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Syracuse men’s lacrosse: Big expectations are back in year three under Gary Gait

All the talk is that it’s time for the Orange to be back on the national scene in 2024. Will they?

Colgate v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

For the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse program, the fall from the top was a gradual one.

After the back-to-back national titles that closed out the 2000’s, SU spent the better part of the next decade continuing their impressive run through the regular seasons only to consistently fall flat come May.

From the 2010 through 2017 seasons, the Orange earned either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament an incredible six times in eight years. In those six years, they only turned their top-two seed into a Final Four run once (2013). In the decade of the 2010’s, SU went 7-10 in the tourney.

All that postseason disappointment eventually gave way to a run of mediocrity from 2018 through 2021 that led to the retirement of John Desko and the ushering in of the Gary Gait era as the fifth head coach in program history.

Gary’s first season in 2022 saw the rock bottom that finally arrived 12 years after the postseason troubles began, as the team finished 4-10 with their most losses in program history. That team suffered from a serious talent deficiency that simply couldn’t compete against the caliber of SU’s schedule.

That brings us to last year, where the clouds started to lift for the first time in a while with the arrival of Joey Spallina and the No. 1 ranked freshman class in the country, as well as a few key transfers like Will Mark, Cole Kirst and Alex Simmons.

That team accomplished what I think could be described as rational expectations for a young team coming off a 4-10 season: they got themselves back above .500 (8-7) and won a couple games over ranked teams along the way (Princeton and North Carolina).

Now, we’ve arrived at 2024.

A young, talented core returns with one more year of college experience under their belts. Another big infusion of talent has arrived on campus, this time primarily from the transfer portal (more on that next week).

The offense is overflowing with amazing talent. The defense is back almost in its entirety with a handful of important additions plus a new coordinator. Will Mark is back between the pipes. And the much maligned face-off unit of last year looks like it’ll be improved to help with the possession disparity.

As we’ll get into much more in the next two weeks, it does appear that Anish is right in saying that all the pieces are there for ‘Cuse to once again make themselves relevant on the national scene.

Now in his third year at the helm of the program, Gary Gait looks like he has real, big expectations for the first time as the Orange men’s head coach. What are those expectations exactly? I suppose it depends who you ask.

I don’t want to say that the expectation is ending the now more-than-decade long Final Four drought, mostly because of how many other really good, and longer established (in recent times) teams are out there standing in SU’s way.

For me, the expectation is that this is the year this program returns to national relevancy. That means winning more games against top ranked opponents, remaining in the Top 10 deep into the season, getting back to the NCAA Tournament, and winning the Orange’s first tournament game since 2017 (!). Whatever happens from there is all about the madness that May brings.

However it goes down, one thing is for sure, we’re all looking for the climb back up the mountain to be much quicker than last decade’s descent.