Let’s cut right to the chase with this one.
We all know the deal with the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse offense, right? There’s crazy amounts of talent, built around a maturing core returning from last year plus a fresh influx from the transfer portal and the incoming freshman class.
We know this offense is fully stocked with firepower, and we’re not the only ones. Gary Gait knows it too:
“I’ve got to be honest, we have a ton of talent on the offense, and I’m just waiting to see them play. We’re in a position we haven't really been in in the last couple years where it’s tough picking the starting lineup, it’s tough picking the second midfield line, because you know you have players that can step in and play that role...”
Addressing the media for the first time this preseason, Gait put a long emphasis on the word ‘ton’ when describing the amount of talent contained within his offense. The guy knows he’s got a lot to work with, and he’s not shy about it.
He also talked about the difficulty of picking the lineup. Perhaps he was just being coy about it, but one thing is for sure: he’s got plenty of options. Let’s take a look:
I think the surest bet for placement in the offense right now lies at attack, where Joey Spallina (36G, 32A, 68P) and Owen Hiltz (24G, 29A, 53P) return as the team’s top two scorers from last year.
Joining them and replacing his former teammate at Lehigh, Cole Kirst, is likely to be graduate transfer Christian Mulé (29G, 44A, 73P), who comes over after a sterling senior season in 2023 in which he finished third in the nation in assists per game (2.93). Over the course of his career, Mulé has proven himself as both a productive goal scorer and distributor. He can play whatever role his offense needs him to play, and that’s wonderful news for Pat March as he and Gait try to figure out how to best deploy all their weapons.
Hiltz and Mulé are both used to playing and operating from the left side of GLE, so it’ll be interesting to see where they find themselves playing in the same offense.
It seems like the top reserve attack option might be freshman Trey Deere, the top ranked player in the Orange’s freshman class (No. 17 by Inside Lacrosse’s final ranking). Trey’s got a ton of skill and flare to his game, exactly the type of player you want in a Gary Gait offense. He’s got a real nose for finding the back of the net, and gained big-time experience playing indoor lacrosse on the same team as Joey Spallina over the summer, so that connection is one to keep an eye on.
If Trey proves himself effective enough, Gary may have to find different ways to get him on the field, including giving him extra runs at midfield.
Speaking of, the Orange have significant depth lined up for their midfield lines this season. It starts with Finn Thomson (19G, 14A, 33P), Michael Leo (18G, 8A, 26P), Jackson Birtwistle (27G) and Luke Rhoa (10G, 3A, 13P), all of whom return from last year’s top two lines.
Joining the party will be Princeton transfers Jake Stevens (24G, 5A, 29P, 35GB) and Sam English (30G, 18A, 48P in 2022), two former All-Americans who add a ton of extra depth and talent to the top of the ‘Cuse offense.
Those should be the six players who make up the top two midfield lines this season. As far as placement, I can’t imagine Finn not being in the starting lineup, and I would think Jake Stevens would be on the first line, as well, with all he does as an all-around middie.
I think the third starting spot is between Michael Leo, a member of last year’s starting lineup, and Sam English, with Birtwistle and Rhoa likely penciled in as second-line members. I think I was leaning English on the first line, but it’s interesting to note that Inside Lacrosse’s Terry Foy made his projections just yesterday, and he had Leo on the first line with English on the second. Time will tell.
There are some other names to keep in mind, as well. I’m extremely curious to see the role this year of one Greg Elijah-Brown, an attack transfer from OCC. All Greg did in his two years for the Lazers is score 183 points in 26 career games (7.04 ppg), including last year’s 105 points on 58 goals and 47 assists. Any chance they can find a role for that guy in this offense?
Another veteran name to keep an eye on is Tyler Cordes, whose proven a capable backup midfielder in his time at SU. Now a junior, Cordes played only sparingly last season after starting eight games as a freshman. He’s appeared in 17 career games and scored 15 points in that time. He’s a good depth piece for this group.
There’s also a whole host of freshman names to be aware of as potential impact depth pieces. Wyatt Hottle, Tucker Kellogg, Tyler McCarthy and Jake Spallina are the top options there. I’ve never seen Tucker or Tyler play, but I’m a big fan of what I saw from Wyatt in high school. He’s a lighting-quick jitterbug type whose speed could be an asset if he's called upon. Jake could have his number called in any facet of the team due to his versatility as an all-around midfielder.
As Gait noted in the clip above, there are so many different ways the lineups could break for this Orange offense. It all comes down to which players gel together the best, especially important for a team with so many new pieces. And, of course, the opening game lineup very well may differ from the lineup we see trotted out at mid-season or late-season.
However it all goes down, we have a pretty good feeling this offense is going to be a big strength as ‘Cuse looks to take the step back into national contention this season.