When the nation‚Äôs most storied lax program spirals into mediocrity and nearly misses the playoffs, people start to pay attention. Syracuse might have been up against more than just better teams.¬†The Fizz¬†wondered at the possibility that John Desko & co.weren‚Äôt going after the right guys on the recruiting trail, or that Capitol-region programs like¬†Maryland and Hopkins still held grudges¬†from getting slapped around by the Orange in the ‚Äò80s.
This year, SU loses more firepower. Gone are Syracuse’s most potent scorer, Tommy Palasek, and it‚Äôs offensive leader, Tim Desko. Already a program struggling to remain a contender, SU needed a strong incoming class to build another championship foundation.
The good news is Syracuse brought in the #9 ranked class in the country according to InsideLacrosse.com. The bad news is that UNC, Hopkins, Virginia, Harvard, and Duke all came in higher on the list. That said, rankings can only tell so much about a player – some guys adapt to a team‚Äôs system and are much more successful than expected.
With SU moving to the ACC next year it‚Äôll be competing against the nation‚Äôs best. Johns Hopkins, Virginia, Notre Dame (eventually), Syracuse, Maryland, Duke, and UNC all playing each other multiple times per year and for the conference title? Even if you‚Äôre not a diehard college lax fan, you have to appreciate the unreal competition that‚Äôs set up to deliver some of the best lacrosse anyone has ever seen.
SU in the ACC also means Desko has to recruit against the best programs in the country – and if Syracuse doesn‚Äôt win a given player, it‚Äôs likely going to be lining up across from him when the season starts. With almost every lax power in the nation grouped in one conference, Syracuse will either win top recruits or play against them.
In the Big East SU could previously afford to miss on top recruits because its schedule is full of cupcake Big East teams like Providence and St. Johns. After this final year in the BE, there won’t be nearly as many easy wins.
So is this #9 class what the Orange needs to get back on track? There‚Äôs plenty to be excited about. SU welcomes the #15 defender in the country, Ryan Palasek (Tommy‚Äôs little bro) to the squad. John Desko loses his son Tim, but gains his nephew Jeff (pictured), who is a USLacrosse All-American that helped St. Johns-Shrewsbury HS to two Central Massachusetts titles.
But the most important recruit in the 14-man class is Connor Pequigney, the 6th¬†ranked face-off specialist in the nation according to ESPNHS. Peq dominated at X in high school, winning more than half of the draws he took.¬†SU faced-off like a middle school team last year, which was the primary reason it had trouble winning games. If CP pans out, those troubles might be alleviated for the next four years. Seems strange that the fate of a team can rest on the shoulders of one guy winning possession, but that‚Äôs how it works in lacrosse. If SU can win possession, it has all the tools to wipe teams off the map.
Only time will tell if this class is this missing link needed to rebound from SU‚Äôs forgettable showing last year. With a top ten class highlighted by a top ten face off man, SU may have snagged just what it needed.
Posted: Jake Moskowitz