march setback at Rutgers. In April, Cornell and Navy each scored 13 times to beat the Orange.

5-Year Trend
Scoring Offense

Year

Rank

GPG

2014 4th 13.00
2015 2nd 14.88
2016 8th 12.47
2017 12th 12.06
2018 22nd 11.27

Coach Confidential
John Desko

“With the so-so year we had record-wise, we still had some of the top wins in the country. With most of the offense and defense returning, if we use our experience by not making the mental errors we made a year ago, we should be OK.”

Enemy Lines

“From here on out, you can put any of the next 10 teams in any order. They wear Orange, so I put them here. Not sure they are a top-10 team talent-wise. But who is?”

“They were probably pretty young. They had sophomores and redshirts that were playing key minutes in a lot of spots. … That’s another type of barometer game. We thought it was a hard game last year, and it’s going to be an even harder game this year when we play them.”

“They do a great job of consistently developing young guys in their system.”

“They’re still Syracuse.”

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