John Desko’s Defensive Renaissance Ending For Syracuse Lacrosse?

Another year for ‘Cuse lax fans ending with a bit of uncertainty heading toward the future. A first round knockout, albeit to a solid Duke team, and the loss of some key seniors on the offensive end only seem to enhance my worries. What does the future hold for this young team (over 20 freshmen on the roster in 2012)? It’s not just a personnel issue for me; more of the general direction the team is headed. As a defensive player myself, no one was more thrilled to see the remodel that Lelan Rogers was brought in to facilitate after an abysmal 2007 campaign. And things didn’t just improve; you got a defense that propelled the team to back to back championships.

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At what point though, is a complete defensive resurgence not enough?

The way I see it is your game plan has to develop in response to your personnel, not the other way around. Making a defensive powerhouse out of a traditional run-and-gun team like Syracuse worked in 2008 because you had Kyle Guadagnolo, Sid Smith, Matt Tierney and John Galloway to support it. Not only that, but you had two blindingly fast d-middies, and a solid line of close defenders ready to step into their shoes. Now, the Syracuse team that was ranked in the top 5 nationally in scoring defense has been quietly dropping to the very edge of the top 20. Every great team has an off year (or couple of years), but what happens when that team is focused only on a defense that doesn’t have the All-Americans to back it up?

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It looks like Desko and company have already begun to see the light. Shifting Brian Megill to face off for a few games proved that much. It also exposed a lot of weaknesses for the Orange. They need to even out the scales in terms of which end of the field they focus on the most. Their lack of depth in all defensive positions is staring them down as they plan for the 2013 season. They need Megill to anchor the close defense and mentor kids like Brandon Mullins who showed some bright spots throughout the year. Young defenses can do great work and that was proven by how far Maryland got this year riding on the back of Goran Murray. The difference with the Terps however, is that their “young gun” defensive unit was starting all season. We also have to consider the goalie situation. Fact: while Bobby Wardwell is good, he’s no John Galloway. He doesn’t have the same ability in terms of his stops or potential to create fast break opportunities. There’s a reason a team keeps seven goalies on a roster: you’re unsure. I hate to break it to you, ‘Cuse, but you won the lottery when you found a 4-year starter like Galloway and lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place.

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Luckily, the Orange offense demonstrated some of the flare from the offensive days of the past. Derek Maltz had some great production (not to mention some highlight reel goals of his own) and can be that leader for the attack next year. The midfield may have lost the size advantage of Eilers, but Jojo Marasco and Hakeem Lecky will pick up the slack. Luke Cometti, Henry Schoonmaker, and Matt Pratt will all be household names if they can take part in filling that void. Matt Walters, the freshman from the Haverford School, shined on the extra man unit and will get the time he earned to show he’s not a one-trick pony. I hate using the term “role players”, but those will be the stars of next year’s Orange squad; the guys that don’t get all the media coverage.

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