We’ve never really been here before.
The Syracuse Orange men's lacrosse program, the most decorated in history, was for so long the gold standard in the sport; winning 11 NCAA titles while being home to some of the greatest players to ever play.
They were also the ultimate model of consistency, making it to 22 consecutive final fours and only having four coaches in over 100 years of existence. The program had been passed on from father (Roy Simmons, Sr.) to son (Roy Simmons, Jr.) to protege (John Desko); all men who had been involved with the program for decades on end.
Over the last two decades plus, we got fairly comfortable knowing what to expect from Desko and his talented teams. In the end, it probably got too comfortable, as the Orange struggled to adapt to the ever-expanding lacrosse world.
After the team flopped to a 7-6 record last year while getting blown out far too many times, it became apparent that the time for change was upon us. Enter the program’s fifth all-time head coach: Gary Gait.
New season.— Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) February 11, 2022
It all begins Saturday. pic.twitter.com/WMYrvoajy6
While hiring Gait does keep the program in the family, it sends us into an era where we don’t fully know what we can expect from a program that has fallen a long ways off in the past decade.
Sure, we’ll all have our own expectations in our own minds as we head into the season. I think they’ll win this many games. They’ll beat this team and that team. They’ll make it this far into May.
But how do we know what to expect when we don’t even know that much about what this team will look like? What will the offense look like as Gait implements his system alongside existing offensive coordinator Pat March? How will a wounded defense replacing a couple All-Americans adapt to a brand new system under Dave Pietramala? What will the starting lineup even look like when the Orange takes the field for the first time on Saturday?
We know we’re going to see plenty of Tucker Dordevic, Brendan Curry, Owen Seebold and Brett Kennedy. But who will join them, and where specifically will they all line up?
What will the attack look like with Owen Hiltz now out for a significant amount of time? Seebold will be there, but who will join him? Griffin Cook will probably be moved back to attack, and can hopefully cement himself there after spending his first three years yo-yoing between attack and second-line midfield. Will Dordevic be moved to attack as well after establishing his career as an All-American midfielder? He has played there some in the fall and spring preseason. Or will someone like Lucas Quinn or Liam Ferris crack the lineup?
How about midfield? If Cook and Dordevic are moving, how will the middies look? Curry is there, of course. He could be joined by a couple of veteran backup midfielders in Quinn and Jacob Buttermore. If that’s the case, we’re going to see a whole new second-line midfield.
Defensively, we’ll of course see Kennedy, probably flanked by Brandon Aviles and Dami Oladunmoye at defensive midfield. We’re also sure to see veterans Grant Murphy and Nick DiPietro at close defense, although it’s tough to know who has picked up the new defensive schemes the best or who Pietramala prefers out there representing his defense.
What we definitely don’t know is who will be starting in the pipes, as Gait has yet to officially name a starter. The competition figures to be between Harrison Thompson and recent Virginia transfer Bobby Gavin. You would think Thompson would have the leg up since he’s been in the program so much longer, but again, who adapts better to being the backstop leader of Pietramala’s defense may determine the ultimate call. The possibility that we see them both this season is out there, as well.
With all the changes the program has undergone since the summer, I guess what I’m trying to say is: it has been a long time since we’ve known this little about how a Syracuse lacrosse team would look going into a season in terms of personnel and strategy.
I guess that’s what happens when a new coaching staff comes into any program. It’s a little more jarring when those changes have been so few and far between over the years.
So, into the great unknown we go. I can’t wait to see what’s out there.