January 17, 2013

#LMranks: No. 12 Syracuse Orange (Men)

by Joel Censer | LaxMagazine.com | Team Page/Schedule | Twitter | Archive

Brian Megill returns to Syracuse this year as a two-time captain and a threat all over the field. "I think he's the complete package," coach John Desko said.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Lacrosse Magazine is counting down its preseason rankings throughout the month of January exclusively on LaxMagazine.com.

Today continues a look at our NCAA Division I Top 20 rankings. For more, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks. The countdown will resume Friday with profiles of the 11th-ranked teams in NCAA Division I men and women.

Power Ratings

Offense: 3*
Defense: 4
Goalkeeping: 3
Faceoff: 2
* Out of 5

Top Returner

D Brian Megill (Sr.)
A two-time captain, Megill is aggressive, skilled and can cover almost any type of attackman. But his leadership might be most important. Said senior midfielder JoJo Marasco: "When he steps into that huddle everyone knows to be quiet because they have so much respect for the guy." Megill was taken seventh overall by the Denver Outlaws in last Friday's Major League Lacrosse collegiate draft.


M Hakeem Lecky (So.)
Even as a freshman, the explosive midfielder had little problem blowing past short sticks. Still he converted only 20 percent of his shots. "He's a very hard person to cover 1-on-1," Syracuse coach John Desko said. "He needs to make better decisions. Shooting the ball from a little too far out had more to do with his percentages than anything else."

What's New?

Veteran assistant Kevin Donahue takes over the offense from Desko in 2013. "I don't think we were moving enough," Marasco said. "Coach Donohue has ingrained into our brains this year if you don't have the ball you have to be cutting."

What's Not?

After a season in which the Orange used three goalies, sophomore Bobby Wardwell seems to have has solidified the starting spot in net. The former Under Armour All-American Game MVP, Wardwell started the final nine games and had a 53 percent save percentage.

2012 Recap

#LMranks MD1 Preseason Countdown

No. 20 Bryant
No. 19 Hofstra
No. 18 Fairfield
No. 17 Villanova
No. 16 Yale
Monday: No. 15 Princeton
Tuesday: No. 14 Penn State
Wednesday: No. 13 UMass
No. 12 Syracuse
Friday: No. 11

More: Countdown schedule | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3 | JuCo | MCLA | WCLA

Record: 9-8 (3-3 Big East)

In a Nutshell: It was a rebuilding year for a program that isn't supposed to have to rebuild. Syracuse struggled to gain possession or generate offense against elite teams, scoring 10 goals or less in losses to Virginia, Hopkins, Villanova, Duke, Cornell, Georgetown and Notre Dame. After squeaking into the Big East tournament, Syracuse was, however, able to conjure some late-season mojo, winning the conference title and writing their ticket to the NCAAs. The late-season optimism was short-lived when a powerful Duke team took advantage of Syracuse's faceoff issues and lack of initiators by beating the Orange 13-10 in the first round.

High Point: The Big East tournament. It looked like the Syracuse was going to miss the NCAA playoffs for only the second time in three decades, but after dispatching Villanova, 15-6, in the conference semis, the Orange caught a break when St. John's upset Notre Dame. A day later, seniors Tommy Palasek and Bobby Eilers combined for 10 points to help take down the Johnnies, securing a Big East title and NCAA playoff berth.

Low Point: A March 17 loss to Hopkins. Usually when these two programs meet it's a clash of styles. Half-field grinders from Baltimore against the swagger-filled, shoot-first-ask-questions-later upstate New York outfit. But the Orange looked like a team in total disarray when the Blue Jays beat them in Baltimore, 11-7.

2013 Preview

Best Case: North Carolina transfer Nicky Galasso does his best 2008 Mike Leveille impression. Marasco, Lecky and Luke Cometti are tough to cover in transition and in the half-field. Megill and Wardwell are the backbone of a stingy defensive unit that brings the Orange to their first final four since 2009.

Worst Case: The offense sputters without a go-to initiator, face-offs remain a problem and Wardwell struggles in the goal as the Orange stumble to another first-round playoff loss.

Inside Scoop

Coach John Desko's comments on...

Syracuse's potential third attackman
"[Billy] Ward does it all. He played some midfield for us last year and is a guy that's really in terrific shape. He's very athletic, can dodge and is pretty good off the ball too. Rice is more effective as a dodger, seeing the field kind of a guy. Dylan Donohue has done a really nice job doing everything: off the ball, making some good decisions with the ball. Smart player."

D Brian Megill (Sr.)
"He's played since he was a freshman. He played inside when he was younger because of the other defenseman we had on the team. As they graduated, he came out to be a cover guy. So he can play off the ball and on the ball. Obviously, facing off, he has good athletic ability. He had a few goals and has potential to score and take the ball to the offensive end to the field. He was a captain last year, a captain this year and has very good leadership qualities. I think he's the complete package."

D Brandon Mullins (So.)
"He's a really good cover guy. He's coming from Texas, so I think the only thing he was lacking was knowing the speed of the game at our level and just having the lacrosse IQ. But he's got the ability to learn and absorb things. I think he's grown as we've expected him to grow. He's a talent: he's athletic; he's tough; he covers you. He throws those hard checks — sticks have changed over the years so as we've seen in the rule changes it's been difficult to dislodge the ball — but he's one of the few guys out there who can dislodge the ball with his checks. A lot of it has to with his aggressiveness and how hard he checks. You can see in practice when we're doing 1-on-1's. When the attackmen step up to the line when he's there, they know they have to rise to the occasion because he's going to get after them."

Rival Coaches Say

"The addition of Nicky Galasso makes them dangerous on the attack. Defensively, they have as good a set of poles as anyone out there. They will be tough to score on consistently... How much does the addition of Galasso help? I think he gets viewed as a QB type but is he consistently going to draw slides? That's an issue that this offense struggled with last year... Seems like the Orange have found the answer in the goal, the defense is a year older, but they still don't have huge threats to run by people... I think they are like most teams 9-20 right now. You can take any one of these teams and rank them anywhere in that range. Syracuse can not get by on their name anymore."

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