February 9, 2012

Season Preview (MD1): No. 8 Syracuse Orange

by Joel Censer | LaxMagazine.com

JoJo Marasco has shifted to midfield to help replenish a unit that graduated its first-line.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

When Syracuse won back-to-back championships in 2008 and 2009, the Orange played fast, got up and down in a hurry, and relied on a whole host of offensive stars.

But the past two years, goals haven't come as easy. Last season, Syracuse averaged its lowest scoring totals of the decade (even worse than a disastrous 5-8 season in 2007). While some of the lack of offensive fireworks can be attributed to general half-field woes, it didn't help that many opponents' game plans revolved around slowing the game to a halt.

"The number of teams that chose to stall the ball was pretty incredible," said head coach John Desko. "I've never seen teams hold the ball like that. I suppose we should see it as a compliment."

Worse for the Orange, most of the team's key players graduated, leaving Desko to look to rookies to pick up the slack. "It's a new group basically," he said.

The attack returns the most experience. Tim Desko missed seven of the last eight games of 2011 with a knee injury, but is a crafty lefty who can create his own shot. Tommy Palasek, who transferred from Johns Hopkins in January 2011 (and had to be reprogrammed after two years of possession-oriented lacrosse), will initiate the offense from behind the goal. Sophomore Derrick Maltz steps in as the third attack option, a big target with smooth hands to match.

With first-liners Josh Amidon, Jovan Miller and Jeremy Thompson all graduating, the Orange will need to replenish its midfield. It will help that JoJo Marasco, the caretaker for Syracuse's iconic number 22 and a starting attackman last year, will move up top in 2012.

A fearless dodger who is as adept slashing to the net as he is stepping down from 10 yards out, Marasco prepared for the transition by running strictly midfield at summer tournaments in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Vail, Colo. When he returned home to Yorktown Heights, N.Y., the junior captain worked on the positional nuances with longtime coach and former Syracuse

All-American midfielder Paul Carcaterra. Marasco will team with redshirt freshman Hakeem Lecky and 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior Bobby Eilers.

"I spoke with the coaches and told them I feel like I'd help out more at midfield," Marasco said. "The biggest thing will be switching over to defense."

For an Orange squad that wants to play up-tempo, finding ways to win possessions will be crucial. Sophomores Chris Daddio and Ricky Buhr will take most of the faceoffs, while a stable of athletic long-stick midfielders will vie to fill departed Joel White's shoes.

On close defense, Brian Megill, an aggressive, sure-handed long pole in the mold of Pat McCabe, comes back as the headliner. Illinois native and lefty Matt Harris, who showed promise in a reserve long-stick role last year, could have a breakout season. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Matthew Lerman — a John Galloway understudy and one of seven goalies currently on the Orange roster — looks like the probable starter.

All the open slots and opportunity to earn playing time led to competitive and physical practices. Whatever uncertainties Syracuse has about its personnel, there's no doubt how the Orange wants to play the game.

"We're going to stay true to our Orange blood," Desko said. "We may be the only team in the country who wants to get up and down anymore, but that's why players come here and why we have had success."

This article appears in the February issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription to LM. Follow LaxMagazine.com all season long, and check out the Orange's team page.

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