Outside of writing for this site and being an actual college student, I’m one of the managers for the Syracuse Orange Men’s Lacrosse team. Most of you already know the Orange lost to Towson, 10-7, in the NCAA Quarterfinals for the third straight season. They finished 13-3 with an ACC regular season championship.
This piece will be something different. It won’t be me writing about how the season went for the team and looking at what the team needs to do for next season. This will take you through the season through my eyes, as a manager for this special squad.
I’m not 100% sure where to start, but I guess it’ll be about the team as a whole. I think every player grew in some way this year. Some players didn’t even play due to injuries or redshirts, but they all played a huge part to our success this year, even if it was just on scout team.
If you asked me where we would finish this year, I would’ve guessed we would not make it past the First Round and barely even make the ACC Tournament. I was unsure of how we would be after losing guys like Dylan Donahue and Tim Barber from attack and pretty much our entire starting defense, since Nick Mellen was injured for the entire season.
How would we respond? Who would step up? Turns out, everyone did in their own way.
At attack, sophomore Nate Solomon grew into a starting role and was tied for second on the team with 28 goals. Anywhere you go, the kid’s always smiling. And he’s not just a kid for the ATL. Also tied with him in goals was Brendan Bomberry, a transfer for Denver who made an impact and made a midseason switch from midfield down to attack. He also made a bunch of new uncles for his son, Jagger. And finally was #22 himself, Jordan Evans, who was third on the team in points with 44. I’ll discuss him and the other seniors more later. Other impact guys included man-up specialist Bradley Voigt and Stephen Rehfuss, who has gotten plenty of new fans this season with his stellar play coming into games. He was sixth on the team with 25 points.
Moving up to the midfield, offensively first. Where else to begin but the senior tandem of Sergio Salcido and Nick Mariano, the top-two point getters on this team. Salcido led the team in assists, while “Cherry” led the team in goals. And they helped train hopefully the next great Orange midfielder midway through in freshman Jamie Trimboli, who scored 13 times this season. Who knew that a freshman from nearby Victor in his first ever start would be the one who would beat Duke. On the second midfield, we had Matt Lane, who was also on the man-up unit and had his career game against Virginia in the throwback unis (freshest uniforms in the sport), along with Ryan Simmons, and Pat Carlin. And there was a freshmen trio of third midfielders that got some time here and there in Peter Dearth, who also got plenty of time as a short stick defensive midfielder, Riley O’Sullivan, and Sam Romano. You should certainly see them in a larger role for next season.
The defense was a great surprise this year. There were plenty of question marks to enter the season, and although they didn’t look hot at times, they held their own throughout the season. Sophomore Tyson Bomberry was not only a strong defenseman, but he was also one who could travel down the field and throw a laser. He did that twice by the way. Marcus Cunningham got some more experience as well and got better as the season went on. And the final starter, we like to call him as “The Phantom.” Scott Firman, who was a high school teammate of Evans, faced many challenges to begin the season, as he moved from LSM to close defense again for the second time since high school, and took on the challenge of wearing #11, the defense’s version of #22 while also anchoring a young and inexperienced unit. And just like at LSM, “The Phantom” flourished, and he should be a First Team All-American when the USILA list comes out. A dream for a young fifth grader came true this year. Freshman Nick DiPietro also came in multiple times during the season, replacing Cunningham for some games and even getting some work on man-down.
The d-middies were important leaders on this team. At short stick, Paolo Ciferri and Joe Gillis were a fun pair to be around off the field, and a lethal pair to face on it. Last year, Gillis did a lot of the d-middie scoring, but this year, Ciferri did most of it. He scored twice against North Carolina in the regular season (including the tying goal), and an important goal against Johns Hopkins. Kevin Hutchings joined the crowd as well as the third option, and we also saw action from Dearth and fellow classmate Devon Sullivan at times, with Luke Schwasnick primarily being a big body and a GB vacuum on the wings during face-offs. At long stick, Austin Fusco took primary LSM duties very well, and also became a vocal leader in the locker room. Big things are ahead for the redshirt-sophomore. The “Warthog”, Andrew Helmer, was the secondary LSM, but provided as many caused turnovers as Fusco (eight). Laz Chavez and Jonah Swigart (we liked to call him Sloth) also got some time during the season.
Since I mentioned face-off wings, I’ll transition to the FOGOs and one of the top dogs in the country the past three seasons in Ben Williams. Although it wasn’t the same Ben as in the past, he still worked hard on his craft every day in practice with the rest of the “Sandbox,” including freshman Dan Varello, who played a huge role in the Duke game when Ben wasn’t doing so hot. He’s also a pretty funny guy. Cal Paduda got some draws and played some wing as well, and Joe DeMarco became a big glue guy for the team, and the head of one of the top lacrosse Instagram accounts out there (follow them). I would be ashamed if I didn’t mention Nick Martin along with the other Sandbox guys, as he also played some defense this year in a few games.
Finally, if you’re looking for a real underdog story, look no further than Evan Molloy. A vocal leader in the cage, he finally got his chance to shine midway through last season. He was also the most charismatic goalie in the nation, from the mustache, to the John Wall, to coming up with the “doffense” nickname (pronounced do-fence) to promote the defense’s transition abilities, he was a great character. Dom Madonna and Drake Porter also show a great future in cage, along with Luke Strang and Willie Klan.
So many guys I mentioned already, and there are others that also deserve some love, like Logan Wisnauskas and Brad McKinney. Moreover, other staff members such as our head trainer, Troy, equipment manager George, and our strength & conditioning coach Muscles Matt (who wrote a great piece earlier in the season on how he coaches a sport he never even played) were integral to our success this year. Recently, Muscles picked up a lacrosse stick and has done some wall-ball sessions, a few games of catch, and even had a pick-up shooting session today with myself and another trainer. While he helps maximize every player’s potential working out, he’s working on maximizing his potential with a crosse. He’s getting better and better every day. Luckily, I’ll get one more year with a majority of these guys.
I mentioned I would get to the seniors more in depth earlier in this piece. They’ve been a big part of my experience with the program for the past three years. They’ve set the tone for years to come as well with their work ethic and leadership. Even though they never got the chance to go to Championship Weekend, they always put the team first before their own selves, and left a lasting legacy on the program.
I’ve spent a ton of time around this senior class; whether it was on road trips, celebrating after games, grabbing food, or just hanging out after practice or class, some of my favorite moments while at Syracuse were spent with this group of guys. They were some of the first people to reach out to me when I suddenly went home for a week after my grandfather passed away last fall. They pushed everyone to be at their best at all times throughout the season, and made sure everyone was in line as well. With their leadership, the team helped exemplified our “Head Heart Hustle” motto, as they brought all three each and every game they put the “S” on their head.
Words can’t really describe how much this year’s seniors have done for everyone, including myself. It sucks to lose, especially when you don’t reach your ultimate goal and realize you have to start all over next season. But it stings even more this year given how hard these seniors worked to get back to Championship Weekend, let alone a championship. I’ve been in a somber mood since the end of the game yesterday afternoon. I don’t know when my mood will change; it probably will return once I get to Gillette Stadium on Friday for Championship Weekend. Hugging every senior after the game was very emotional and difficult, as I knew it would be the last time we would be with each other for a game.
Nothing felt right after the final horn sounded. The loss ate at me the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. I wanted to see the seniors end their careers on the highest note possible on the biggest stage for the sport. Despite my initial expectations to start the season, I thought this would be our year. Each time we were down, we fought back. We never gave up, even if we were down nine goals at halftime, and I thought we had a few more fights left before we parted ways. But that wasn’t the case.
Some members of the media and fans might have some thoughts on Evans and his play all four years. But even though he wasn’t a captain this year, he wasn’t the player some people thought he would turn out to be, and he was supposed to be a part of a championship team, in my eyes, he’s the strongest player on this team. I’m not talking about physical strength here either, although the kid is ripped. He’s dealt with so much criticism from nearly everywhere because of the #22 he wore on his chest and back. He’s taken it and pushed it aside and played on. He was a pro’s pro after games as well, especially with the younger fans. He was one of the first friendly faces I got to meet when I first came up to Cuse. He’s headed out West to Utah to start at his new job, and I wish him the best of luck.
Last, but certainly not least, Coach John Desko and his staff of Kevin Donahue, Lelan Rogers, and Steve Scaramuzzino, along with Roy Simmons III, our Director of Operations, have done a sensational job with this group of players this year. Desko and the staff got each player to push themselves and play to the best of their ability. There’s a reason he’s won the ACC Coach of the Year award three straight seasons. So for those who are calling for Desko to leave, that’s not happening anytime soon.
I’ll miss the seniors dearly and can’t wait to see (hopefully) all of them come Alumni Weekend. 2017 was a great season filled with plenty of ups and downs, and I hope there’s an enormous comeback in store for 2018. Just 129 days (from when this was published) until 440’s.