As we enter the fourth and final positional preview of the preseason for the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team, we start with a concept we’ve become familiar with after the attack, midfield and defense previews.
That concept is the idea that we've got a position group populated by a bunch of new contributors and not many returners, and it continues with the face-off specialists and the goalies.
Let’s jump in and take a look at the players this team will be relying on at the all-important specialist positions at the X and between the pipes.
The Orange have a big time question at the X, where they are attempting to replace their iron man from last year and their primary FOGO since 2019 in Jakob Phaup.
Phaup took 419 of 438 total face-offs for SU last year, and the 19 that he didn’t take were all from the first game of the season blowout versus Holy Cross. It’s an absurd amount of production that the Orange need to replace at the dot, and that’s without even getting into the fact that Phaup faced-off at a .578 percentage on the season.
The biggest challenge is, in my estimation, the fact that the team will probably need multiple players to step up and replace Phaup, because I’m not sure there’s one person on this roster who is ready to take 400 face-offs in one season.
The name to start with is Canisius transfer Johnny Richiusa (No. 45), who comes to Central NY after one season in Western NY where he had a solid freshman season. Richiusa, who’s listed at 5’10” and 175 pounds, finished the season with a .521 win percentage and 104 ground balls on 286 face-offs. Those are good numbers, but he took 133 fewer restarts than Phaup did. Can he up his number by that many? Time will tell.
If SU is in need of multiple FOGOs this season, there are three more specialists listed on the roster beyond Richiusa. The main problem is that they’ve only taken five total collegiate face-offs among them. Those five face-offs came in last year’s Holy Cross game by sophomore Jack Fine (No. 38), who’s listed at 5’9”, 185 pounds.
The other two FOGOs are freshman Gavin Gibbs (No. 24), listed at 6’1” and 180 pounds, and walk-on sophomore Paul Lamonaca (No. 20), who made the team in the fall and is listed at 5’7”, 165 pounds.
Goalie is one position on this team where we’re thrilled to see some new names in town after the disaster that was last season.
Last year’s goalies, led by Bobby Gavin and Harrison Thompson, combined to save a paltry .408 percent of shots. That’s just a frighteningly low save percentage, prompting Gary Gait to mention at his first media session a couple weeks ago that he wants his goalies to bump up their percentages roughly 10 percent this season.
That was at his first media session. At his second on Wednesday, he declared LIU senior transfer Will Mark the starting goalie for game one this weekend
“I’m pretty comfortable that Will Mark, you know, certainly a preseason All-American, has demonstrated that he’s a good goalie and he wants the opportunity to shine here at Syracuse. So, I’m comfortable with him between the pipes”.
So, Gait’s search for the solution to his goalie troubles starts with Will Mark (No. 88), who comes to CNY after a strong career out on Long Island that saw him finish each of the last two season as an honorable mention All-American.
Mark is a big body in cage at 6’3”, 205 pounds, and has amassed quite the pedigree so far in his career. He comes to SU with a career .558 save percentage in 33 games, and led the nation in saves per game in both 2020 and 2021. He provides us with some room for optimism that better days are ahead between the pipes moving forward.
Meanwhile, Harrison Thompson (No. 1), one half of the flip-flopping goalie duo of last year, is back for his junior season. He’ll operate in a backup capacity this season to Mark, and depending on the early impressions of our next goalie, he may not even be the first backup.
Thompson started three games and appeared in eight total last year, finishing with a cringe-inducing .385 save percentage.
The reason why Thompson might not be the primary backup is the presence of freshman Jimmy McCool (No. 39), who comes to the Orange as the No. 20 ranked freshman in the class and the second-highest ranked goalie.
McCool was an Under Armour All-American last year and played outstandingly in the All-American game over the summer. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I believe he surrendered something like five goals in one half of an all-star game.
At 6’2”, 225 pounds, he’s basically a linebacker in the cage and likes to use his body to his advantage when it comes to making saves. I think he’s got a bright future for this program.
The other two goalies on the roster are redshirt sophomore Patrick Duffy (No. 50) and redshirt freshman Kyle Rolley (No. 89).