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All eyes will be on the No. 1 ranked SU men's lacrosse team as the Orange aim for a third national championship in four years.

February cannot come fast enough for the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team. That’s when the Orange kick off the 2011 season, and can officially put last year’s abrupt and unexpected finish behind them.

Coming off of back-to-back national titles in 2008 and 2009, the highly ranked Orange were primed to make it three in row. However, the Black Knights of Army had other plans, stunning Syracuse in double-overtime of the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Photo: Timothy R. Olsen
SU head coach John Desko address reporters Thursday during the 2011 men's lacrosse media day.

“It feels great to get back at it,” said veteran SU head coach John Desko. “We had a great regular season last year, having only one loss in the regular season, but a little bit disappointing going to the playoffs and losing in the first round. The good part is, a lot of the players from last years team are coming back.”

The Orange return 12 seniors in 2011 – a group that will be going for its third national championship in four years. Syracuse will also get a chance to avenge both of its losses in 2010 as SU plays host to Virginia and Army.

“This is a new team and a new season, and that’s one big thing we need to focus on,” said senior Joel White. “We have our own agenda this year, but at the same time, you have that bad taste in the back of your mouth. I know the guys that were on that field last year didn’t like the feeling.”

White’s fellow senior, midfielder Jovan Miller, said the months since the loss to Army feels like the longest span of time he’s ever had to go through.

“You go on your summer break and you’ve got lacrosse camps and kids making jokes about how we lost,” Miller said. “It’s the first time we went on break without a championship, so it was just a different feeling.”

Along with the returning seniors and upperclassmen, the Orange have also brought in a powerful recruiting class. Syracuse has 19 freshmen that will by vying for playing time amid the experienced Cuse crew. White said it is the job of him and the other upperclassmen to prepare the new arrivals for the season.

“You come to Syracuse, and you get a little overwhelmed with everything this program has to offer and has around it,” he said. “You’re really playing for more than just the team. We like to tell them that, and explain what the Syracuse family is all about. That’s what we’ve done all fall and they understand it and they’re ready to go.”

Desko said he is pleased with the way his seniors have taken on their responsibilities as leaders and teachers. He said the seniors have to lead by example on and off the field, and show the freshmen what it takes to be a successful Division I athlete at Syracuse.

“I think experience means a lot,” Desko said. “There is some good ability in the freshman class, but I think as far as learning the system – the offenses and the defenses – I think the freshman will be probably the first ones to tell you that they’re not there with the upperclassmen yet.”

That experience will be important for the Orange as they will start the season with a target on their backs. Despite the early exit from the 2010 postseason, SU enters 2011 as the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

“A lot of players come to Syracuse to be No. 1, and obviously it’s more important to be No. 1 at the end of the year than it is at the beginning of the year, but I think that’s just a fact of life when you wear an Orange jersey,” Desko said.

Speaking of wearing an Orange jersey, sophomore JoJo Marasco is fully recovered from the leg injury that kept him out of the final five games of 2010. He will be wearing the coveted No. 22 jersey for the Orange in 2011. The leading freshman scorer for the Orange last season, Marasco will be expected to run the Syracuse offense this year.

“This year being an attackmen and being behind the net, I feel like I’m the quarterback and I can really talk to the team and call out the plays. I feel really comfortable with that,” Marasco said. “I know all the plays, and passing and dodging and feeding and shooting, I feel like I can do all that.”

Thursday marked the first day of spring practice for the Orange who will have the next three weeks to prepare for the upcoming season. Syracuse will host scrimmages on Feb. 5, and Feb. 10, before kicking off the season at the Carrier Dome against Denver on Feb. 20 at 1 p.m.


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