Boom goes the dynamite!
Eds. Note: This essay is the first in a five-part series examining the 2007 edition of the Syracuse Orange. An index of subsequent installments can be found here.
Bold: 2007 Projected starter
*: Preseason Inside Lacrosse All-America
|2007 Syracuse Orange Attack|
|Returning Players||D. Biegel||Sr.|
|Incoming Players||M. Bartig||Fr.|
Evan Brady -- regarded as one of the stronger on-the-ball defenders dotting Syracuse's roster this season -- may have summed up the 2007 attack best:
[Syracuse has] three attackmen that are probably the best in the country and the three backing them up they could play at any other school in the country.Granted, Syracuse's 2007 attack line may not rise to the historic level of some of the game's most recent incarnations (Princeton's 1996-1998 unit of Jesse Hubbard, John Hess, and Chris Massey is probably the greatest the game has ever witnessed), but the Orange should not have any problem generating production from its front three.
After a year of playing with a sports hernia, All-Everything attack Mike Leveille is back this season to regain his 2005 form. As Syracuse head coach John Desko notes, the senior captain's play will ultimately dictate how well the unit performs throughout the season:
“He’s one of our captains and our leading point returner so there will be a little bit of pressure on him for that but he’s got some guys that will really help him out. I think one of the things that Michael’s always done is he’s always picked things up very quickly. He understands all his positions so being a captain, being a guy back with a lot of experience, it’s very easy for him to tell guys where to go on the field. He’s like having another coach out there and he’s done a terrific job.”Joining Leveille on attack will likely be sophomores Kenny Nims and Dan Hardy. Nims and Hardy both have incredibly high ceilings, and if either can tap into their potential this season, Leveille's potency as a scorer will elevate even higher.
Syracuse fans saw flashes of Nims' and Hardy's ability last season, albeit in the midfield. This year, however, Desko and offensive guru Kevin Donahue have moved Hardy and Nims back to their natural positions in close. The end result, at least according to sophomore midfielder Pat Perritt, is a multi-faceted look at attack:
We have Dan Hardy and Kenny Nims back at attack. They like dodging from behind and they can both feed the ball, so I think it’s going to be scary with the shooters we have up top and down low.Considering how much Nims and Hardy contributed to the Orange's post season run last year, there is little evidence indicating that either will drop off their production in 2007.
And if Hardy fails to mature this season, many will question whether his decision to don the fabled "22" jersey was the correct one.
The two "x-factors" effecting whether Nims and/or Hardy will join Leveille on attack are sophomore Greg Niewieroski and freshman phenom Max Bartig. Each has the talent to contribute on either attack or in the midfield, but both are probably most suited playing in close.
Bartig, clearly Syracuse's most anticipated freshman contributor for 2007, has all the tools necessary to play this season, yet may not find time on attack due to the logjam ahead of him. As Desko notes:
“Max has done a good job especially for a freshman. He is very much like Mike Leveille. He picks things up very quickly and lacrosse is really turning into a thinking man’s game both on offense and defense with so many packages of zones, man-to-man’s, shutoffs, and you have to be aware of what the other team is doing. Max is one of those guys who can recognize that quickly.”As a consequence, it would not be surprising to see Bartig running on one of Syracuse's midfield lines and serving as a secondary option on attack should either Nims or Hardy falter.
With respect to Niewieroski, the redshirt sophomore may just be the most underappreciated options on the team. Lost last season due to an incredibly regrettable incident on Marshall Street, Niewieroski is apparently back in solid playing form. His inherent versatility and size provide preferable matchups for the Orange. Moreover, his veteran presence may prove invaluable given the amount of young talent Syracuse intends to play this season.
In short, Niewieroski is going to play this season, it is just a matter of where and how much. As it stands currently, Niewieroski may just be the Orange's best option as an extra attacker in man-up situations.
Impact Potential: High
Most Important Player: Hardy
Player to Watch: Bartig