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Syracuse men’s lacrosse: Orange kick off fall ball competition against Denver in Cortland

Syracuse will also take on Lehigh later in October.

Michael J. Okoniewski

Football is off this weekend. Basketball doesn’t begin regular season play for another month. Women’s ice hockey and field hockey play today.

But so does men’s lacrosse. However, their game doesn’t count toward their win-loss record.

After their second straight first round exit last season, fall ball competition officially begins later tonight for the Syracuse Orange as they take on the Denver Pioneers on the campus of SUNY Cortland. This will be part of Cortland’s Lacrosse Legends Weekend, with Pioneers head coach Bill Tierney being inducted into Cortland’s Men’s Lacrosse Legends Club. Face-off is at 7:30 PM and tickets are $5 at the gate. The event, like many fall ball scrimmages, will not be streamed.

After tonight, the Orange will have their annual Orange Alumni Classic on October 19 inside the Carrier Dome before hosting the Lehigh Mountain Hawks on October 26. The scrimmage against Lehigh does not have a known venue as men’s basketball is hosting Division II Daemen at 7 PM that night. My guess is the Dome won’t be available for the fall finale. Unless anything changes, neither of those events will be streamed.

With that, here are some storylines and very early questions to keep in mind. For the record, which I mentioned last year, I’m not the biggest fall ball fanatic out there. Going through it for four years (three if you exclude the mumps outbreak in 2017), it’s more of a teaching period for the players and to experiment with different groupings. So if you see something different, take it however you want.

Pat March takes over as offensive coordinator

That whole teaching and experimenting period I just mentioned is a perfect example of what to expect from the Orange. Pat March comes over from Princeton and replaces Kevin Donahue as offensive coordinator. Donahue is now the team’s volunteer assistant. March’s offenses have ranked in the top 10 in scoring in each of his three seasons with the Tigers with Michael Sowers leading the way.

March’s arrival brings in a fresh face that hasn’t had any prior connection to Syracuse. He played lacrosse at Division III Roanoke and has coached at Dickinson (also Division III) and Vermont.

How will the offense look?

Before March came in, the offense had a good problem. Syracuse had two of their top four attackmen returning from a year ago as well as five of their top six midfielders, along with Matt Magnan and Lucas Quinn who spent some time on the second and third lines.

The Orange also have Tucker Dordevic returning from a season-long injury and Chase Scanlan coming in from Loyola and donning the No. 22 jersey. That’s 11 players in that group.

Now it’s time to figure out who goes where, specifically at attack. With Stephen Rehfuss being the lone returning starter, could Syracuse bump up last year’s No. 4 attackman Owen Seebold to a starting role? Could Dordevic, Scanlan, and/or Griffin Cook be moved down to attack? Is it possible that the Orange could run three midfield lines with Andrew Kim being a potential option as well? That’s not including the incoming freshmen.

Syracuse has a lot to work with and a lot of time to figure out the best combinations. So if something doesn’t work tonight, no need to panic.

Holes to fill at close defense

Similar to attack, there’s two starting spots that have to be filled at close defense. Nick Mellen, the team’s top close defender from the past two seasons, is the lone returner.

Two potential options didn’t play at all last season. Nick DiPietro saw time as a reserve defensemen in his first two seasons in 2017 and 2018, but took a redshirt year in 2019. Jerry Staats missed all of last season due to injury. Staats transferred from Onondaga Community College and was a JuCo All-American in 2018.

Another option is Grant Murphy, who was primarily a short stick defensive midfielder for the past two seasons. He’s naturally a long stick defender and filled in for Tyson Bomberry as a starter for the win over Army West Point. Jack Kennedy, Brett Kennedy’s younger brother, is another option.

A crease inside of the crease!

If you remember last year, the NCAA rules committee brought back the crease dive but players could not make contact with the goalie or dive toward the goal mouth. Nobody knew what the goal mouth was until a couple months before the season and it was still tough to figure out where it was.

Until now.

The goal mouth is now a visible crease inside of the current crease. And here it is (in white). Marvel at it.

It’s...bad. Many in the lacrosse community thought the return of the crease dive was going to be great. Opinion has changed drastically since, whether it’s from fans or from other players. One critic of the dive rule from a year ago has been current senior Orange goalie Drake Porter.

“A hundred percent, I would scrap the rule. Without a doubt in my mind...There is a real gray area in the rule the way it’s written, and that’s up to the referees almost each game to decide, how do I want to call it today? Sort of the difficulty is that discretion...I feel horrible for defenders around the crease this year because I have no idea how to tell them to play it and I think that’s what we’re sort of struggling with. We would we be able to figure out a way if the call didn’t sort of change week to week.”

Will we see more dives because we know what the goal mouth is? I doubt we will, and maybe we might see even less.

This might not be used for the Denver scrimmage. Harvard had a scrimmage yesterday and did not have it. Early indications seem that the visible goal mouth won’t be used at Cortland.

New helmets

Syracuse will be rocking STX Rival helmets after using Cascade helmets since 1996. Cascade/Maverik has their headquarters in Liverpool, about 10 minutes away from SU.

Comparing the Cascade S to the STX Rival:

STX, along with Nike, have provided Syracuse with their equipment for some time except for helmets.

That’s everything you need to know for the fall.

As for the spring, we’ll find out the full schedule later before the end of the calendar year, usually around December. However, here are a few things about the spring slate:

  • Syracuse will scrimmage Vermont at home on January 25 and will visit Albany for the first time ever on April 3.
  • Syracuse will play two regular season games at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. That was the venue when the Orange defeated Duke last season in overtime. Those games will be against ACC foes Notre Dame and North Carolina. Duke and Virginia are away games this year.
  • Syracuse will have four home games inside the Carrier Dome, all of which will take place in February. Expect the opponents to be Colgate, Binghamton, Army West Point, and Hobart.