Of the many reasons that Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse fans have to be excited about the future of program’s trajectory, very high on the list (if not at the top) is the debut seasons of Joey Spallina and Finn Thomson.
Spallina put together one of the best rookie seasons in SU history with 68 points (36G, 32A), while Thomson tallied an impressive 33 points (19G, 14A) as a midfielder while burning a hole through the net with his fantastic 42.2 shooting percentage.
The pair spent the spring lighting up the scoreboard and highlight reels alike, but perhaps even more exciting is how they chose to spend the summer between their freshman and sophomore years.
Forgoing the notion of summertime leisure, they headed up to the warm weather paradise known as Ontario, Canada to work on their games by playing box lacrosse. Joey and Finn, along with highly-ranked incoming freshman Trey Deere, spent their summer playing in the Ontario Junior Lacrosse League (OJLL), considered to be the best junior men’s box lacrosse league in the world.
It was an opportunity for the boys to work on their craft and hone their skills in the cozy (literally) confines of the indoor game, and boy did they thrive in that environment.
Right off the top, let’s start with something Joey did in game three of the OJLL finals, in which he almost-inexplicably scooped a ground ball between two defenders and immediately turned it into an insane around-the-world finish in front of cage:
AROUND-THE-WORLD Still cannot believe @SpallinaJoey did that in @TheOJLL Finals Game #3 in front of the packed Bunny Barn crowd last night to help the Hornheads gain a 2-1 lead in the series #HornsUp #UpholdTheTradition @LacrosseNetwork @CuseMLAX— Junior A Northmen (@JrANorthmen) August 7, 2023
( : @garretteddy2) pic.twitter.com/hUtyIMSiMc
That is absolutely other-worldly, and the idea of him fine-tuning those skills this summer is tantalizing to say the least.
All three guys finished the season in the Top-11 in scoring in a league made up of over 400 players. No player was a more prolific scorer than Finn Thomson, who led the league in scoring with a whopping 170 points (59G, 111A) in 27 games (6.3 PPG) for the Mimico Mountaineers. It was the second straight summer that Finn was the OJLL scoring champion. He was also one of three finalists for the league’s MVP award.
Over with the Orangeville Northmen, Joey and Trey got a chance to team up before they do so for SU as they helped lead their squad to the OJLL finals, where they lost in six games to the Burlington Blaze. However, that disappointing ending didn’t stop them from gaining valuable experience and excelling at the indoor game all at the same time.
In his first summer playing box, Joey finished fourth in the league with 148 points (50G, 98A) over 32 games (4.6 PPG). His 98 helpers were good for second-best in the league behind only Finn’s 111. Meanwhile, Trey finished tied for 11th in the league with 107 points (51G, 56A) while only playing in 27 of the Northmen’s 33 games (4 PPG).
One of the most exciting aspects of this summer endeavor is the fact that Joey and Trey got an early opportunity to be teammates, which allowed them to gain a feel for being on the same offense together. We’ll have to wait to see how it impacts them next spring, but it seemed to work pretty well this summer:
That @CuseMLAX connection has been in full effect during @TheOJLL playoffs. @DeereTrey seems to enjoy scoring off @SpallinaJoey beauty passes… and they’re just getting started #HornsUp #UpholdTheTradition— Junior A Northmen (@JrANorthmen) July 26, 2023
( : @garretteddy2 ) pic.twitter.com/l48joz7r1f
The gaudy numbers and the exciting highlights don’t necessarily mean anything to come for SU in the spring of 2024.
But what is undeniable is how great it is to see three young players who possess endless amounts of lacrosse talent among them being so committed to improving their games for the betterment of themselves and ‘Cuse lacrosse.
And as the Orange try to work their way back up the ladder of the DI landscape, that commitment can go a long way in helping the program’s ascent.