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Four Options to Replace Gary Gait as the Syracuse Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach

Photo Courtesy of SU Athletics

It’s not every day that coaching changes occur within the Syracuse lacrosse programs. Yet, yesterday, Inside Lacrosse broke the story that John Desko was retiring and Gary Gait would be taking over the men’s program. Gait will be just the fifth head coach in Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse history.

With his move to the men’s side, Gait is leaving a hole at the head of the women’s program, where he coached for more than a decade. So, now Athletic Director John Wildhack is tasked in finding a new head coach for Syracuse Women’s Lacrosse.

Twitter has gone crazy over the past 24 hours, throwing out plenty of names that could fill the role. However, there are four pretty consistent options that have risen to the top. Here are the pros and cons of each coach:

Michelle Tumolo – Wagner Head Coach

Tumolo’s biggest pro is something that none of the other coaching candidates have– youth and current playing experience. The other options are not old, in any sense of the word, but they are not as young as Tumolo. She is still playing and competing with Team USA. Having that experience helps on the sidelines and helps connect you with the players a little more. In addition, another pro for Tumolo is that she is a recent Syracuse grad and is an active alumnus.

On the flip side, Tumolo’s con is the same thing as her pro– she’s young and a less experienced than the other options. She’s only been at Wagner for 2.5 seasons (because of COVID). They have been successful seasons, but could she handle stepping up as the head coach of a top-five team in the country? That’s a serious question that Wildhack would have to ask himself.

Caitlin Defliese – Syracuse Assistant Coach

The pros for Defliese are pretty evident if you follow Syracuse Women’s Lacrosse. She has been an assistant at Syracuse since 2016, she played for the Orange back in the day, and she has experience as an associate head coach when she was at Stony Brook. Her experience with the current players cannot be replicated by any other option. Plus, she has built one of the best defenses in the entire country. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this past year’s defense was the best SU has ever seen in its history. Not to mention, she would be an in-family hire, which we know the Orange love to do.

The list of cons for Defliese is pretty short. She doesn’t have any head coaching experience, which could be a problem, especially with a roster that is in a “win-now” situation. Plus, she is predominantly a defensive-mind, which is fine, but SU would be losing a lot of offensive coaching if they went with Defliese.

Katie Rowan – UAlbany Head Coach

Rowan’s biggest pro is her experience. She has bounced around from multiple schools as both an assistant and head coach. She was an assistant under Gait at Syracuse for a season, was the head coach at Wagner for three years, and is now the head coach at UAlbany. The Great Danes are 25-16 under Rowan– consistently good, but not great. Plus, she is coming off a season where she earned America East Coach of the Year honors. Oh, and she’s another SU alum.

Rowan’s biggest con is the fact that as of recent her teams can never get over the hump. She won two conference championships at Wagner, a much smaller school, but the Great Danes have lost in both appearances in the America East championship under Rowan. They always can compete and have an above average record, but Syracuse demands more than a little above average. Now, you could argue that the recruiting lure of SU might help that, which it will, but it is still unknown if Rowan could produce at the highest level.

Joe Spallina – Stony Brook Head Coach

Spallina has a laundry list of pros for him to take over Syracuse. He is a five-time America East Coach of the Year, eight-time America East Champion, and was the head coach and general manager of an MLL team for almost a decade. Spallina is an elite-level recruiter with deep roots set up in Long Island, which is a hot-bed for lacrosse. Plus, he is arguably the best coach in the sport of women’s lacrosse at developing talent. He is known for bringing undervalued recruits and turning them into superstars, as exhibited in current players Taryn Ohlmiller and Ally Kennedy.

Spallina doesn’t come with many cons. He’s a brilliant and creative lacrosse mind, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Plus, have one conversation with him and you can see how great of a human being he is. The only con is that he doesn’t have a Syracuse background. Spallina went to Adelphi and stayed down-state for most of his life.

If I had my choice, I would rank these candidates:

  1. Joe Spallina
  2. Katie Rowan
  3. Caitlin Defliese
  4. Michelle Tumolo

However, the order that is more realistic for Wildhack, for a multitude of reasons, is:

  1. Caitlin Defliese
  2. Joe Spallina
  3. Katie Rowan
  4. Michelle Tumolo
The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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