It’s the second week of February, the temperature is hovering somewhere around freezing, and there’s snow on the ground.
That can mean only one possible thing:
Welcome to lacrosse season, Syracuse Orange fans!
Yes, the 2021 men’s lacrosse season is almost upon us. With Syracuse set to get underway 10 days from now inside the “Stadium” against Army West Point, it’s time for us to take a look at this year’s team.
This is part one of a series that will dive into everything you need to know to get ready for the season, including the position groups, the key contributors, the newcomers, the big questions, and the expectations.
We’ll start with a group that returns all three starters and was one of the many areas of strength for the team last year: the attack.
The elder statesman of the Syracuse offense, Rehfuss is one of the 2020 seniors to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA. 2021 is going to be Rehfuss’ sixth year in college, as he redshirted at Holy Cross in 2016 before coming to the Hill.
He’s played in every game of his Syracuse career, and he’s been starting since his sophomore year. His experience and leadership earned him the recognition of being voted one of the team’s captains this year.
Stephen has led the Orange in assists each of the last three seasons, totaling an impressive 18 in just five games last year. His past-first mentality makes him one of the most important pieces for an offense that has so many goal-scoring options.
Scanlan arrived on campus in 2020 surrounded by hype after his All-American freshman season with the Loyola Greyhounds.
He backed the hype up in a big way, leading the Orange in both goals (18) and points (23) on his way to earning his second All-American honors in as many seasons.
Scanlan is a lethal shooter and scorer from the left side of the goal. When he is given time and room by a defense to get his shot off, which happens more often that you’d assume given all the weapons on this offense, there’s a good chance he’s going to bury it. He finished last year sixth in the ACC shooting about 46 percent.
The third of three returning starters from last year’s attack, Cook is a local kid out of Jamesville-Dewitt who was a two-time All-American in high school.
While he doesn’t put up the gaudy numbers that his line mates do, at least not yet, he’s a very talented player who uses his small stature to his advantage to slip past defenders and create plays.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Griffin’s game thus far in his young career is his energy and propensity for creating turnovers on the ride. Last year, he actually had more caused turnovers (seven), than either goals (five) or assists (four). He was on pace to shatter the SU record for caused turnovers by an attackman (nine), which he will hopefully eclipse in 2021.
By far the most hyped member of this year’s freshman class, Owen Hiltz is going to be in the running for most impactful newcomer to this year’s team.
Hiltz comes to SU ranked as the No. 2 recruit in Inside Lacrosse’s 2021 class, and has a high school resume that speaks quite loudly. In his two seasons at national power Culver Academy, the Ontario native posted over 100 points both seasons as he led them to the national championship in 2019.
Hiltz has an extensive box lacrosse background from his younger days growing up in his home country, and the skills he honed there could prove to be very useful, even for an offense as loaded as Syracuse’s.
In a recent Inside lacrosse profile, offensive coordinator Pat March said of Hiltz, “His vision and IQ are really second to none for players of his age”. There also appears to be much praise for his shooting and finishing abilities.
The main question when it comes to Hiltz is where and when will he fit into the offense. For as much hype as he brings, he’s coming into an offense that returns all six starters. Will he find the bulk of his time on the second line midfield? Will they work him into the attack rotation? Could he possibly impress enough to jump over Griffin Cook and into the starting lineup?
Time will tell, but these are all great questions to have to answer for the coaching staff.
The junior out of Texas has been Syracuse’s fourth attackman since he stepped on campus in 2018.
He now finds himself in a more crowded situation than ever before thanks to the arrival of Hiltz, but Seebold provides a lot of experience having appeared in 27 career games.
He’s a nice depth piece who is skilled enough to get a run on a possession every now and again when one of the starters needs a rest, and that can pay big dividends in the long run.
Another newcomer to the 2021 Orange roster, Tenaglia transferred in after the Furman lacrosse program became a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
As a true freshman last year, he was Furman’s leading scorer with 20 points and was named to the Freshman All-American team by College Crosse.
It’s tough to see Tenaglia getting too much meaningful playing time on this year’s team, but in just one college season he has already proven himself a capable contributor to an offense. Still just a freshman, his impact will be felt more in coming seasons for the Orange.
The attack group is rounded out by redshirt sophomore Basil Aburn, redshirt freshman Mikey Berkman, and true freshmen Liam Ferris and Blake Erlbeck.
Last year, Berkman made his collegiate debut against Binghamton and promptly suffered a season-ending injury. Liam Ferris was named by head coach John Desko when he met the media last week as a player who has looked good in the early days of spring practice, so he could be a name to keep an eye on this season.
One of the biggest reasons for optimism on a team that has plenty of them, the attack is not only a group brimming with individual talent, but also a group that compliment each other beautifully.
Rehfuss plays the role of quarterback, while Scanlan is the expert finisher. Both Rehfuss and Cook operate very well from X, helping to break down a defense from behind the cage. Scanlan generally stays above cage and finds his pockets to help close the goal-scoring deal.
This unit also possesses tremendous depth with the likes of Owen Seebold and Brett Tenaglia, amongst others, more than capable of coming in and contributing for the team.
The biggest question here revolves around Owen Hiltz. With all three starters returning from last year, there somehow isn’t an obvious spot for the No. 2 incoming freshman in the 2021 recruiting class.
To me, Rehfuss and Scanlan are absolute locks as starters. Cook, while a starter in 2020, doesn’t quite reach lock status due to the presence of Hiltz. Can the freshman come in and make a big enough impact to supplant Cook in the starting lineup? Or can Cook hold down his place and relegate Hiltz to finding opportunities wherever he can, be it with some runs as a backup attackman or on the second midfield line.
I’m guessing Cook will hold down his spot and allow Hiltz to build into the offense in a variety of roles.
It’s a great problem to have and one of my biggest questions coming into the season.
Let’s face it, when one of the biggest questions is where and how will we find a spot for our elite incoming freshman to see the field, that’s a great sign for the offense.
Speaking of the offense, check back with us in the next piece, as we take a look into the part of the team that should strike the most fear into our opponents: the offensive midfield.