How's your lax flow looking? Did you go with extra flow? Excellent. I can tell that you've been working on it all offseason. Are you using Pert these days? A special conditioner? It doesn't matter I guess; just watch out for those split ends.
In case you didn't know, Denver and Bill Tierney's piehole will come to the Carrier Dome on Sunday for the first of what should be 15 tail-whippings John Desko will administer this season. It's true! Real, live lacrosse starts on Sunday! Hallelujah!
So, what do we need to know about Syracuse's eventual 12th national champion? Well, let's start from the top: Who is Desko going to run out there to embarrass any and all comers? As Dave Rahme writes, the cast of characters should be pretty familiar, save some new and exciting faces:
Attack: The Orange will start senior Stephen Keogh, junior Tim Desko and sophomore JoJo Marasco. Junior Tommy Palasek and true freshman Billy Ward are also in the mix.
Midfield: The first midfield line of seniors Josh Amidon, Jovan Miller and Jeremy Thompson is set. The second midfield line will likely feature senior Jeff Gilbert and sophomores Peter Coleman and Steve Ianzito. Sophomore Ryan Barber should also be in the rotation, and Desko has the option of having Palasek and/or Marasco take a few runs at midfield, too. True freshmen Jake Bratek and Scott Loy are waiting in the wings should the second line prove ineffective.
Defensive midfield: SU has a bunch of two-way middies, but in the scrimmages it appeared that junior Kevin Drew and senior Tim Harder were the main short-stick d-middies used. Junior Bobby Eilers and redshirt freshman Stefan Carpentieri were also used.
Longstick midfielder: Joel White is the man, and juniors Joe Moore and Gairet Myers backed him up in the scrimmages. Each will likely get some runs, although White will be on the field a lot.
Faceoff X: The order in the preseason games was Thompson, freshman Chris Daddio, senior Josh Knight and freshman Ricky Buhr. Look for Desko to use all four and go with the hot hand, although Thompson is a given.
Close defense: Senior John Lade and sophomore Brian Megill own two of the three starting spots. Senior Tom Guadagnolo and sophomores David Hamlin and Joe Fazio will share the third spot, depending on the type of opposing attackman the Orange is facing.
Goalie: John Galloway is the starter for the fourth consecutive season. Redshirt freshman Matthew Lerman was the primary backup in the preseason games and appears to have won the job.
With that out of the way, let's move on to the next set of questions: Who are these cats replacing (hint: nothing totally irreplaceable), and what are some things to think about as the season starts to unfold (hint: the hotel you should book for Championship Weekend)? To the jump, hombres and hombrettes!
- The losses of Chris Daniello and Cody Jamieson are tough to swallow, but Syracuse should be able to replicate their production offensively. Both were tied for second on the team in offensive efficiency last season -- about 4.5 goals per 100 offensive possessions -- but a seasoned Tim Desko and JoJo Marasco should fill the void nicely. Marasco's effective shooting percentage was just a shade under 30% last season, which was actually better than Daniello's trigger rate. Tim Desko or Stephen Keogh will need to up their finishing rate at the close attack to remove the void left by Jamieson's shooting clip. Keogh looks to be the crease finisher -- like Jamieson -- with Desko assuming some dodging roles. Regardless, John Desko has already talked about the Orange's need to shoot a little better than they have during the scrimmages, but each should be fine once the season gets underway.
- "The assist issue." Syracuse was 30th (!) in the country last year in offensive assist rate. Ay-yi-yi. What's worse is that the Orange lost its best assistman (statistically) from last year in Chris Daniello. Fear not, Orange Empiricist! Marasco appears to have been tasked with triggering the offense from the "X" so, you know, at least someone paid attention to the fact that this assist thing was an issue. And if Marasco can't do it, Tommy Palasek has the tools to handle the job. Or the offense could run a little more through Jeremy Thompson either from the top or via invert (gross). In short, if Syracuse can remedy the assist problem (and the shooting problem, to a lesser degree), the team's offensive "problems" from last year (19th nationally in offensive efficiency) should resolve themselves.
- Breathe deep: Lelan Rogers is still running the Orange's defense. For you casual fans, Lelan Rogers is as important to Syracuse lacrosse as Scott Shafer is to Syracuse football. Hell, you could say that Rogers is even more important given the fact that the Orange finished first in defensive efficiency last season and held opponent's to only .8498 shots per possession in 2010. Plus, you know, he's still working with the meat of the team's defensive unit from last year. HERE COMES THE PAIN, HOPKINS!
- Kevin Drew is a clearing machine. He's that fast. And Joel White is an animal with the ball in his stick. I challenge anyone to find a more fun and effective short stick-long stick defensive midfielder combination in the country.
- Let's talk about the offensive midfield units that are getting so much attention/fret. Thompson-Amidon-Miller is fine. There's a ton of ability options with those three guys, and Miller is a horse. The second unit will be fine. I like the way Gilbert shoots and Peter Coleman and Ryan Barber are coming along nicely. If Desko runs Palasek or Marasco with these cats, I think that the second line midfield becomes very potent and presents a ton of matchup problems for a defense. Time will tell. This is obviously a fluid situation.
- Faceoffs. Fine. Next.
- Loy, Ward, Pat Powderly . . . the list goes on and on. There's a ton of young talent on the sideline for Desko to go to if the situation warrants. Losing Hakeen Lecky stings, but it isn't the end of the world.
This year is shaping up to be another "Syracuse or Virginia" kind of season. We'll obviously know more Sunday evening.