Year 2 of the Gary Gait era at Syracuse is just a few weeks away. SU opens up its season against Vermont inside the Dome on February 4th. The ‘Cuse is trying to rebound after one of its worst season’s ever in 2022. The Orange finished 4-10 with a 1-5 showing in the ACC. Before the 2023 slate rolls in the Fizz is getting you prepared and ready with position unit previews. Let’s begin with the goal scorers.
SU’s roster features eight attackers with just one returner in Owen Hiltz. SU also returns names like Jackson Birtwistle and Griffin Cook but they both are listed as midfielders. Clearly there’s some turnover at this position but it’s nice to have the steady presence of Hiltz back.
The Canadien was a USILA All-American Honorable Mention as a freshman in 2021. The Ontario native posted 48 points with 29 goals when he started in the upper third. Hiltz is a very skilled passer and a precise shot placer which fuels his offensive arsenal.
Other than Hiltz, the experience is very low and limited. Names like Brett Tenaglia, John Cohen, Finn Kelly and Blake Erlbeck are back for another season. Those four players combined for just two goals in very limited time last year and don’t figure to play prominent roles this season.
SU brought in a solid transfer in Alex Simmons. You can read more about the Denver transfer here. Simmons played in 50 games and tallied 129 points with the Pios out in Colorado. The former top-100 recruit was a pre-season USILA All-American Honorable Mention heading into 2022 and has the experience coupled with the pedigree to succeed. Expect Hiltz and Simmons to lock down two of the attack spots.
The final two names in Syracuse’s attack room are some big ones: Joey Spallina and Finn Thomson. Both Spallina and Thomson were rated 5-star recruits by Inside Lacrosse.
Thomson is a former Michigan commit who instead pledged to SU. The freshman played his high school ball at St. Michael’s College School and Everest Academy. Both of those schools are well respected nationally. Gary Gait used his Canadien connections to steal the talented goal scorer from the Wolverines. Syracuse’s offensive coordinator, Pat March, expects Thomson to see time this season and predicts most of his damage to come from the wings and above goal line extended.
The other name is one that’s quite heralded in New York. Joey Spallina is the hottest name in lacrosse right now. The Long Islander was the top recruit in the 2022 class, according to Inside Lacrosse. Spallina played five years at Mount Sinai High School which is the same place that SU’s women’s laxers Meg Tyrell, Emma Tyrell, and Jenny Markey come from.
Spallina holds the Long Island record for points with 501 and was a two-time captain in high school. There aren’t many things to think positively about after such a dismal 2022 year. Coach Gait garnered a lot of hype and belief by reeling in USA Lacrosse Magazine’s National Player of the Year. The expectation is that the 5-11, 185 pound super frosh with play a massive role for this time and start from day one at “X” and quarterback this team.
Hiltz returning is huge for this team, he’s certainly a proven commodity that you know can produce. Simmons has shown his abilities at the D1 level already over at Denver. The hype might be real for Spallina and Thomson but it could take some time before the five-star duo breaks out for this team. Overall, this unit should be solid but a lot of its success hinges on how Simmons’ skillset translates to the ACC and how quickly Spallina, who’s going to suit up in the coveted #22, can adapt at the next level.
Stay tuned for midfield, defense, and goalie previews coming soon.