As the summer of the transfer portal has progressed for the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse program, Gary Gait and his staff have added a number of players who figure to feature prominently for next year’s team.
Despite all the activity, there was one glaring team need that remained unaddressed.
That changed earlier this week when the Orange added the FOGO that they so desperately needed via the portal, as former Canisius FO specialist Johnny Richiusa announced via his Instagram his intention to transfer to SU.
Richiusa is coming off a solid freshman season for Canisius in which he finished with a .521 win percentage (149-of-286) and 104 ground balls (7.43 per game).
His winning percentage ranked him third in the MAAC, while his total FO wins and ground balls per game were good for second in the conference. He was named conference FO Player of the Week four times, and was named to the MAAC All-Rookie team at the end of the season.
The Rochester-area (Penfield) native will join a unit attempting the very difficult task of replacing Jakob Phaup as the Orange’s starting FOGO.
It’s not just that Phaup had a very successful year last season, finishing 11th in the nation in win percentage at .578. It’s that he was the Orange’s ironman of the dot in 2022.
After splitting face-off duties in the opening game blowout of Holy Cross with the since-departed Jack Savage and freshman Jack Fine, Phaup took every single face-off for SU the rest of the season. In fact, he took 401 straight face-offs to end the season after that first game. In doing so, he set a program record for FOs taken in a single season (419) and took a whopping 96 percent of the team’s FOs for the season (419-of-438).
Simply put: that’s a lot to replace. It’s a lot of production. It’s a lot of effort. It’s a lot of wear-and-tear. Phaup was a fifth-year senior last year with a whole career’s worth of experience guiding him through a physically taxing season.
Is it fair to expect Richiusa, coming off his first year in the college game, to replace all those face-offs by himself? Perhaps not.
For comparison’s sake, Richiusa, as Canisius’ primary FOGO last season, did take 76 percent of his team’s face-offs (286-of-377). That’s obviously not a Phaup-level of face-offs, but honestly I’m not sure anybody should be taking 96 percent of his team’s draws these days unless he’s one of the elite FOGOs.
So, it may not simply be a case of adding Richiusa to the roster and plugging him in as the set-it-and-forget-it FOGO. He appears to be the leading candidate for the most reps, given his relative experience, but keep sophomore Jack Fine and incoming freshman Gavin Gibbs in mind as other options.
Replacing Phaup will be a tall task, but it’s good to add a player to the mix who has a full season taking collegiate face-offs under his belt. Volunteer coach TD Ierlan, who was quick to comment on Richiusa’s IG post, has himself a new weapon in the battle to replace Phaup.
Richiusa becomes the fifth player to join ‘Cuse this summer via the transfer portal, joining Alex Simmons and Colin Kirst as versatile, experienced offensive pieces and SSDM Jake Murphy and goalie Will Mark as new defensive additions.
Congratulations to Johnny on making the move east to Central NY, and we can’t wait to see you mixing it up in the sandbox next season!