Of all three teams covered in this series, none had a more brutal blow from the cancelation of collegiate sports than men’s lacrosse. At the beginning of the pandemic, Syracuse was 5-0 and ranked number one in the country. In a flash, it was all over.
Welcome to the third and final edition of the Catching up with ‘Cuse article-series. Throughout the three articles, WAER Sports dives into the biggest moments of the last five months of Syracuse football, men’s basketball, and men’s lacrosse.
The men’s lacrosse season is many months away, but there have been important developments during the pandemic that will have a major impact on the upcoming campaign.
In this season’s Major League Lacrosse draft, Syracuse defender Nick Mellen was selected fourth overall by the Boston Cannons. The local product only appeared in one game this past season due to injury, but he entered the year on the Tewaaraton Award Watch List. Mellen led the Orange with 19 caused turnovers and 31 ground balls in 2019.
— Syracuse Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) May 4, 2020
"I'm extremely excited to join the Boston Cannons," Mellen said in a press release. "Their reputation in the world of professional lacrosse is unquestioned. I'm looking forward to working with my new teammates and coaching staff."
The former SU star signed a deal with Boston after the draft, but failed to appear on the Cannons 25-man roster ahead of the MLL’s restart in July.
Guess Who’s Back:
Luckily for the athletes, the timing of the cancelation allowed for the NCAA to grant an extra year of eligibility for men’s lacrosse players. Several seniors made up the core of the SU men’s lacrosse team in 2020, and many of them have decided to return for an extra season.
Syracuse midfielder Jamie Trimboli is coming back for an extra year after a ludicrous start to his 2020 season. The Victor, New York native had 17 goals and three assists through the first five games of 2020. Trimboli might have had the highlight of the season when he netted five goals in a comeback victory over Army.
“Being away from our locker room these past few weeks has emphasized more than ever, if there is an opportunity to spend another year at Syracuse University, competing day in and day out with my best friends, then sign me up for that,” said Trimboli on Twitter in late April.
Returning to a field near you in 2021. pic.twitter.com/lBYDd0FuAV
— Syracuse Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) April 23, 2020
Staying in the middle, short-stick defensive midfielder Peter Dearth is returning to the team. Dearth is primarily a back-end player, but he potted two goals in four games this year. The midfielder was named a captain in each of the last two seasons and will wear the ‘C’ once again in 2021.
Up front, attacker Stephen Rehfuss will play another year as well. Rehfuss led the team in assists with 18 last season. The attacker was also third on the team in grounds balls with 15.
“The chance to compete and play with my teammates for another year is an opportunity I cannot pass up,” Rehfuss wrote on Instagram.
Between the pipes, goalkeeper Drake Porter returns. The Canadian had a strong start to the 2020 campaign. Porter posted a save percentage just below 58% and made a career-high 18 stops against Army in SU’s third game of the year.
Lastly, rotation faceoff man Danny Varello is back. The Kings Park, New York native combined with Jacob Phaup to make one of the better faceoff tandems in the country this past year. Varello won over 63% of his draws last season.
Syracuse lacrosse made headlines when they acquired transfer Chase Scanlan last offseason. This year there are no Scanlan-like bombshells, but there are a handful of players coming to SU that could propel the team to a national championship.
The Orange have added a few new faces on the defensive end to try and make up for the loss of Mellen. Fairfield, Connecticut native Mitch Wykoff comes to SU as a two-time second-team All-American. Wykoff caused an impressive 23 turnovers in 2019. The Gettysburg product makes the unique jump from Division III to the Syracuse roster.
“When Syracuse calls, you pick up the phone," Wykoff said to Lindsay Kramer of Syracuse.com. “It definitely took me by surprise. I didn’t expect any of this to happen. I wasn’t reaching out to any of the big guys.”
✍️ officially official ✍️
2x All-American Mitch Wykoff has matriculated at Syracuse and is officially a member of the Orange.
Welcome to the family, Mitch. pic.twitter.com/eQ5NYGUidA
— Syracuse Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) June 18, 2020
In mid-June, SU announced the transfer of Utah defender Nick Hapney. The sophomore forced 11 turnovers and picked up 16 ground balls in 12 games in 2019.
After that, the Orange grabbed former Furman defender Cole Horan. Horan caused eight turnovers and scooped up 15 ground balls in seven games in 2020.
Horan was not the only Furman transfer Syracuse secured, however. After the South Carolina school canceled its men’s lacrosse program, SU reigned in more transfers like attacker Brett Tenaglia. As a freshman last year, Tenaglia was impressive for the Paladins recording 20 points through his first seven games. The highlight of the attacker’s year was a three-goal, five-point performance versus North Carolina.
Desko to the Hall:
After 41 seasons as Syracuse’s head and assistant coach, John Desko is in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Desko has amassed 259 wins and five national titles in his 22 seasons as head coach. The former player had a particularly dominant run in the 2000s, winning all of his national titles between 2000 and 2009.
"None of this would have been possible without my parents. Their support allowed me to go to Syracuse University and helped me in every aspect of life. I owe all of them and many more a thank you for helping me achieve this honor" Desko told Cuse.com after his induction was announced in May.
From other Hall of Famers to Tewaaraton winners and members of the current team, a number of congratulatory messages rolled in for Coach Desko.
Have a congrats message for Coach? Record your own video and DM us and we'll some in a video, or drop a message in the comments pic.twitter.com/SryI4VYozI
— Syracuse Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) May 22, 2020
Too Early to Tell:
When discussing the next season for the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team, there are so many questions regarding the state of sports and the country that it is simply too early to discuss most issues. The Orange have had a strong summer and return much of their number-one ranked team from this season. SU will be back and, with strong additions, could be better than ever.