September 29, 2013

Lecky Leads as Syracuse Kicks off Fall with Iroquois

by Will Cleveland | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

When the Cornell men's lacrosse team was suspended for the fall semester due to allegations of hazing, it left a hole in the fall ball schedule for the Iroquois Nationals. Luckily, Syracuse University was able to fill the void created by the Big Red.

The Nationals and Orange put on an offensive display on Sunday afternoon at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex. Junior midfielder Hakeem Lecky scored a game-high five goals as the Orange rallied for a 14-11 win over the Nationals.

"I think just to be outside on a day like today, it's been great," said SU coach John Desko. "It really helped the younger guys that did get in to evaluate them. Some of the guys that are coming back from last year's team that are fighting for spots, we got a good look at them in a couple of game situations. I thought it was great, great for the players, great for us."

Lecky will have plenty of opportunity to fill a void in the first midfield unit for Orange as it graduated standouts like Jojo Marasco, Steve Ianzito, and Luke Cometti.

The SU-Iroquois scrimmage was part of a whole weekend of fall ball games at Cortland. Siena College and Team Israel also participated. Siena slipped past Israel, 7-5, in the early game Sunday. SU cruised to an 11-4 win over Israel before squaring off with the Iroquois National Team.

Each team in the field gained some new perspective, especially a player like SU's Lecky.

"Now when he is out there with the first group, he's out there and he's going to be playing a lot more," Desko said of Lecky, who scored just eight total goals last season. "He will have more opportunities to produce and we'll definitely rely on him more. He still needs to improve on his shooting. I think he would have had more goals with all the opportunities he had, especially early. I think he had maybe three of our first six shots of the scrimmage."

Lecky echoed those sentiments, stating that it will be about maintaining consistency.

"It's a confidence-builder, so hopefully I'll run away with this and be consistent throughout the year," said Lecky, who added an impressive goal in the opener against Israel. In that game, Lecky was slashed to the ground but was able to find the strength to finish.

"I am just going to try and be a leader this year and just try and do anything I can to put my team in a position to win," he added.

The scrimmages, especially the showdown with the Nationals, allowed Desko and SU to gauge the growth of new players. SU, which struggled mightily on faceoffs last season, got great work at the 'X' from walk-on Austin Wentworth. Chris Daddio and Cal Paduda, SU's primary face-off specialists from last season, were not in uniform. Desko declined to say why the two were not participating.

Gallery: Syracuse vs. Iroquois Nationals Scrimmage

Syracuse kicked off its fall slate Sunday with a scrimmage at SUNY Cortland against the Iroquois National Team. Photos by Rich Barnes.

Desko did, however, confirm injuries to senior attackman Derek Maltz and redshirt junior midfielder Henry Schoonmaker, noting that if it were the spring, Schoonmaker would have been available to play. In their place, SU got strong contributions from freshmen Jordan Evans, a Jamesville-DeWitt grad, and Hayes McGinley.

"Jordy is talented and he's been working out the kinks. He's becoming more comfortable with the offense," Desko said. "Hayes has been a force all fall for us. He just needs the game situations and getting the reps against other teams like this. I think he's got a bright future."

The game served a different purpose for the Nationals, head coach Steve Beville said.

"The goal we set out over the weekend was to evaluate and get a look at as many guys as we could," said Beville, who also serves as the head coach at SUNY Cortland. "We wanted to answer some questions as far as personnel and what we had on both sides of the ball. I think we were able to do that today. I think we did answer a lot of questions. It's going to help us a lot in our preparation for the coming year."

The two major questions in the eyes of Beville were the adjustment of some players from the indoor box game to the wide-open field game and the youth and inexperience of the defense.

"We never had any questions about our ability to be creative and score goals," Beville said. That creativity was on display in the first half when the Nationals jumped out to a 10-7 lead. Reigning NJCAA national player of the year Randy Staats (Onondaga Community College) and Albany's Ty Thompson each scored highlight-reel goals.

Recent Cornell grad Myan Adams is among those looking to fill the void for the Nationals on defense.

"This is pretty good to get everyone some runs in," Adams said. "We kind of got a good feel for each other. This is more about getting out there and seeing what we have, rather than like going through individual schemes. I thought it was a pretty good go today. We got to know a bunch of guys and we definitely all got closer today."

Adams noted some growth for the Nationals over the weekend.

"We had some really good two-man games today," he said. "Defensively, as the day went on, we played much better (against Siena). There was much more communication. The first couple games, guys were kind of nervous and getting their jitters out. You could see guys start to trust each other more."

Beville said the Nationals are looking to get in some more scrimmages before the snow hits. Whether or not that means they have to travel south for some competition, he remained unsure, but it is apparent that he wants as much opportunity to evaluate the pool of players as much as possible.

"It's a great feeling when we get everyone out together," said Iroquois' Jeremy Thompson. "A lot of the guys come from different directions up north, out west, from the east and the south, so it's just great when everyone comes together and share this special game that we all have a rich history with."

SU, meanwhile, will hold its fourth annual alumni scrimmage on Oct. 12.


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