SU Men’s Lacrosse Season Preview: Defense
By Jesse Cook | @JesseCookTV
A lone constant for the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team, the defensive line will remain largely intact heading into 2022.
Syracuse men’s lacrosse coach Gary Gait emphasized the importance of team chemistry and sticking together. He said, “I think the one thing that we’re really hoping to do is to take the chemistry and the value of every single player and make this team a true team that works together, has each others’ back and supports one another.”
Gait coached the women’s team at SU for 14 years; prior to that work, he led what is widely considered the most successful lacrosse career as a player in the history of the sport.
In tune with Coach Gait’s message of teamwork and chemistry, three of the four main defensive starters for the Orange in 2021 are returning.
Grant Murphy led the ‘Cuse in forced defensive turnovers, proving to be one of the most effective d-men in the ACC Murphy has been an integral piece to the SU lineup since his first days in the 315.
Since earning significant playing time as a freshman, the Texas-native has compiled 27 caused turnovers, leading the team in 2021 with 16. His ground ball game has not been bad, either as he’s picked up 39 over his time in Central New York.
Nick DiPietro returns this season as a major defensive question mark. After suffering an undisclosed injury in the eighth game of the season, a match with UAlbany, he left the active roster for the rest of the season.
Traditionally, DiPietro has been most helpful in man-down scenarios and he will likely keep that valuable role on defense. Additionally, the redshirt senior kept the intensity to a high while on the field, which resulted in an even-more devastating loss.
With DiPietro in the lineup, the Orange allowed 11.3 goals per game, which promptly jumped up to 17.2 goals per game in the final five regular season matchups. Despite the impressive stats, the injury question still looms.
Cole Horan leapt into the starting lineup after DiPietro’s injury.
Despite the small sample size, Horan’s experience against Virginia foreshadows a large role in the two matches between UVA and SU The Floral Park-native helped hold the Cavaliers (second in the ACC in scoring and third in the NCAA in 2021) to their second-lowest point total of the season in the ‘Cuse’s 13-11 victory (Note: Syracuse defeated Virginia 20-10 earlier in the season with DiPietro in the starting role).
Gait touched on goalkeeping and who might be in the circle that the defenders guard. He said, “I don’t think we’ve settled on that, yet.”
“We’ve got one more scrimmage,” Gait continued. “I think after that we’ll make some decisions and we’re not sure if it will be a consistent starting goalie, we’ll give ‘em each a shot. I really think that they’re neck and neck. We’ve got two goalies that really have that opportunity to lead the team.”
For the shortstick defensive midfielders (SSDM), none of them earned a starting role last season, however it is very likely that one will circle back to the defensive line in the starting rotation.
Dami Oladunmoye earned the most playing time of the four returning SSDMs, playing in 11 games. The Illinois-native has been one of the primary members of the midfield since his freshman season, during which he appeared in all 15 games.
Sophomore Brandon Aviles joined Oladunmoye for most of the season, however he missed four games due to an injury suffered against UAlbany. During his freshman year in 2020, no Syracuse freshman saw more playing time, so Aviles is an experienced member of this Orange squad.
While the offense and goalkeeping saw the departures of playmakers like Stephen Rehfuss, Jamie Trimboli, and Drake Porter to the Premier Lacrosse League, as well as the controversial end to Chase Scanlan’s career in orange, the defense holds onto its core for the upcoming season.