Just a day removed from Syracuse men’s lacrosse’s season finale, Orange fans and lacrosse enthusiasts received some surprising news. Tucker Dordevic, Syracuse’s midfielder-turned-attackman who led the team in scoring this season, announced early Monday morning his intention to enter the transfer portal.
Dordevic’s hasty exit not even 24 hours removed from SU’s 18-11 season-finale loss to Notre Dame is yet another sign of trouble for a program still seeking to get out of a stormy recent past. The Oregon native was one of the final holdovers from Syracuse’s 2020 squad that finished at No. 1 in an abbreviated year and one of the cogs in a troubled 2021 squad that dealt with controversy and underachievement on its way to a first-round NCAA Tournament exit. This past season, Dordevic moved from his natural midfield spot to be the leading attackman for the Orange offense, and put up career-highs with 59 points and 47 goals.
With Dordevic now presumably gone, Syracuse will have to carve out a new identity next season. The bad news is that such a thing might not be so easy. In essence, a bad Orange team just lost its best player, and that distinction wasn’t particularly close last season. Attackman Owen Hiltz will be a junior next season and the de facto elder statesman of the offense, but he’ll be coming off an injury that cost him the entire ’22 season. Syracuse’s incoming recruiting class is ranked No. 4 in the nation and boasts the top player in the class in Joey Spallina, but expecting freshmen to come in and overhaul a squad against elite ACC competition is a foolish bet. Dordevic could’ve been a tested leader for that incoming group, too.
Dordevic is clearly within his right to seek greener pastures in his final year of eligibility, but the implications for Syracuse are what should bother you. Gary Gait is clearly a capable coach, but the 2022 Orange – a 4-10 squad that put up the first double-digit loss season in 107 years of program history – are a blotch on his record. Dordevic’s quick decision to jump ship only darkens that stain, and should make you wonder whether he simply didn’t want to stick around for a painful ’23 season or if there were other negatives at play in his decision. The redshirt-junior’s play during the year elevated SU, but even he suffered from the type of deficiencies (namely turnover problems) that were too often exploited by Syracuse’s opponents. At this point, SU fans should hope that no one else joins him in the portal.
After two relatively joyless years of men’s lacrosse on The Hill, a tournament absence may ultimately be what Syracuse needed this year. For a team that came close-but-not-quite too many times in ’22, a fresh outlook, new identity, and plenty of time to reset should benefit Gait and company as they look towards 2023.