How Far Can #1 Syracuse Go This Season?
The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team has a buzz this season that has been unmatched for years. The Orange are ranked #1 in the USILA Coaches’ Poll for the second week in a row. Last week, SU was only three points ahead of Penn St for the top spot. But, following a Nittany Lions loss to Cornell, the Orange have a 36-point lead on #2 Big Red.
Expectations were high for the Syracuse entering the season, yet it seems they are striving for loftier goals with every consecutive victory. After securing the country’s top seed for the second week in a row, Syracuse has many fans wondering, ‘How far can this team go?’
It has been over a decade since SU last lifted the championship trophy, but this team may just have the combination of talent to bring the title back home. As the Orange enter the midpoint of the season, it is time to take a look at how they got here, what is ahead, and the ceiling for the number one team in the country.
How They Got Here:
SU is 5-0 and has won four of those games by 7 goals or more. Keeper Drake Porter, midfielder Jamie Trimboli, and attackman Chase Scanlan have been crucial to the Orange’s success.
Porter is backing up his stellar junior season with a strong start to his senior year. The Canadian has struggled at times, he saved only 35% of shots on net versus Hobart, but he has also taken over multiple games.
His best performance this season came against Army. In their lone ranked matchup, the Orange defeated the #7 Black Knights 9-7. The Orange survived a 5-1 halftime deficit and then dominated the Black Knights in the second half. Drake Porter’s work in goal was instrumental in the comeback.
The Inside Lacrosse Preseason All-American made a career-high 18 saves en route to the victory, besting his previous career-high of 16 saves. He has already reached that mark twice this season. Porter was dominant last year and now maintains his status as one of the best keepers in the country.
Jamie Trimboli’s performance was more of a surprise, however. The return of fellow first-line midfielder Tucker Dordevic has definitely boosted Trimboli’s play. The Victor, N.Y. native has become an elite goal scorer.
In 2019, Trimboli set a career-high with four goals against Rutgers, Syracuse’s next opponent. This season, Trimboli is averaging 3.4 goals per game. He’s matched four goals twice (Colgate and Johns Hopkins) and set a new career-high (5) against Army.
If Porter was not the hero of the Army game, it was Jamie Trimboli. In the third quarter versus the Black Knights, the senior midfielder scored three goals in 4:21 to turn a 5-2 Army lead into a 5-5 tie. After the Black Knights retook the lead, Trimboli scored the eventual game-winner – his fifth of the game – with less than six minutes remaining.
Some of Trimboli’s success has to be credited to his linemates Brendan Curry and Dordevic. The three make up what some consider to be the best top-midfield-line in Division I men’s lacrosse.
Scanlan’s success, opposite to Trimboli’s, has come to no one’s surprise. The Loyola transfer was given the legendary #22 for a reason, he can flat-out score. Scanlan notched an astonishing 43 goals as a Freshman before coming to the Cuse, and he has lived up to the stat line.
The sophomore leads SU in both points (23) and goals (18). Scanlan announced his arrival with a seven-goal performance against Colgate, but only scored twice over his next two games. The attackman would not stay quiet for long, though.
Scanlan combined for nine goals over the next two games. The Irving, N.Y. native may not be scoring at the same clip he was when he played alongside former Loyola star Pat Spencer, but Scanlan is arguably the purest scorer in an SU offense loaded with talent. He and Trimboli work with great chemistry.
Trimboli often takes on his man one-on-one and cuts to the inside, looking for a shot on the run. If too many defenders commit to the midfielder, Scanlan is left wide open in his office to the left of the goal. Many wondered if Scanlan could keep up his numbers, considering he played alongside division I’s most dominant player, Pat Spencer. The abundance of talent on SU’s roster takes just enough attention of Scanlan to allow him to dominate.
Coming Up Next:
This team has the potential to be historic, but it faces a tough schedule. Syracuse plays Rutgers this Saturday. With a win, the Orange can reach 6-0 for the first time since 2015. The Scarlet Knights are one of the weaker teams remaining on the schedule, so winning this game is crucial.
After Rutgers, the Orange play five ranked teams in the final six weeks of the regular season. Four out of six of those games are on the road, and even the home games are being played in Cicero due to the Dome renovations.
On March 22 and 28, Syracuse faces #8 Duke and #14 Notre Dame respectively. The Blue Devils struggled out of the gate, posting a 2-2 record through four weeks. Since, Duke has rattled off three straight victories, capped off by 13-10 win over #13 Loyola.
Notre Dame does not have any overwhelming wins (Richmond and Cleveland State) nor do they have bad losses (#10 Denver and #4 Maryland). Syracuse should win these games, but ‘should’ does not count anywhere on the scoresheet. This two-game stretch foreshadows the hellish three-game run to end the season.
After Notre Dame, SU plays Albany – a game the Orange will likely be heavily favored in. Then, Syracuse plays #2 Cornell, #5 North Carolina, and #11 Virginia to end the season. The only home game out of the three is another Cicero-matchup against UNC.
All three of these teams are dynamite. Virginia (4-2) has by far the worst record, compared to North Carolina (6-0) and Cornell (5-0). Duke and Notre Dame provide some context, but this is where fans really find out how good this team is. If the Orange can come out of this three-game stretch 2-1, they should be proud.
Syracuse takes on Rutgers at 1 p.m. Saturday. GZA countdown to faceoff is live on WAER at 12:30 p.m.