he foundation of Nate Solomon’s success was poured circa 2006, when Casey Powell took notice of the kid with a knack for putting the ball in the net. At a clinic run by Powell, SU’s four-time All-American, Solomon’s nifty handle for the game stood out. He was 9 or 10.
It’s not the only time Solomon has impressed. By now every lacrosse player from Georgia knows the legend of Nate Solomon. That he put up video game numbers — third all-time nationally in points, 623, and fourth all-time in assists, 297 — at Centennial High School. That he was the 2014 and 2015 state player of the year. That he was so fast, so elusive, so nimble around the goal, he often rendered double and triple teams pointless.
Left as an afterthought for most top college programs, Solomon will slide into No. 6 Syracuse’s starting attack this year. He’s the first SU player to hail from Georgia and the pioneer for a crop of young talent from a state beginning to take stage in the national landscape. As he rose to stardom, Georgia high school lacrosse popped on the map.
With everything going his way, Solomon’s goal hasn’t changed since he jotted a note to himself in kindergarten: earn All-American honors at Syracuse. He wants to carry the Orange in much the same way Powell did.
“That was big,” Solomon said. “He really showed me the way.”
Courtesy of the Solomon family
The path Solomon forged began with a pair of fiddle sticks, makeshift lacrosse sticks he toyed with until he got physically big enough to buy a kid’s size at the store. His idea of a well-spent Saturday afternoon was peppering shots at his net, where he played in the Georgia heat until sunset.
Solomon grew up in Alpharetta, Georgia, about 25 miles north of Atlanta. Throughout middle school, neighbors strolling by his front yard stopped when their eyes met his lacrosse net. “We got a lot of questions, like, ‘What the hell is that?’” Solomon’s father, Neal, said.
When he reached first grade, Solomon began to watch SU games on TV. In high school, he studied Syracuse greats, including most recent star attacks Dylan Donahue and Kevin Rice. Solomon admired how they dodged, how they moved off ball and how they felt their defender’s stick. He began to fall in love with a sport where it was hardly recognizable.
Rooted in Solomon’s background are direct ties to Syracuse that, over time, made a skinny kid from the South a natural fit for SU. His mother, Nanci, grew up in DeWitt and rode her bike to watch Syracuse lacrosse teams practice inside Manley Field House. His father, Neal, is from Manlius, and has worn Syracuse sweatshirts, shorts and T-shirts since leaving the area. That exposed Solomon to SU.
Powell was one of the first to introduce the sport to him. Hanging on a wall in Solomon’s home bedroom is a signed jersey of his. Former SU All-American Liam Banks coached Solomon for years at his LB3 lacrosse academy. Solomon also is the nephew of former Syracuse football coach Paul Pasqualoni.
Solomon’s younger brother, Nick, committed to North Carolina before he stepped foot in high school. Nate Solomon didn’t get offers from top schools. Hailing from a place still untapped in the lacrosse world wouldn’t work at Division I powers, coaches told him.
The four-year varsity starter and three-time high school All-American built on his 100-goal freshman season. Harvard, Dartmouth and Lehigh wanted him. He fell in love with the Big Green’s coaching stuff until he decommitted after a coaching change.
One day as a junior, Solomon lit up a tournament in a Philadelphia suburb. When he saw SU assistant coach Kevin Donahue show up, Solomon put his head down. He mowed through the defense to score seven straight goals. Afterward, a coach asked him if he wanted to play at Syracuse. Incredulous, Solomon chuckled.
“I’m serious — you need to call Syracuse right now,” the coach told him.
Soon he committed to SU. Hidden beneath his facemask was an ear-to-ear smile that belied the get-at-the-goal mentality he still harnesses today. On the lacrosse field, Solomon plays bigger than his 5-foot-10, 178-pound frame. Getting overlooked by Northeast schools fuels him. Against North Carolina in last year’s ACC title game, Solomon scored a pair of goals to lead Syracuse to the win only 20 miles from where he grew up.
Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor Editor
In rising to stardom, Solomon has set a new standard in Fulton County and beyond. He became the first player from Banks’ lacrosse academy to play Division I. (He wears No. 3 at SU, reminding him of Banks.) Eleven others have since pledged to DI programs. At his high school, there are now Maryland, UNC, Rutgers and Siena commits on the team. During his freshman year in 2012, there were 72 high school lacrosse teams statewide. Now there are 110.
“Some people say, ‘Who is this kid from the South?’” Bryan Wallace, his high school coach, said. “But he’s like our Tom Brady.”
Solomon has zero starts on his resume, so 2017 is far from a make-or-break year. And yet there is a sense that this is the season for him to step forward. Georgia’s most enthralling prospect is ready to take off. The sophomore attack will start this season and should pose a dangerous threat to opponent defenses for an SU team amid its longest-ever title drought.
“We’re going to need to lean on him throughout this season,” redshirt junior midfielder Matt Lane said. “He’ll be a great player here for years to come.”
Banner photo by Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor
Published on February 9, 2017 at 12:11 am