It was near the end of March when I wrote a post titled "Do We Need To Have A Talk About Syracuse Lacrosse?" The Orange were 3-3 and coming off an absolutely embarrassing 21-7 loss to the Duke Blue Devils. Despite the fact that we were coming off a year in which we made it to the National Championship game, it just felt like the wheels, while not coming off, were at least getting a little wobbly.
Then Syracuse rattled off six-straight wins, got revenge on Duke, finished the regular season 11-4 and earned a No.2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. I felt like a real dick for writing that piece.
And then they Orange lost to Bryant...BRYANT...in their opening game and all of a sudden I'm basically asking the very same question all over again.
What are we supposed to make of the state of the Syracuse men's lacrosse program?
Since SU won back-to-back National Titles in 2008 and 2009, the program has undergone a complete indentity transformation. In five years, they've gone from dynasty to just another good program.
Regular season powers, post-season question marks.
A No. 2 seed in 2010, they lost to Army in the first-round. In 2011, they lost in the quarterfinals as a No. 1 seed. Unseeded, they were topped by Duke in the first round in 2012. In 2013, they made it to the finals as a No. 1 seed only to get pummeled by a Duke team waiting to take advantage of their obvious shortcoming. Finally, this year, Bryant saw the same thing and got their payback.
Maybe we're not supposed to complain. If this were basketball, maybe we'd be happy with the aggregate results. But if that's true, how come we were all so disappointed when Boeheim's team didn't make it out of the first weekend?
Because regular season success is nice. Post-season success is what ultimately matters.
Used to be that we didn't have to worry about that second one. Even if the Orange "only" made it to the Final Four, it was still a solid season. That's not an assumption anymore. In fact, it's not anywhere near a given.
All of a sudden, we're just like Maryland and Loyola and North Carolina. Great regular-season programs unable to find consistent success in the post-season.
Maybe this sounds a bit like sour grapes. "Waaaahhh...you're not going to the Final Four every season anymore...waaaahh." And I suppose there is some of that. Men's lacrosse was old dependable for Syracuse fans. No matter what the football team and basketball team did, we could always count of SU Lax to bring home a banner or trophy. Those days are over.
How do you solve the issue? I can't say I'm close enough to the ground to know. I've heard rumblings from some folks who say Coach Desko has taken his eye off the preverbal ball. College football fans recently ganged up on Mack Brown when no one from his highly-touted Texas recruiting classes were drafted. One wonders if the sentiment is the same for Desko, who continues to reel in top recruiting classes that end up with overall diminishing returns.
A percentage of Syracuse fans called for Jim Boeheim's head for not making it out of the first weekend this year following a Final Four. Imagine if Boeheim's boys lost in the first-round three out of five years. How loud would that mob be? (Answer: LOUD).
The truth is, I don't know what the problem is. I'm just spitballing and assigning blame to the head coach is the easiest path to get there. Perhaps Syracuse needs to be more strategic in its recruiting. Perhaps they need to remember the kind of recruits that made this program superior and actively make sure they're recruited. Maybe we need a shake-up in the coaching staff. Maybe it's something else altogether.
My guess is that Desko has earned enough cred for none of those things to happen if he doesn't want them to happen. But as great as 11-win regular seasons are, there's only so many of those SU fans will endure so long as they end before Memorial Day Weekend.
Syracuse Lacrosse is held to a high standard. Perhaps a higher standard than any other program at SU. If that seems unfair, well, the program only has itself to blame for that.
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