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Syracuse men’s lacrosse season preview: Midfield

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Arguably the best midfield in the country is one of the Orange’s top reasons for optimism in 2021.

Army v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Welcome back to the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse season preview series.

It’s Monday, February 15, which means we are now less than a week away from Syracuse’s season opener against the Army West Point Black Knights on Sunday, February 21.

After talking about the attack last week, we’re starting this week taking a look at probably the most talented and deep unit on the entire roster: the offensive midfield.

This unit is coming off a year in which they averaged just under 11 points per game, a number only bested by the midfields led by the Gait brothers in 1988 and 1990.

It’s a group that returns all three starters and five of its top six from last year, so there are plenty of very worthy guys who will struggle to find meaningful minutes because of an extremely crowded midfield room.

Let’s take a look at the guys who will see the most of the field this season:

Jamie Trimboli — Redshirt Senior

A three-time All-American, Jamie Trimboli started the seventh game of his career against Duke back in 2017, scored the game-winner in OT, and has started every game since.

Trimboli is a pure goal scorer who’s capable of creating his own shot whether attacking down the alley or from the wings. Because of that, he’s going to require a lot of attention from opposing defensive midfields, which is great news for the entire unit.

Last season, Trimboli led all midfielders in the entire country averaging 3.4 goals per game on his way to first-team All-American honors. As a two-time captain and fifth-year senior, he’s one of the team leaders and most important pieces of the offense.

The next point Trimboli scores will be the 100th of his career.

Brendan Curry — Redshirt Junior

Much like Trimboli, Brendan Curry also started for the first time midway through his freshman year and never looked back.

Curry brings a unique and important skill set to the Syracuse offense with his incredibly quick first step and blow-by speed when he’s got the ball in his cross. Combine that quickness with his ability to shoot on the run, and you’ve got a recipe for breaking down a defense in one basic sprint.

A two-time All-American, Curry, who has scored at least one point in 21 straight games, joins Trimboli in being one of the best offensive midfielders in the country. Having them both on the same line creates utter havoc for opposing defenses. And that’s before we even get to this guy...

Tucker Dordevic — Redshirt Sophomore

After a breakout freshman season in which he scored 15 goals and started the most games by a true freshman since 2007, Tucker Dordevic suffered an injury that took him out for all of 2019.

Making his much-anticipated return last year, Dordevic struggled early but still ended up scoring 10 goals in the five game season. Five of those goals came in a career day against Hobart in which he totaled seven points.

While Curry uses his foot speed to help the offense, Dordevic is a big dude (203 pounds) who can utilize his size to bully defenders. If he’s being guarded by a smaller SSDM, which he may well be a lot of the time, he can do some serious damage. Just look at the Hobart game last year.

Dordevic earned him honorable mention All-American honors despite his slow start, which means the Syracuse midfield isn’t just returning three starters from last year, they’re returning three All-American starters from last year.

Jacob Buttermore — Redshirt Junior

Moving to the second-line midfield, Jacob Buttermore is a player who could be starting for most of the rest of D1. Thankfully, he plays for SU and adds immensely to the midfield’s depth.

He broke out with a massive 20 goals in his first serious action as a sophomore in 2019, and has now led the second midfield unit in goals the past two years.

Buttermore has a wicked outside shot, and I’d even go as far as to say that on the most loaded midfield team in the country, he may be the most dangerous long-range shooter on the roster. He can routinely hit twine when he shoots from 15 yards or further, which adds yet another unique dimension to the Orange midfield.

Lucas Quinn — Redshirt Junior

Lucas Quinn entered the second midfield unit for the first time last year, and made an immediate impact by leading the group in points with six in five games.

With David Lipka’s offseason departure for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Quinn’s importance to the second line will continue to grow.

Shot selection is an important stat to keep in mind with Quinn. Last year, as the new guy on the line, he actually outshot both Buttermore (15) and Lipka (14). However, he made only four of his 21 shots, which gave him the worst shooting percentage on the team (19 percent). He definitely needs to pick his spots a little more smartly this year.

Owen Hiltz — True Freshman

Hey, remember this guy? Yes, I’m going to mention Hiltz again with the midfield. It’s really tough to get a read on exactly how coaches Desko and March want to deploy their star freshman as he joins an offense that overflows with talent.

Hiltz possesses a variety of skills as a ballcarrier and a finisher and pairs those skills with a very high lacrosse IQ, which is a luxury for the coaching staff to potentially put him in multiple positions for this offense.

I believe Griffin Cook will begin the year as a starting attackman, which means Hiltz will get runs with the second midfield and occasionally on attack when Desko wants to give one of the starters a few possessions rest. Wherever he’s playing, I can’t wait to see this young man in action.

Some other players to watch for getting runs on second or third line midfield include true freshman Jackson Birtwistle, redshirt sophomore Pete Fiorini from Baldwinsville, and redshirt sophomore Matt Magnan. Birtwistle is the second-highest rated freshman in the incoming class after Hiltz, ranked No. 47 overall in the class.

Midfield Overview

I’ve said it multiple times already: this is the best midfield in the country. Let me be more specific about why this unit is such a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.

I’ll start with what you already know: a defensive midfield consists of one LSM and two SSDM, which simply means that you put a long pole on one midfielder and a shortie on the other two. Yes, you can double-pole the midfield and switch a shortie onto an attackman, which some opponents may well do.

So, I pose you this question: If you are an opposing D-coordinator, who are you putting the shorties on? Are you double-poling? How would you approach?

Are you going to put the LSM on Trimboli? I mean, he did average 3.4 goals per game last year on a stacked Orange offense. How about a little respect for such a prolific goal scorer?

But that means you’re giving the shorties to Curry and Dordevic. Good luck with that. Curry will blow past any short-stick without much issue.

So, maybe you double-pole the midfield and put a shortie on Cook? Well, that means you’re definitely putting a shortie on Dordevic. Anyone remember how that strategy worked for Hobart last year? That’s right, he scored a career-high seven points on five goals and two assists.

And what happened the game after that? Hopkins double-poled the midfield to compensate for the games that Dordevic and Curry (also five goals) had against Hobart. The result? Stephen Rehfuss got a shortie and proceeded to dish out seven assists against the Blue Jays.

The point: Figuring out how to defend Syracuse’s top six is roughly the equivalent of dealing with a migraine headache. They may be the toughest offense in the country to game plan for. There really is no right answer in defending this group. It’s a case of pick your poison and hope it doesn’t kill you, and it all traces back to this spectacular midfield.

Be sure to check back with us when in the next piece as we transition to the defensive side of the field, where there are a few more holes to fill for Lelan Rogers’ group.