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2007 Syracuse Lacrosse Preview: Defense

A rhapsody in rap checks.

Eds. Note: This essay is the third in a five-part series examining the 2007 edition of the Syracuse Orange. An index of previous and subsequent installments can be found here.

Bold: 2007 Projected starter
*: Preseason Inside Lacrosse All-America

2007 Syracuse University Defense
Returning PlayersS. Panarelli*Sr.
E. BradyJr.
J. BucktoothJr.
K. Guadagnolo*Jr.
D. PalmerJr.
A. BruccoSo.
M. CahakSo.
B. HoldenSo.
S. McGonigleSo.
J. MecionisSo.
J. ShawSo.
Incoming PlayersB. ConlinFr.
T. HlawatiFr.
M. TierneyFr.
A. VoglFr.

Last season, the Orange defense took much of the blame for Syracuse's struggles. Poised with depth and unmatched size and strength, the 2007 edition of the Orange close defense looks to not only pace Syracuse's fortunes, but also serve as one of the nation's most unyielding units.

As staff writer Donna Ditota notes in a recent piece appearing in the Syracuse Post-Standard, the Syracuse defense this season is wiser and more confident than just under 12 months ago:
The Orange benefits from what appears to be quality depth at the defensive end. SU brought in several defenders in this year's recruiting class. The Orange's veteran defenders say some of those rookies will push for playing time this season.

And SU coach John Desko also praised the preseason work of Mark Cahak, the Fayetteville sophomore who will likely play in close.

"I think our on-ball defense last year wasn't as aggressive as it should be," Palmer said. "I think we've addressed that. All of us coming back are in a lot better shape - tons better shape than we ever have been. We trained harder. Nobody took a day off. So I think we'll be able to be more aggressive on the ball, get better takeaways."

Evan Brady, a junior close defenseman and likely starter in close with Kyle Guadagnolo and Dustin Palmer, echoed such comments during the team's media day exercise:

I think we’re pretty experienced. With the experience we got last year and only losing one guy, I think we’re real confident and a lot more mature than we were last year on offense and defense.
The most important aspect of the Syracuse defense, however, is its incredible depth. Paced by the three aforementioned physical juniors and the always versatile Steve Panarelli, Roy Simmons III has at his disposal a myriad of options should the defense fail to develop further chemistry.

Two notable contributors to this season's defensive effort may come in the form of sophomores Jay Shaw and Mark Cahak. Shaw and Cahak do not have the rough and tumble attitude of their upperclass counterparts, but they do have long, athletic bodies capable of presenting difficult matchups either as long-stick midfielders or in-close under the right circumstances.

Syracuse head coach John Desko had this to say about Shaw prior to the team's final scrimmage against Navy:
Desko appreciates Shaw's ability to take up space.

"The tall guys usually have better range," Desko said. "And just to have your stick in the air in passing lanes is helpful. And I think he's a very smart player in practice. He hasn't gotten a lot of game experience, so we're trying to get him some competition against other teams."

Desko said he and his staff noticed Shaw last year, when Shaw quickly adapted to the SU system and was a star on the scout team.

"He's just smart on the field," Guadagnolo said. "He's got a real good stick and he knows what to do. You don't have to worry about him one bit."
Accordingly, neither Cahak or Shaw is likely to oust the previous quartet of likely starters, but they will find time on the field this season.

Not unlike its midfield and attack counterparts, the Orange defensive unit also boasts and handful of freshman with incredible potential. Matt Tierney -- thankfully not of the Princeton Tierney clan -- has been taking the preseason by storm with his relentless play. As Ditota notes, Tierney has generated a lot of respect from his teammates in just a few months:
And everybody keeps raving about Matt Tierney. His SU teammates say he's played well in practice and believe he'll see some significant minutes this season. The freshman defender from New Jersey is also 6-4.
Along with Tierney, Syracuse may have a future starter in Tyler Hlawati. The 6'2", 183 pound close defenseman from Dublin, Ohio has a look suitable to pilot a Volkswagen van, yet enough raw talent to wear down his opponent. Hlawati is buried low on the depth chart to start the season, but this year should prove to be an invaluable learning experience.

Impact Potential: Moderate-High
Most Important Player: Guadagnolo
Player to Watch: Shaw

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