It’s a new school year for the Syracuse Orange, and in lacrosse terms that means the first chance for the new roster to come together and start fall practice as a team.
With fall ball now underway for more than a month, the new players have had time to acclimate to their new surroundings and gel with their new teammates.
There are nine transfers entering the program this season, and Inside Lacrosse recently ranked them as the No. 1 group in their “Impact Transfer Class Rankings”. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the players who will be suiting up in our favorite shade of Orange for the first time in 2024.
- Christian Mulé, Lehigh — Attack, No. 2
- Jake Stevens, Princeton — Midfield, No. 14
- Sam English, Princeton — Midfield, No. 15
- Gregory Elijah-Brown, OCC — Attack, No. 46
The 2024 Syracuse Orange are going to have an absurdly talented offense.
We all know how much talent is returning from last year lead by Joey Spallina, Owen Hiltz, Finn Thomson, Michael Leo, Jackson Birtwistle, and Luke Rhoa. By the time we get into the names above, it starts to become an embarrassment of riches for Gary Gait and Pat March to play around with.
Enter Christian Mulé, the grad transfer who had an excellent undergraduate career at Lehigh where he scored 183 points in 48 career games, 73 of which came last year. As a sophomore and a junior, Mulé led the team in goals, but as a senior, he led them in assists. He can do whatever his team needs him to, an incredible characteristic for a ‘Cuse offense with tons of talent around him. I’m guessing that he will fill the open starting attack spot alongside Spallina and Hiltz, but in Gait and March’s offense he can probably play wherever they need him to.
Jake Stevens and Sam English are a pair of Princeton midfielders who enjoyed great success in their Ivy League days. Just like Owen Hiltz, they’re both Canadians who went to high school at Culver Military Academy in Indiana. They were all teammates for a time at Culver, so there’s some strong familiarity there right off the bat.
Stevens is a do-everything kind of throwback middie who can impact the game all over the field (29 P, 24 G, 35 GB, 41.4 SH% in 2023). He’ll certainly play (and maybe start) on offense, and will likely also factor in as a wing on face-offs.
English is a great initiator for an offense from his midfield position. He was limited by injuries last season, but still managed 20 points and 13 assists in the nine games he played. In 2022, he was outstanding for the Tigers with 48 points and 30 goals as a midfielder. The offensive midfield is looking awfully crowded these days, but no question that he and Stevens will both be big factors and both be in the mix for the first-line.
Remember the days when Syracuse would bring in transfers from OCC for two great years in helping the Orange to chase championships? Sid Smith. Cody Jamieson. Jeremy Thompson. Randy Staats. All OCC products, alongside many others.
That hasn’t been the case in recent years, but this season might just bring the trend back. The reason for that is a young man by the name of Gregory Elijah-Brown, a Canadian product of the famed Hill Academy who’s coming off quite the two-year run at OCC.
I hope you’re sitting down for these numbers, because as a freshman Elijah-Brown scored 78 points (44G, 34A) in 13 games (6 PPG) and shot 48.4 percent. He was just getting warmed up. Because as a sophomore, Elijah-Brown put up 105 points (58G, 47A) in 13 games (8.1 PPG) and shot 59.8 percent from the field. So, that’s pretty cool.
I don’t know what his role is going to be as an attacker for a team that already has Spallina, Hiltz, and Mulé, but I’m very excited to find out.
- Mason Kohn, Tufts — FOGO, No. 93
So, we all remember the deal with last year’s Orange: a relatively inexperienced defense was put under immense pressure by a face-off unit that finished the season 64th in the nation with a brutal 41.9 percent success rate.
The bottom line is that there’s simply too much talent on this SU roster to have it all crumble because they couldn’t win enough face-offs to win against the toughest opponents. We all knew the coaching staff needed to go out and add a veteran FOGO to try and change the fortunes at the all-important face-off dot.
This is where we meet Mason Kohn, the grad transfer from Division III power Tufts. Kohn was last year’s DIII Face-off Player of the Year thanks to his 71.6 win percentage (255-for-356) and his 184 ground balls.
Mason will likely be the central piece to a revamped face-off unit that could also feature Jake Stevens on the wing alongside some of the defensive transfers we’ll look at below.
He doesn’t need to win 70 percent for the Orange, although that’d be neat if he did. He doesn’t need to win 60 percent. If we can just shoot for the ole’ 50 percent mark, you’ve got to like the chances for the talented ‘Cuse roster around him to have success in ‘24.
- Matt Wright, North Carolina — LSM, No. 51
- Steven Schmitt, Mount St. Mary’s — LSM, No. 37
- Jake Titus, Union — SSDM, No. 81
- Zach Puckhaber, Gettysburg, Close Defense, No. 90
The Syracuse defense took a beating last season, but that young group is almost entirely back this year with all that difficult experience under their belts. In addition to all the returners (Saam Olexo, Nick Caccamo, Landon Clary, Caden Kol, Carter Rice, Billy Dwan, etc.) the unit will be bolstered by the return of close defender Riley Figueiras as well as the arrival of the four names above.
Let’s start with Matt Wright, making the move up north after a strong career at UNC. Wright, yet another Canadian from the Hill Academy, posted 121 ground balls and 38 caused turnovers in his 47 career games with the Tar Heels. He’s listed at LSM on the roster.
Steven Schmitt is another LSM joining the Orange. The Upstate native played his undergrad career at Mount St. Mary’s, where he’s coming off a phenomenal senior season. He was named the MAAC LSM of the Year as he finished the season with a crazy-good 97 ground balls, 29 caused turnovers, nine goals, four assists and 13 points. His more than 6 GBs per game was one of the best averages in the country by a non-FOGO.
His GB prowess was a huge asset to his team last year, as his FOGO (Connor Beals) finished last year second in the nation in FO win percentage (65.1). I’ll be very intrigued to see how much we see Schmitt on face-off wins, because he could prove to be massively important to a team trying to dig itself out of the FO doldrums.
Jake Titus is a midfielder making the trip west from Schenectady where he spent his undergrad at DIII Union. A two-time All-American as a two-way midfielder, Titus scooped up 42 ground balls, scored 14 points and caused five turnovers as a senior last season.
With the glut of offensive talent, it looks like he will be focusing on defense for his graduate season. Listed as a SSDM on the roster, Titus figures to become an important part of the defensive midfield rotation by injecting a strong veteran presence into a unit that is very young outside of Carter Rice.
Our ninth and final transfer is close defender Zach Puckhaber, another DIII transfer from Gettysburg. Puckhaber gives SU another big-bodied presence (6’4”, 220) down low on defense. A team captain as a senior, Zach was a two-time All-American and grabbed 69 ground balls while causing 42 turnovers in his 43 career undergrad games.
There’s a lot to love about the group of transfers that Gary Gait brought in over the summer. They’re a well-balanced group that impact every phase of the game and address the biggest areas of need coming off last season. There’s no doubt this group will play a huge role in the ultimate fate of the 2024 Syracuse men’s lacrosse season.