When they step on the field under the Dome on Sunday to open the season against the Albany Great Danes, the 2012 Syracuse Orange lacrosse team won't be very recognizable. Not to fans, not to opponents and not even to their head coach.
"You can barely recognize anybody on the field," Desko said of his lineup. "You think about the team we had last year and where we were ranked and how many close games we had (seven decided by two or fewer goals). And then you see the scrimmages and how many mistakes we’ve made when teams are trying to limit our possessions. We have to play very efficiently to be successful."
Thankfully, Albany has very different colors on their uniform. Otherwise, there's no telling how confused Desko might get telling players what to do.
The expectation is that this ragtag group of upstarts won't be the finely-tuned Syracuse lacrosse machine you're used to seeing, but they're still supposed to win the game. Ranked in the top ten by every preseason lacrosse poll, this Orange team might not be an elite one by our standard, but you're still talking about a collection of some damn good lax players.
Midfield seems to be the biggest question mark. JoJo Marasco, Bobby Eilers and Hakeem Lecky will take the first shift. Marasco shifts from the attack unit, where he was tied for the team lead with 41 points last year. Eilers led SU's second midfield line with eight goals last season and Lecky is a highly-touted redshirt freshman who likely would have played last year if not for a wrist injury.
Desko is extremely excited for what Lecky can bring to the table.
"Hakeem Lecky was with us last year, got hurt. We expected him to play a lot as the year went on, but because of the injury and when it happened and how long it lasted, we decided that he would redshirt, and I think he's got some good talent."
Middie Kevin Drew continues to miss time following his arrest in the off-season.
Juniors Brian Megill and Dave Hamlin and sophomore Matt Harris are expected to be the starting defensemen, however junior Kyle Carey and freshman Brandon Mullins should see some action as well. Megill anchors the unit as a Tewaaraton Award nominee.
The attack unit is likely our most solid, led by Tommy Palasek and Tim Desko, who combined for 36 goals and 21 assists in 2011. Derek Maltz should hold down the third spot.
Goalie is the biggest question mark of them all. How will the Orange be able to replace John Galloway, a veritable Hall-of-Famer and four-year stopper? Matt Lerman will get the call but he's got a lot of competition waiting in the wings, including sophomore Ben Levy and seniors Paul Dubas and Dominic Lamolinara, a transfer from Maryland.
If there's any one specific facet of the game the Orange desperately need to improve upon, it's face-offs. That's what killed the Orange in the NCAA Tournament last year and it could be their downfall again. The Orange won just 48.3 percent of faceoffs and it's up to Chris Daddio and Ricky Buhr to up that number.
As for Albany, they're coming off a 5-10 campaign in which they failed to win an America East Conference game for the first time in its history. They return three of its top four point producers from last season, including senior attackman Joe Resetarits (44 points, 31 goals).
There will be some familiarity between the two squads.SU sophomore Matt Harris will see younger brother Kevin standing on the Albany sideline. And Syracuse junior midfielder Luke Cometti played for Albany in 2009 and 2010 before transferring to Syracuse.
SU and Albany have played every season since 2004 and Syracuse has won all nine meetings. The Orange beat the Danes twice last year, including their
win in the NCAA Tournament. Duh, that was Siena. I was there.
This game will actually be the second game of a D-1 tripleheader at the Dome. Rutgers and Air Force start things off at 11 a.m., the Orange and Danes battle at 2 p.m. and Hobart and Siena end the day at 5 p.m. The game will air on Time Warner Cable and SNY and will be heard locally on ESPN Radio 97.7 FM.