SU looks to avenge championship loss in 2014

After losing to Duke in the 2013 division 1 men's lacrosse championship, Syracuse has the makings of team ready for another title run, with depth on offense and defense.

A loss in the national title game isn’t something you ever forget, ever truly get over, especially not when a 6-1 lead against Duke evaporates, as face-off after face-off went the other way, the Orange’s offense forced to simply watch their season slip away.

Nearly eight months later, and the end seems like almost yesterday.

But even still, the men’s lacrosse team has fully embraced what could generously be described as an obsession. Listen to anyone associated with the program and the goal couldn’t possibly be clearer: get back to the biggest stage, and finish the job this time. It’s defined every moment until now, as the Orange get set to begin their 2014 campaign with a scrimmage against Le Moyne and Hofstra Saturday.

“Not that I didn’t work hard last year, but that extra bit, when I think I’m done in the offseason, I would just say ‘one more,’” senior goalie Dominic Lamolinara said during the lacrosse media day Jan. 6. “If I did that one more last year, maybe we would’ve won that championship. We were up 5-0, we thought we had it, and for that to be taken away from us was a terrible feeling that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I feel like the only way to right that would be to leave with one.”

On paper, it seems as though everything is in place for Lamolinara to do just that. The Orange are bringing back every starting attacker from last season equaling 155 points worth of experience. Couple that with one of the best recruiting classes in the country featuring the nation’s top overall recruit, Jamesville-Dewitt graduate Jordan Evans — a player so good he’s already been given Syracuse’s storied number 22.

“The number is going to bring a lot of pressure and a lot of expectation, but hopefully I can prove to people that it’s just a jersey and we are here to win,” Evans said during the lacrosse media day Jan. 6.. “It’s a team that’s here to prove something and get back to where we were last year, so hopefully we can get back to that and I can help this team move forward.”

Yet for all of that firepower, head coach John Desko that the Orange might even be stronger at the back end. Sean Young and Matt Harris return to anchor the defense along with Lamolinara, and that’s just the tip of the depth chart.

“I think it’s our strongest position, believe it or not," Desko said during the lacrosse media day Jan. 6. "We have a bunch of guys who can play there with [Peter] McCartney and Harris, who both did a great job last year. Peter’s come back and is playing better than he did last year, playing his best lacrosse so far. I’d be comfortable putting any number of those guys on the field. It may be our deepest position right now.”

Yet for all of that talent and experience, all that determination to make last year nothing more than a footnote, Syracuse is all too aware that nothing is guaranteed. There will be plenty of obstacles in the way of that journey, as Syracuse makes its move to the ACC — arguably the highest concentration of talent in any conference in any sport in the country. The Orange enter the year with the toughest schedule of any team in Division I: Conference foes Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Maryland are all ranked in the top six, and kick in Virginia at No. 9 for good measure. It’s entirely possible to miss the conference tournament and still make the NCAAs as an at-large, and all Syracuse can do is hope that by the end the gauntlet will pay off.

“It’s great,” junior attackman Kevin Rice said during the lacrosse media day Jan. 6. “It’s what gets you ready for that Memorial Day weekend when you’re likely to see two great teams back to back. We know we’ll see one of these teams probably two or three times; it’s a new challenge for us we’re looking forward to it.”

For now, though, there isn’t much but waiting and a lot of thinking. Even after the ball drops for the first time this weekend, that day against Duke will still be looming over every game and every opportunity. It’s almost as though the Orange don’t want to forget, because that loss is what will eventually push them over the top.

Rice gives a little smile when it’s mentioned, and admits a secret.

Said Rice: “We have an even bigger chip on our shoulder.”

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