Offseason Check In: Syracuse Orange Host All-Star Alumni Players

On Saturday, October 4, the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team had their first official fall event which is a new annual tradition.  For the fifth consecutive year, the team has squared off against a team of alumni all-stars.  The alumni were showcasing one of their most talented ( groups yet, so this would prove to be an excellent challenge for the Orange who are looking to put last year’s first round exit behind them and get back into playing on Memorial Day.

Before the game, a nearby fan stated confidently “The alumni should win this, and it shouldn’t be close”.  Many around him we all too eager to agree and who could blame them?  The alumni were bringing four out of seven of the MLL’s top defense of 2014 in John Galloway, John Lade, Joel White and Steve Ianzito along with Team USA’s Matt Abbot, his fellow Bayhawk Brian Megill, and former Rattlers Tom Guadagnolo and Kevin Drew.  On offense, they had MLL MVP Casey Powell, former Tewaaraton winner Mike Leveille, and from the New York Lizards middie JoJo Marasco and attackman Tommy Palesek.  For faceoffs, last year’s Orange FOGO Chris Daddio took most of the draws while Drew Jenkins (who dominated the World Games ground ball stat with Bermuda) was ready to step in as well.  To say this group was talented is an understatement, and we’re not even to the team that should start the year in everyone’s top five rankings.

The big questions fans wanted answered with this team are around goalies and face-offs.  Chris Daddio had plenty of bad press last year for the Orange at the faceoff X.  But as the season wore on, he not only was winning faceoffs, but he was winning the ones they needed most.  Replacing him is a huge question mark and the Orange have a virtual army ready to take over.  They would use five different players at the X on the day. Transfers Ben Williams (4-7) and Zach Vehar (3-4) fared well while Joe DeMarco (4-4) had a great showing.  Williams was the one at the start the rotation for the day.  Returning players Austin Wentworth and Mike Iacono both went 0-2.  For the new guys to do well with little time being in the Syracuse system and working with new wings, there is promise here.

In goal, Syracuse used a rotation at halftime for most games in 2014 with senior Bobby Wardwell being the one still left on campus.  Coach John Desko made no secret that last year they had great goalies waiting for their shot.  With Dom Lamolinara graduating, there was still pressure on Wardwell and no way he would just assume the starting spot.  To make things even more interesting, OCC transfer and NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year Warren Hill is now on campus, fresh off an impressive world games performance with the Iroquois Nationals where he officially caught the lacrosse world’s attention.  Wardwell wound up starting the game, with Hill taking the second quarter, Parker Ferrigan the third and Evan Molloy wrapped things up.  Only Ferrigan let in a goal he likely wishes he could have back.  All keepers were very solid in cage including a few doorstop saves against those accomplished finishers on the alumni side.  Desko will not have an easy decision as the season approaches and he showed off four very good options.

Defense was the position with the least amount of turnover, losing only captain Matt Harris from the long pole corps.  Brandon Mullins anchored the group that held the alumni to only five goals through four quarters.  Think about that number for a moment.  This unit, even while rotating in players throughout the day, only gave up five goals to a group that had only three of their many players combine for 78 goals on the MLL season.  Even more impressive is that only one of those goals was assisted while also having a new goalie in net every quarter.  Another promising observation was the defense did not exhibit the clearing struggles they had at the beginning of last season.

At the other end of the field, three of the top nine scorers departed.  Another three of the top returners (Nicky Galasso, Henry Schoonmaker and Randy Staats) sat this event out.  Kevin Rice picked up right where he left off last year and finished with six points on the day, better than his average of five last season.  Dylan Donahue also chipped in a pair of goals off of Rice assists as well as providing two helpers of his own.  NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year and OCC Transfer Tim Barber proved to be ready to make the D1 jump with a goal and an assist.  Returning players Nick Weston (1-1), Sergio Salcido (1-0), Jordan Evans (1-0) and J.T. Forkin (1-0) also contributed for the Orange.

After the four quarters, an extra running time extra period was played.  The Orange had goals from Brenny Daly and Gale Thorpe while the alumni had tallies from Powell, Megill and Drew.

While this game had the opportunity to be a light hearted event, both sides took the game very seriously and played solid, competitive lacrosse.  Penalties were frequent, including multiple slashes and illegal body checks.  The alumni defense made the most plays to start the game by knocking down cross crease feeds, intercepting passes and disrupting the offensive possessions.  The first half ended with a 2-2 tie before the floodgates opened in the third quarter.  The fan was correct, that this game wasn’t even close.  But fortunately for Orange fans, he had the teams wrong.

There is still one more event this fall to take in for Syracuse.  On October 11, the Orange will travel to the HEADstrong Foundation Nicholas Colleluori Fall Lacrosse Classic to take on Bellarmine and Binghamton.