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Syracuse men’s lacrosse aims to stay perfect against in-state foe UAlbany

The Orange celebrate following a goal en route to a 7-5 victory over Vermont.
The Orange celebrate following a goal en route to a 7-5 victory over Vermont.

A perfect start to the 2023 season with an upcoming chance to get some sweet old revenge. It seems like Gary Gait and crew couldn’t ask for a better way to start this year’s campaign.

Last Saturday, Syracuse men’s lacrosse (1-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) captured its season opener with a 7-5 win over Vermont in the Dome. It was a relatively low-scoring game, featuring more than three times as many turnovers as goals. But, the Orange prevailed and started the 2023 slate on the right foot after a disastrous 2022 season.

In the win, it was a handful of the SU newcomers that stepped into the spotlight. Joey Spallina, the nation’s top recruit, was held scoreless in his first half of college action. When the freshman did score his first career goal, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Orange. The Mount Sinai, N.Y. native’s emphatic score knotted things up at five, jumpstarting the 3-0 Syracuse run that would squeak it past the Catamounts.

Freshman Finn Thompson paved the way for the ‘Cuse, notching three points behind a goal and a pair of assists. The attackman’s lone goal came unassisted in the second quarter, chipping in to help create a 4-0 SU run headed into the half. Then it was Thompson in the fourth quarter who found attackman
Jackson Birtwistle to put the Orange on top for good.

“Finn played outstanding,” head coach Gary Gait said postgame. “He’s a very smart lacrosse player even though he’s a freshman. He gets the game, he knows the nuances and he made some great plays today. I think he’ll build on that and only get better as we go.”

Not only does Thompson have the chance to get better as he goes, but now the freshman stares down the opportunity to get some payback for his teammates.

Last season on April 7, Syracuse made the 140-mile journey east to take on UAlbany. The Great Danes stunned the Orange topping Syracuse 14-12 at Casey Stadium. It was the first time the ‘Cuse had lost to an unranked opponent since 2019. For UAlbany, it marked just its third win in the 20-game series against SU.

“It was just pretty sloppy lacrosse,” Gait said after the loss.

Now, UAlbany (0-0, 0-0 America East) makes the trip to the Salt City this week to continue the New York rivalry. Friday’s contest marks the season opener for the Great Danes, coming into the season ranked second in the America East Coaches’ Poll. The ranking comes with a lot of optimism surrounding this year’s UAlbany squad after last year’s team finished .500 or less in conference play for the first time since 2011.

Now SU Junior Max Rosa (10) goes up against UAlbany’s Darien LaPietro (12) in last year’s loss to the Great Danes.
Now SU Junior Max Rosa (10) goes up against UAlbany’s Darien LaPietro (12) in last year’s loss to the Great Danes.

Offensively the Great Danes return five of their top 10 leading scorers, including three of the five who totaled at least 20 points. That core includes leading scorer and expected offensive leader Graydon Hogg, Jack Pucci, and Amos Whitcomb.

On the newcomer front, Denver transfer TJ Sheehan was recruited by UAlbany head coach Scott Marr back in high school. At South Side High School in Rockville, N.Y., Sheehan was All-County both junior and senior year. Freshman Silas Richmond is another guy Marr is excited to see in a Great Dane uniform. The 6-foot-4 attackman joins UAlblany from Canada where he was a member of Canada's junior national box lacrosse team and competed in the 2022 World Junior Lacrosse Championships.

One returning player who conjures up bad memories for SU would be Thomas Decker. Last year when the two teams met, Decker was a freshman and had just two goals on the year. The North Massapequa native exploded for a hat trick and an assist, breaking out in one of the biggest wins of the year.

Vengeance will be on Syracuse’s mind when UAlbany comes to the JMA Wireless Dome Friday night. UAlbany has a chance to win back-to-back games against the ‘Cuse for the first time in program history. Meanwhile, the Orange aim to remain perfect on the year and get some much-needed payback. Game time is at 6 p.m. with WAER’s Coverage starting at 5:30 p.m. with Countdown to Faceoff.