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The Real Reason Why Syracuse Lax Has Become an ACC Cellar Dweller

Courtesy: Dennis Nett of syracuse.com

The worst season in Syracuse men’s lacrosse history is finally over. We all knew this was a program in rebuild mode coming into the season. What we did not know is that the house that needed a remodel needed to be completely gutted and bulldozed. This SU team brought in some high level architects in Gary Gait and Dave Pietramala but there isn’t even a foundation built after year one.

This Roster Does Not Belong in the ACC

It was clear which teams were elite in the conference this year and which ones weren’t. Notre Dame and Virginia were the best teams the conference had to offer from the onset of the 2022 campaign. ND and UVA blitzed through the ACC and dismantled Syracuse in each meeting. The combined score of ‘Cuse vs the Golden Domers and Wahoos was 80-43. 

Syracuse couldn’t even beat a mediocre North Carolina squad when it had a 13-12 lead with two minutes left in the game. Yeah, Gait and Company found a way to upset Duke 14-10 in the Dome in the best game the team played all season. However, non-conference losses to UAlbany, Johns Hopkins, and Cornell really tarnish that victory. I’m not even sure that Syracuse would win the America East conference at this point.

The Desko Recruiting Woes Crippled this Program 

Recruiting should never really be a problem at a place like Syracuse but it is. There’s a couple of different points to this takeaway. Lack of elite talent in the past half decade, lack of development of top 100 talent, and attrition of talent.

In the past six recruiting cycles, Syracuse has had a grand total of ONE top 10 recruit in the Inside Lacrosse database. That lone blue chipper is Owen Hiltz who just missed his sophomore season with an injury. Other than that, the talent is populating the ACC teams that have been a terror for the Orange in the past few years. 

John Desko didn’t exactly leave this program in a good spot from a team talent standpoint. Why can’t SU recruit elite talent? Well who wants to play from a program that hasn’t won the ACC regular season title since 2016 and hasn’t reached double digit wins since 2017. 

Over the same six year period, SU has accumulated 19 top-100 recruits, per Inside Lacrosse. For reference, Virginia snagged 14 top-100 recruits in just its 2019 and 2020 recruiting classes. Lacrosse is one of those sports where talent and prestige is extremely important and is one of those sports where recruiting rankings actually do matter. 

If ‘Cuse wants to get better it needs to recruit at a higher level and give prospecs more reasons to pledge to SU other than the fact that the program was sick in the 80’s and 90’s. 

2016: Jamie Trimboli, Nick DiPietro, Logan Wisnauskas, Peter Dearth

So now let’s move to lack of development and attrition because those can go hand in hand. Syracuse’s 2016 class featured Jamie Trimboli, Nick DiPietro, Logan Wisnauskas, and Peter Dearth. Trimboli, DiPietro, and Dearth all had solid careers on the Hill. The Orange really would have benefited from DiPietro being healthy this season. 

Trimboli and Dearth ended up getting drafted to the PLL. Does the name Logan Wisnauskas ring a bell? Well it should. The attacker transferred from SU to Maryland and just won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. The Boys Latin High School product also lit up the ‘Cuse to the tune of 4 goals and an assist back in February, woof…

2017: Lucas Quinn, Owen Seebold, Tucker Dordevic, Brendan Curry, Troy Lauder, Jared Fernandez

On paper this was a very solid class but honestly it tells the tale of the 2022 season. Four of these players became the leaders of the squad. In the case of Dordevic and Curry that definitely showed as they were one and two in points for Syracuse. 

In the cases of Quinn and Seebold not so much. They both ended up having respectable careers but not to the level of their expectations coming to the Hill. Quinn was a career second line midfielder until this year but an injury tarnished his senior season.  

Seebold really struggled to find playing time until the end of his career. The Texan was a reserve attackman who finally got his shot when Chase Scanlan was dismissed from the team. Seebold definitely had a solid senior season finishing fourth on the team in points, but he was too inconsistent in the big games in ‘22 and wasn’t enough of an impact player in his other 2 and a half years. 

Then there’s the names Troy Lauder and Jared Fernandez. Lauder left the SU program before the 2020 season after making little to no impact for the program. Fernandez on the other hand was a big time player for Syracuse. The LSM played in 13 of 14 games in 2019 and all of the shortened 2020 season. However, Fernandez surprisingly transferred to Johns Hopkins before the 2021 season. As a result, the LSM position has really struggled the past two years. 

2018: Griffin Cook

One singular top 100 commit in 2018?! That’s just completely unacceptable for an ACC school. Six of the top 10 recruits went to other ACC schools. This is another critical reason why SU simply looks like it doesn’t belong on the field with the conference’s elite right now. The jury is still out on Griffin Cook. The CNY native was a big contributor in 2020 but saw minimal playing time in 2021 and moved to midfield last season before having his season cut short due to injury. 

2019: JJ Levandowski, Brandon Aviles, Harrison Thompson

So one offensive player, a short stick defensive mid, and a goalie. No wonder this team had no potent goal scorers not named Tucker Dordevic and Brendan Curry this year. What’s funny is that Levandowski isn’t even here anymore, he transferred to Vermont before the 2020 season. The midfielder scored two goals against Syracuse last year. 

What other recruits were available in this 2019 cycle? Connor Shellenberger (UVA), Dyson Williams (Duke), Liam Entenmann (Notre Dame), Pat Kavanagh, Jake Taylor (Notre Dame), Dylan Pallonetti (Maryland>Stony Brook). LOL.

2020: Owen Hiltz, Jackson Birtwistle, Caden Kol

This class looks pretty solid so far. Hiltz was an injection of life with 29 goals in 2021, he’ll be back (we hope?) in 2022. Birtwistle ended the season on a tear. The redshirt-frosh led SU in scoring against UVA and Notre Dame with eight combined goals.  

The former top-100 recruit played midfield for some reason for the majority of the season. The Pennsylvania native finally replaced Mikey Berkman against Virginia but it was far too late by then. Birtwistle is a bright spot heading into 2022 at attack.

Caden Kol appeared in nine games this past year but that’s the extent of the impact he made on this team. 

2021: Blake Borges, Carter Rice

Borges was ranked the #89 recruit, while Rice barely made the top-100 at 99. This goes back to our discussion about lack of elite talent. Borges has yet to even touch the field for Syracuse. Rice had a solid freshman season flashing his abilities as an SSDM and a distributor in transition. However, the Massachusetts native has a long way to go on the defensive end. 

As you can clearly see this 4-10 season was premeditated. Syracuse has been dismal in its recruiting efforts for the past half decade and that’s the reason why this team hasn’t won the ACC regular season title in half a decade. SU hasn’t attracted top talent, developed the talent they had, nor have they kept some players that ended up being elite elsewhere. Gary Gait has one hell of a job ahead of him to rejuvenate this program. Luckily a top 4 class is on its way in for the 2023 season. 

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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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