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2007 Syracuse Lacrosse Preview: Goal

It's a slightly slimmer Peter Coluccini world.
We're just living in it.

Eds. Note: This essay is the fourth 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
^: Transfer

2007 Syracuse Orange Goaltenders
Returning PlayersP. ColucciniSo.
C. RotellaSr.
Incoming PlayersA. CavalieriFr.
N. Huertas^So.

The 2006 Syracuse Orange lacrosse campaign saw Peter Coluccini masterfully play the role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Equal part savant and amateur, Coluccini both buoyed Syracuse's hope for a tenth national title and evaporated such pursuits in frustratingly youthful play.

Despite Coluccini's duplicitous play just a season ago, however, Syracuse head coach John Desko is taking a measured, anticipatory attitude toward Coluccini's upcoming performance in 2007:
We’re happy that he got the experience he did last year. We’re hoping that he’s going to come out more confident. He’s used to seeing that 100 miles per hour shot. And that’ll help our defense in general.
The refrain pertaining to Coluccini gaining much needed experience in 2006 is not one to be taken lightly. Even the young netminder hinted at such during the team's media day extravaganza:

I am a lot more comfortable knowing what to expect, but at the same time, I like to go out there and have fun. It’s important when you play the teams we play.
Coluccini's time in the cage last season grew not only his knowledge of the collegiate game, but also led him to reevaluate his physical conditioning. Playing with his weight north of 200 pounds in 2006, Coluccini often looked like a backstop in front of the twine rather than an affirmative actor. As a result, this offseason Coluccini took it upon himself to shed a cool 40 pounds in an effort to lighten his load and become a more effective keeper like his predecessor, Jay Pfeiffer:

So Coluccini scrutinized his behavior and analyzed his body type, then devoted his summer to change. Last season, at a blocky, chesty 225 pounds, Coluccini used his big body as something of a backboard. SU coach John Desko said Coluccini's ability to stand tall (he's 6-foot-1) and wide in the cage helped him stop some shots.

But Coluccini wanted more. He put himself on a strict diet - he ate lots of vegetables - and altered his weight-lifting regimen. For a guy who always believed that bigger meant better, the shift in philosophy represented a notable step in his goalie evolution.

Today, he's slimmer than ever. He weighs about 185 or 190, depending on the day. He says he's in better cardiovascular shape and perhaps more importantly, the lack of bulk makes him feel quicker on his feet and swifter with his stick.

To put that into perspective, consider this: Last year, he maxed out at 350 in the bench press. And now, he estimates he can't lift more than 225 for more than three or four reps. The result, he said, is a sleeker, more nimble SU goalie.

"I thought that by being able to lift more, you'd necessarily be able to save more shots and be a better goalie, but it really doesn't work out like that," Coluccini said. "If you're stressing yourself lifting, you're so tired at practice, you're not going to be able to concentrate on practice."
The issue remains, however, whether Coluccini's weight loss will translate into more consistent play between the pipes. Perry Patterson, Syracuse's former starting quarterback, shed numerous pounds during his time on The Hill yet the weight loss did not directly translate into improved play. Consequently, the simple act of losing weight is not necessarily indicative of improved play; rather, Coluccini must combine his weight loss with better shot recognition and direction of the defense in front of him.

While Coluccini's improvement between the pipes in 2007 is vitally important to the Orange's success, the area of his game that needs the most work is when he wanders from the cage. Last season, Coluccini was borderline horrendous on clearing attempts. He often looked confused and downfield passes were frequently off target. Given Syracuse's incredible ability to get out in offensive transition this year, Coluccini is going to be called upon to immediately key the Orange attack. Mature defensive midfielders like Steve Panarelli should assist in this task, but the ability for Syracuse to implement the "Fun 'n Gun" still rests on Coluccini's ability to effectively deliver that first pass.

Outside of Coluccini, the only other news of note is the transfer to Cornell of former backup Jake Meyers. Meyers spent the early part of 2006 battling with Coluccini for the starting role, but eventually gave way as the season progressed. Meyers would have been an invaluable substitution for Coluccini had he been hurt or failed to performed adequately. Unfortunately, that role is now pinned on Casey Rotella, a senior that has seen very little meaningful field time with the Orange.

Overall, Coluccini may have summarized the importance of his play this season best, albeit in a broad manner:
You don’t like to see a season start off the way it did last year, but you learn a lot from those experience and as long as you take something from those. You got something from it. To come out there this year, and play consistent, I think it’s going to be the most important for our team and for me individually.
Impact Potential: High
Most Important Player: Coluccini
Player to Watch: Coluccini

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