Syracuse is Ready to Return to Championship Weekend

(Photo Courtesy of Syracuse Athletics)

In 2019, the Syracuse Orange lost to the Loyola Greyhounds in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That loss marked their second straight first-round exit.

Since that loss, Syracuse has done a complete one-hundred-eighty degree turn and in the span of less than a year looked like serious NCAA title contenders. The hiring of Pat March as offensive coordinator paired with the Orange landing Loyola transfer Chase Scanlan and the return of Tucker Dordevic following a foot injury that sidelined him for the entire 2019 season created a great deal of hype and buzz around this Syracuse offense, and the team as a whole coming into the 2020 season.

And while the season was cut short, the offseason hype proved to be warranted. The Orange went 5-0, which included wins over No. 7 Army, a highly-talented Hobart squad, and rival Johns Hopkins.

Coming into the 2021 season, the Syracuse Orange will be looking to complete the mission that was cut short by the Coronavirus last season. That mission is to make it back to Championship Weekend for the first time since 2013. And with the talent that this squad brings back, especially the caliber of fifth-year returnees, Syracuse is one of only a handful of teams who are positioned to achieve that goal of playing on Memorial Day Weekend.

One of the biggest contributing factors to Syracuse’s success this spring will be the fifth-year players that they have coming back. The Orange will return midfielder Jamie Trimboli (17G/3A) and attackman Stephen Rehfuss (2G/18A) for a fifth season, as well as two-way midfielder Peter Dearth, faceoff man Danny Varello (63%), and goalie Draker Porter (57%).

Trimboli and Rehfuss were the Orange’s second and third-leading scorers last season. Dearth has proven to be a solid defensive midfielder and has improved his offensive skills, while Varello was part of a strong one-two punch at the faceoff dot along with Jakob Phaup last season. Porter is and has been one of the best goalies in the nation and is expected to be a strong anchor on the back end for this Orange defense again this season.

In addition to the guys they bring back for an extra season, the Orange bring in Gettysburg (DIII) defenseman/LSM grad transfer Mitch Wykoff, Utah defenseman transfer Nick Hapney, and attackman Brett Tenagila, and defenseman Cole Horan from Furman. All four should be able to make an impact this spring, especially Wykoff and Hapney with the graduation of Nick Mellen and LSM Jared Hernandez transferring out.

Outside of the fifth-year guys and transfers, Syracuse does bring back a whole heap of talented underclassmen from last season, and no place can that be seen more than on the offensive end of the field, where the Orange ranked 6th in scoring offense (16.60 goals per game) last season.

Attackman Chase Scanlan (18G/5A) led the Orange in scoring last season, while Brendan Curry (14G/3A) and Tucker Dordevic (10G/4A) were both premier players on the most productive midfield in the nation. Just having those three back alone puts them into the top tier of offenses in DI lacrosse. But this offense is much more than those three and the aforementioned fifth-year guys. Syracuse also brings back junior attackman Griffin Cook (5G/4A) and senior midfielders David Lipka (3G/3A), Lucas Quinn (4G/2A), and Jacob Buttermore (4G). They will look to be solid contributors once again.

On the defensive end of the field, the Orange were tied for 11th in scoring defense (allowing 9.40 goals per game) with Navy at the end of the 2020 season. That level of play should remain somewhat similar in 2021, despite the loss of Nick Mellen at close defense.

Syracuse not only returns Porter in cage and grabbed a pair of talented poles in Hapney and Wykoff via the Transfer Portal, who could potentially be major impact players on the back end, but they also return senior Brett Kennedy (8GB/5CT) and Nick DiPietro (9GB/6CT). The pair started all five games last season and will surely keep up their strong play this spring. Additionally, the Orange should also have a fairly strong stable of SSDMs with Dearth coming back for a fifth season and Brandon Aviles coming off a very strong freshman campaign.

As it sits now, Syracuse doesn’t have too many holes on either end of the field. That in itself leads many to believe that this team can not only make a Championship Weekend run and have a chance to be hoisting a trophy on Memorial Day, but could possibly be one of the best Syracuse teams that we have seen over the past decade.

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