Hello Syracuse lacrosse fans, and welcome to the eve of the 100th year of Syracuse men's lacrosse. Tomorrow afternoon, the Syracuse Orange will open its 2016 season when it takes on the Siena Saints at 1 pm in the Carrier Dome.
This year's edition of the Orange will look a little different then the past couple of seasons. Gone are the familiar names and faces of Kevin Rice, Randy Staats, and Henry Schoonmaker; and in their place, a new crop of SU laxers are ready to step in and make sure the 2016 edition of Syracuse men's lacrosse stays among the nation's elite teams.
So, without further ado, let's take a look at some of the new names we expect to make an impact for the Orange this season:
Nick Piroli, #29, Graduate Student, Attack
An Upstate New York native, Nick Piroli used to dream about suiting up for Syracuse lacrosse, but wasn't quite high enough on the Orange's recruiting list in high school. Instead, Piroli attended Brown for the past four years. An injury caused him to miss his junior season, and as a result, he has one season of eligibility remaining. Ivy league rules prevented Piroli from taking that season at Brown, so he decided to fulfill his dream and take it as a graduate student at Syracuse.
As a senior at Brown, Piroli recorded 30 points on 23 goals and 7 assists to earn All-Ivy League Honorable Mention. He was actually primarily a midfielder at Brown, but he has gelled quickly with Dylan Donahue and Jordan Evans and has scooped up the vacancy for the #3 attack position. His teammates and coaches have already praised him for his lacrosse IQ and how fast he has picked up the offense, as well as his leadership skills. Piroli has kind of come out of nowhere as an experienced college lacrosse player who is ready to start right away, and in the process addresses the biggest need for Syracuse heading into this season: filling the void left at attack and midfield.
Nick Mariano, #23, Junior, Midfield/Attack
Nick Piroli isn't the only transfer student who will play an immediate role for Syracuse this season. Meet Nick Mariano, a junior transfer from UMass who will also help to fill an offensive need for the Orange. In his two seasons at UMASS, Mariano was named to the All-CAA Second Team twice, and as a sophomore, he led the Minutemen with 42 points on 22 goals and 20 assists.
Mariano is a combination attack/midfield player. All indications through preseason are that he can provide coach John Desko with flexibility on offense, but his primary position will be at midfield. He is projected to be a part of Syracuse's first line midfield along with Tim Barber and Sergio Salcido. Like Piroli, Mariano has arrived at the perfect time for a Syracuse offense that is suddenly in need of production, and with 81 points in two seasons in Amherst, Mariano fits that description nicely.
Nick Mellen, #21, Freshman, Defender
Our parade of Nick's that are new to the Syracuse roster comes to a close with Nick Mellen, a true freshman defender from local high school powerhouse West Genesee. Mellen was an Under Armour All-American as a senior, and although the Syracuse defense returns most of its core from last season, he still looks like he will find his way onto the field.
In fact, the indications from Syracuse's two scrimmages are that Mellen will be starting at close defense alongside Brandon Mullins and Jay McDermott. At 5'-9" and 177 pounds, he is an undersized defender that the coaching staff has praised for his quickness, his ability to cover attackmen, and his athleticism. His size and speed will make him the likely choice to cover the equally small and quick attackmen that Syracuse faces this season.
Matt Lane, #44, Redshirt Sophomore, Midfield
Okay, so Matt Lane is not officially a "newcomer" to the Syracuse men's lacrosse team, but this year is looking like it will be his first in which he actually sees the field for meaningful minutes. At 6'7" and 224 pounds, Matt Lane is a tough guy to miss during pre game warm-ups. The question is, how does that size translate into on-field production?
Lane, who barely saw the field as a backup attackman last season, looks like he will be making a transition to midfield for 2016. He is projected to be a member of the second midfield unit, along with Ryan Simmons and Nick Weston. The production of a second midfield line is an important part of the success of any team. It is difficult to ride only one productive midfield line for an entire season, and Matt Lane will now get the opportunity to prove himself in that role. His superior size and strength should make him a nightmare to cover for opposing defenders. Even before you take his lacrosse skill into consideration, his sheer power should prove an interesting advantage for the Syracuse midfield.
Warren Hill, #27, Senior, Goalie
Lastly, we have this season's net minder for Syracuse. Like Lane, Warren Hill was a member of last year's team, but also like Lane, he never saw any significant playing time as he was stuck behind experienced senior Bobby Wardwell. This season, it's Hill who is the senior, although with a lot less experience in a Syracuse uniform. The OCC transfer is a big physical presence standing in net, as he is listed at 250 pounds while being only 5'10".
Although he doesn't have much D1 lacrosse experience, he has plenty of experience in big lacrosse games. Back in 2014, Hill was the starting goalie for the Iroquois National team at the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships. Going up against powerhouse teams Canada and the U.S., Hill picked up plenty of experience going against the best lacrosse players in the world. He played an important role in helping the Iroquois to the bronze medal, the first world championship medal in their history.
With an experienced and talented defense in front of him, and one of the best face-off men in the country (Ben Williams) limiting the opponent's possessions, the stage is set for Hill to step in and have a lot of success during his one and only season as Syracuse's starting goalie.