3 things Syracuse men’s lacrosse head coach John Desko said at media day
Hannah Wagner | Staff Photographer
Syracuse head coach John Desko addressed the media on Monday ahead of the 2017 campaign. He enters his 19th season at the helm of Syracuse, which finished last year 12-5 as Atlantic Coast Conference champions before falling to No. 1 Maryland in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. Ranked No. 7 in the 2017 Inside Lacrosse Face-Off Yearbook Top 20, SU returns three All-Americans, seven players who started at least one game last season and 20 players who saw action in 10 games.
The Orange, which has won back-to-back Atlantic Coast Conference championships, begins the year with a conditioning run on Tuesday and the first official practice on Wednesday. The regular season opener is Feb. 11 versus Siena at home.
Here are three notable things Desko said at the men’s lacrosse media day event Monday afternoon.
With Dylan Donahue gone, Jordan Evans has to be the top guy
Last year’s leading points-getter, redshirt senior attack Dylan Donahue, is gone. So too is Tim Barber, who combined with Donahue to account for 104 points in 2016. That leaves senior Jordan Evans as the team’s lone returner at attack.
“He’s got to step into a whole new role,” Desko said. “This year, he’s got to be the top guy. He’s extremely knowledgeable of our offenses, man-ups and so on, so that will help him. He’s got to take that next step and be a threat at the end of the field.”
Evans played only second midfield line and defense as a freshman, but he ranked fifth on the team last year with 27 goals at the attack position.
Even though he’ll be flanked by sophomores Nate Solomon and Devin Shewell, Evans will captain much of the offense. He started in all 17 games last year as a junior, scoring his 27 goals on a 37.5 shot percentage that placed best among Syracuse starters. He was guarded by the other team’s second or third best defender, but this year should garner the opposition’s top defender.
The freshman class is strong
For years, Syracuse has relied on a talented crop of freshmen to step in right away and contribute. The same holds true this year. Fourteen freshmen are rostered, many of whom Desko expects to see in games this spring.
At midfield, 5-foot-10, 178-pound Jamie Trimboli and 6-foot-3, 197-pound Peter Dearth could help replace some of former starting midfielder Derek DeJoe’s minutes and bolster SU’s midfield overall, which will again run through Nick Mariano and Sergio Salcido. Desko has also been impressed by a pair of underclassmen in Logan Wisnauskas and Shewell. The Boys Latin (Maryland) products will both play attack for SU, which graduated two of its starting attacks last year in Dylan Donahue and Tim Barber.
Redshirt freshman Andrew Helmer, a long stick midfielder who earned USA Today first-team All-American honors as a high school senior in 2015, did not see any game action last year but will likely get significant time this season. On defense, heralded freshman defender Brett Kennedy may not play at all due to an injury he sustained in the fall.
“We’ve got some very good young players,” Desko said. “We’ll be wrestling with some of the guys that are returning and trying to get some of the younger guys in there in the future because we feel like we’ve got some good talent in our freshmen class — if not for right now, definitely for our future.”
Nick Mellen, Syracuse’s best defender, is not yet ready for practice
Sophomore defender Nick Mellen will not practice with the team on Wednesday, as he recovers from an injury he sustained in the fall. In September, Desko said Mellen would miss the entire fall but would be ready by the start of the 2017 season. Desko said Mellen is working to get back by next month’s opener.
The 5-foot-9, 177-pound West Genesee (New York) High School product is Syracuse’s most experienced defender, starting 16 games last year. With starting defenders Brandon Mullins and Jay McDermott gone, Mellen will lead the defense when healthy. His quickness helps him stay with the country’s best, such as Albany’s Connor Fields, whom Mellen shut down last year and will likely cover again this year.
Mellen may not match up against bigger opposing attacks, Desko said, but will cover the other team’s best player most games this season. It’s a role he’s familiar with and one he thrived in a year ago, save for the NCAA quarterfinal game, when former SU attack Dylan Maltz scored three goals for No. 1 Maryland.
“He’s got an ability to cover a real quick guy and there are plenty of those guys out there this year,” Desko said. “Mellen is the sole returner, he’s going to cover probably the best guy every game. He has great footwork, but he needs to get rid of some of the mistakes, some of the freshmen mistakes he made off the ball.”
“We’re hoping we can get him back pretty quickly,” Desko added. “He’s not going to be here for practice right away but he’s starting to work out and we’ll see how it goes. … The sooner we get him back, the better we’ll be.”
Published on January 9, 2017 at 10:08 pm