2021 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 2 Syracuse (Men)

PHOTO BY GREG WALL

Three-time All-American Jamie Trimboli has started every game for the Orange since March 25, 2017.


College lacrosse is back. As perhaps the most anticipated season in NCAA history approaches, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/US Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USLaxMagazine.com each weekday for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

No. 2 Syracuse

2020 Record: 5-0
Pre-COVID Ranking: 1st

 

The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team GroupMe features more chirps than a migratory flock of birds. The brutally honest virtual banter echoes the jokes that fly around the Orange’s locker room and practices on a daily basis. Everyone is fair game.

“That’s pretty much our team in a summary,” senior midfielder and co-captain Brendan Curry said last April of the team-wide communications. “It’s pretty ruthless, but it’s fun. Everyone does it almost out of love. It’s never to the soul.”

It would be a lot more difficult to offer much in the way of pointed scrutiny when talking about Syracuse’s prospects for 2021. The Orange were 5-0 last spring and ranked No. 1 before their season was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They boasted the No. 6-ranked scoring offense (16.6 goals per game) a year after their top two scorers graduated. Even after Nick Mellen suffered a knee injury in the first game of the season, the defense still held opponents to fewer than 9.5 goals per contest. Senior goalie Drake Porter led the ACC with a 57.7 save percentage.

While Mellen graduated, Porter was one of five Syracuse starters who announced last April he would take advantage of the NCAA’s provision of eligibility relief and return for 2021.

“My teammates and I will do whatever it takes to bring a National Championship back to ‘Cuse,” Porter wrote in a statement that was shared on the team’s various social media platforms.

Announcements from the five other returning fifth-year seniors (Jamie Trimboli, Stephen Rehfuss, Peter Dearth, Danny Varello and Spencer Small) included titles like “Unfinished,” “Run It Back” and “Last Dance.”

Nike/USL Preseason Top 20
Team Previews

1. Duke 2. Syracuse 3. Maryland 4. Penn State
5. Virginia 6. North Carolina 7. Denver 8. Yale
9. Cornell 10. Notre Dame 11. Georgetown 12. Ohio State
13. Loyola 14. UMass 15. Army 16. Lehigh
17. Richmond 18. Penn 19. Rutgers 20. Johns Hopkins

“It's a testament to the culture we've spent the past couple years building,” Trimboli, a co-captain and three-time All-American, said when asked last spring about the number of seniors returning for 2021. “Our senior class is really focused on winning. We felt like we really had it figured out this season. We love each other and want the best for each other, so we definitely did not want to give up on all the hard work that we put in to build the culture and the locker room to the way that we had it.”

Trimboli and Curry both earned Inside Lacrosse first team All-American honors in 2020. They headline a first-line midfield along with redshirt junior Tucker Dordevic that was considered the best unit in the country. They combined for 41 goals in five games.

But as the handful of teams that faced the Orange quickly realized, the offense is anything but one dimensional.

Loyola transfer Chase Scalan led the team in points (18 goals, five assists) while donning the famed No. 22 jersey. Rehfuss assisted half those goals. Scanlan started stringing Rehfuss’s sticks in the fall of 2019 and called their connection “almost unspoken.” Rehfuss, who led Syracuse in assists the last three seasons, ranked third in the country in that category in 2020. He bookended last spring with seven-assist games, the latter of which came during a 15-9 win over Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field.

“I look at him and I don’t say, ‘Wow, he is great at one thing.’ But what I do say is, ‘Wow, he’s great at a lot of things,’” then-Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said of Rehfuss.

Rehfuss’ ability to adapt his game to the needs of the team underscores the Syracuse offense’s unselfishness and why Pietramala called it a pick-your-poison group with an “abundance of gifts.” Redshirt sophomore Griffin Cook, who led the nation in caused turnovers by an attackman to go along with five goals and four assists last year, rounded out the unit.

Syracuse’s starting six on offense return, as do all nine Inside Lacrosse All-Americans from 2020.

“Just because you have a lot of talented guys doesn’t mean that it will all work out,” second-year offensive coordinator Pat March said. “You have to have guys that are willing to take a backseat maybe for a game or a possession to be successful. These guys do that better than everybody.”







TOP RETURNERS

Chase Scanlan, A, Jr.

Scanlan wasted little time announcing his presence in 2020. The marquee transfer from Loyola scored seven goals in his Carrier Dome debut, a 21-14 win over Colgate. The Orange’s strength comes from their myriad options on offense, but with more performances like that Scanlan could put himself in the Tewaaraton conversation.

Drake Porter, G, Gr.

In line to become Syracuse’s first three-year starter between the pipes since John Galloway, Porter led the ACC in save percentage the last two years and averaged 12.8 saves per game in 2020.

Jamie Trimboli, M, Gr.

The three-time All-American has started every game for the Orange since March 25, 2017, and is one point away from reaching 100 for his career. He led all midfielders in the country in 2020 with 3.4 goals per game. “He’s the best shooter in the country, in my opinion,” Curry said. “You almost celebrate on some of his shots before they even go in.”

KEY ADDITION

Owen Hiltz, A, Fr.

The No. 2-ranked incoming freshman according to Inside Lacrosse wore No. 22 at Culver Military Academy and broke 100 points in 2018 and 2019 for the Eagles. How the lefty meshes with the rest of the offense remains to be seen, but the Orange have yet another scoring threat.

ENEMY LINES

“Talk about more talent. That midfield — my God, we need six long poles. It’s crazy, and then they have Buttermore who never misses the goal on the second line. Between 12, 16 and 23 (Dordevic, Curry and Trimboli) and then of course Scanlan down there, you can’t leave him alone. They have a lot of people back and they were playing the best in the country. They’re playing with an attitude and an edge that’s scary.”

NUMBERS GAME

99

Trimboli’s career points total. Only two Syracuse midfielders tallied more in the past decade.

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