Syracuse's 95th season on the lacrosse field could be its most challenging. And that's saying something.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
February 10: Siena; April 2: Binghamton; April 19: @Hobart; May 3: Colgate
The volume of battle axes that dot Syracuse’s schedule is the flashpoint for determining how difficult the Orange’s 2014 slate is, but the real difficulty in Syracuse’s agenda for the coming spring is that the team’s “breather” games are far from that: Siena poses a problem right at the start, throwing Conor Prunty, Colin Clive, and Richie Hurley at an Orange team that is going to enter 2014 with lots of strong parts but an unclear assembly; Hobart still has Alex Love, Cam Stone, and Peter Zonino, the core of a team that upset Syracuse last season in the Carrier Dome; Colgate is going to be spitting fire in the spring after a 2013 that didn’t quite meet the Raiders' expectations (and Ryan Walsh and Bobby Lawrence are still crushing skulls in Hamilton); and Binghamton, while arguably the easiest date of the bunch, took some important strides last season. These are supposed to be the game’s where the Orange can potentially rest contributors; instead, Syracuse could face bar brawls where everyone needs to jump in and protect Syracuse’s back.
Road to Perdition
February 28: @Virginia; March 8: v. St. John’s (at Kennesaw, G.A.); March 15: @Johns Hopkins; March 23: @Duke
That’s four consecutive weeks on the road against competition ranked in the top 20 of Face-Off Yearbook’s preseason rankings. Woof. The wear and tear that Syracuse will experience during that stretch of the season is difficult: Those are long trips –- regardless of whether they’re on a plane or on a bus –- and that could create some serious fatigue throughout the month of March. The Orange will know exactly what it will face in each of those games –- retribution from Virginia after a difficult 2013 campaign from the Cavaliers; a lightning bolt offense from the Johnnies; a recuperating Blue Jays team that were the victims of a bloodbath in the Carrier Dome last year; and a Duke team that will hope to replicate the national championship last May –- but the logistics of somehow surviving this death march in difficult circumstances may help determine the Orange’s chances at coming out of this stretch relatively pain-free.
Stop Hitting Yourself
February 16: Albany; March 8: v. St. John’s (at Kennesaw, G.A.); March 15: @Johns Hopkins; April 8: @Cornell
This is where the whipsaw effect of conference realignment elevates Syracuse’s difficulty in existing: The Orange are required to keep dates open for five pipe-wielding sociopaths -- Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Virginia –- as well as the battle royal that will be the ACC Tournament, but also desire to keep certain nonconference opponents on the schedule. The end result? Four out-of-conference games against elite competition that is well-positioned to deliver grievous bodily injury to Syracuse. The Orange’s strength of schedule should skyrocket thanks to the combination of these circumstances, but this is still the kind of plan that forces relatively sane people to hold up an ice cream truck with a Wii gun. With a slate this difficult, there is a legitimate chance that the Orange could finish around .500 and still be considered a top 10-type of team. That’s nuts.