The post-Mike Powell era is about to begin.
When the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team takes the field against Army on Saturday at the Carrier Dome at 7:30 p.m., it will be without its top scorer from last year, and perhaps the greatest lacrosse player in Syracuse history.
In his final season at Syracuse, Mike Powell scored 47 goals and 42 assists, bumping his career total to 307. He received first-team All-American honors for the fourth time in as many years, to go along with the Tewaaraton Trophy, college lacrosse’s equivalent of Most Valuable Player.
So how does Syracuse plan on replacing Powell?
“It’s going to be a team effort,” junior Brett Bucktooth said. “It’s not going to be one guy.”
Unfortunately, the solution isn’t that simple. Although Powell was the leading scorer on a high-powered offense that averaged 14.41 goals a game, six of the top seven scorer’s from last year’s team also graduated.
Still, there is good news for the Orange. Syracuse will return its second leading scorer from last year, Brian Crockett. The junior scored 54 points last year and will be the focal point of the offense.
“He’s like the quarterback of our offense,” Bucktooth said.
That would make Bucktooth – who scored 14 points last year – one of his receivers.
Bucktooth, a converted midfielder, will need to pick up some of the scoring slack left behind by Powell along with freshman Mike Leveille.
Though young, Leveille – who scored 55 goals and added 33 assists in his senior year at Albany Academy – figures to be an important part in making up for the loss of Powell.
“We’re putting a lot of weight on his shoulders, and he’s got to step up,” goalie Jay Pfeifer said. “He’s quick, fast, and he scores well. He’s an all around good player.”
Still, Leveille and the offense have work to do.
Syracuse sputtered in its final preseason scrimmage against Maryland, losing 14-7. The Orange was outshot 44-31.
“When we had the ball, we were too quick to get a shot off,” Crockett said. “We just weren’t patient enough getting the ball around.”
The offense figures to improve as the season progresses, but until then, the Orange will rely on its veteran defense, anchored by Pfeifer, who has started every game in the last three years.
“I can’t think of any type of game that Jay Pfeifer hasn’t played in,” head coach John Desko said. “The championship games, the crowds that he’s played in front of, he’s got experience that I don’t know if anybody has, especially being a fifth-year guy.”
In front of Pfeifer, John Wright, Steve Panarelli and Scott Ditzell are all returning defensemen from last year’s team, which allowed less than 11 goals per game.
“We’ve got to come out strong in the beginning of the year,” Pfeifer said. “Myself and the defense, we look at it as a challenge, and we’re willing to meet those expectations.”
Those expectations come from the recent success of Syracuse, in no small thanks to Powell.
“Losing Mike, and a lot of other great players, that’s just the nature of sports,” Crockett said. “We’re not quite as loaded coming back as we were, but I don’t see that as a problem.”