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Joey Spallina begins Syracuse career with pressure, expectations, and plenty of talent

Syracuse huddles following practice
Syracuse huddles following practice

The expectations are certainly through the roof for Spallina, but so is the talent. That talent will be showcased today with the ‘Cuse faithful watching in anticipation of greatness from Joey Spallina in his first outing in Orange.

At age eight, Joey Spallina appeared on SportsCenter’s Top-10 for moves he flashed at the MLL Freestyle Competition. Less than a decade later, the Long Island native dominated in high school competition on national TV.

It should come as no surprise that Spallina drew the eye of college coaches galore during high school. Despite not having a clear favorite school, there was always something pulling the attacker to Syracuse, according to Inside Lacrosse recruiting editor Ty Xanders.

“You know, I never really felt like, oh, he's 100% going to this school, but I think as the recruiting process wore on, that's when I learned that he had always wanted to go to Syracuse,” said Xanders.

In September of 2020, Spallina committed to coach John Desko and the Orange as the No. 1 player in his class. After a coaching change to Gary Gait, Spallina remained committed to SU. He joins the Orange this season with a target on his back. That target is something he has grown accustomed to. “There's been an epic list of former No. 1 recruits,” said Xanders. “I think Joey, what's different about him is he has had this target on his back for the longest time. Everywhere he has gone, he has blown people away with that target on his back. He is ready for the spotlight and ready to go off because everywhere he has gone, he has handled it.”

One of the reasons for Spallina’s success has been his work ethic. You know it must be top notch when one of the greatest players ever and your head coach, Gary Gait, has this to say: “What you see is a motivated young man that is not going to be outworked. That is really enough said right now. He has got talent, and he is working harder than anybody else. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does on the field.”

One other thing that will connect Spallina to Gait is the number they will share. The freshman will sport No. 22, just like his head coach and so many other Orange greats have done over the years. “Some of my favorite players and guys that I look up to have worn it,” said Spallina. “It has been a dream come true getting to wear it here, just a dream come true. It is probably the best number in lacrosse. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to wear it.”

Spallina grew up with a Syracuse No. 22 jersey hanging in his bedroom. When the attacker takes the Dome field today, a dream will be realized. “I think it's going to be awesome, and it will be a dream come true for me. I think Charlie Lockwood and JoJo [Marasco] will be at the game,” said Spallina. It will be awesome to see all those guys and show them what the new No. 22 can do.”