Syracuse Prepares for Life Without Nick Mellen
By Noah Cierzan
CitrusTV’s Men’s Lacrosse Beat Reporter
Last Friday’s game featured lots of fireworks, as an offensive onslaught led No. 6 Syracuse (1-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) past Colgate (0-2, 0-0 Patriot) 21-14. SU’s new number 22 Chase Scanlan led the way with seven goals, four of which came from a Stephen Rehfuss pass. Both attackmen received national recognition for their efforts, as Pat March’s new offense seemingly lived up to all of the hype it received in the preseason.
With the offense firing on all cylinders, many would look at the game as a near perfect start to SU’s 2020 campaign. Nick Mellen would say otherwise.
The Redshirt Senior went down with a non-contact leg injury halfway through the third quarter, and all 2140 fans in attendance went completely silent. The energy was instantly sucked out of a team that had a comfortable four goal lead as Mellen laid on the turf. He was eventually able to walk off on his own but would not return to the game.
Even with Mellen playing for the majority of the game, the defense struggled; allowing 14 goals to a Colgate team that only scored six the week prior. After the game, John Desko was not complimentary of the team’s defensive performance.
“We’re not happy with 14 goals. We think we can do a better job there. I think there were even times there where Drake Porter made some one-on-one saves, or they could have had a couple more goals. So, we need to do a better job on team defense,” said Desko.
He would go on to classify Mellen’s injury as ‘muscular’ and said he was likely to return against Binghamton. What change occurred between Friday and Wednesday is unclear, but it was announced on Wednesday that Mellen would not play on Saturday and Desko classified his injury as week-to-week.
Losing a guy who has started ever since he walked onto campus is always tough, especially when Syracuse lost its two other tenured close defensemen to graduation in Tyson Bomberry and Marcus Cunningham. On paper, this is the least experienced backline John Desko has had in quite some time. But if you were talking to the team, you would not know that.
“We’re a well-rounded group. Just some little stuff we need to fix to cut down on some of those points,” said Kennedy regarding the defensive chemistry of the team. With Mellen out, Kennedy figures to plug in as Syracuse’s number one close defender.
Grant Murphy spoke highly of Kennedy saying, “He looked phenomenal last week as a close defenseman matching up against the number one guy. If he continues to be that guy and has no troubles with any upcoming attackmen, then I don’t think there will be too many adjustments.”
While Kennedy may be able to make up for some of Mellen’s contributions on the field, it will be harder to replace what he brings to the table as a leader. Good news for the Orange is for the first time in a long time Syracuse has returned its goalie.
“He [Porter] knows everything about the defense. So, for him to step into the cage for the second year and help the younger guys has been tremendous for us,” said Kennedy about Drake Porter. The second-year starter had 12 saves against Colgate, including multiple miraculous kick saves.
Needless to say, this Syracuse squad may be deep enough to recover from a massive loss such as Mellen on the defensive end due to the team’s depth at the position. On top of that, the defense has gained some confidence based on how well the offense has played so far.
“Seeing them put up 21, like I said, it’s a confidence booster,” said Murphy. “Our theory last year was if we hold opponents to under 8 goals, we’re going to win every game. It looks like we could have a much greater margin this year, but that’s still kind of going to be the goal. Hold everyone under 10.”
Syracuse has won 59 games in a row when holding its opponent under ten goals. While its early in the season, it seems like that will be the case once again this season.
Saturday will be the first time the Orange have taken the field without Mellen since May 21, 2017. Desko’s defensive unit figures to be tested, but if Syracuse’s defense is able to get things together without Mellen, the backline could become a problem for opponents once Mellen returns.
If the Orange are able to do that, Syracuse has the potential to finally shed the disappoint brought forth during the 2010s and be crowned champions for the first time since 2009.
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