100 Years of Cuse Lacrosse

As #7 Syracuse prepares for today’s matchup against #2 Notre Dame, lets take a look back on one of the most storied programs in college lacrosse history. The countless alumni and fans that will be flooding the Carrier Dome tonight will settle for nothing less than excellence, but isn’t that a refection of the past?

Since first handing out lacrosse sticks in April of 1916, Syracuse University has been at the forefront of growing the popularity of the game with dazzling performances and dominating presences from its many great players. Names like Jim Brown, Mike Springer, Tom Marechek, Gary & Paul Gait, the Powell Brothers, Mike Leveille should ring some bells.

BROWN
Jim Brown is shown playing in his last college game for Syracuse University in this 1957 handout from Syracuse University. Brown is regarded by many as the greatest lacrosse player and the greatest running back in football.

Believe it or not Syracuse University has employed just four men over in the last century to coach the men’s lacrosse program. Since 1916 Syracuse Laurie D. Cox (1916-1930), Roy Simmons (1931-1970), Roy Simmons Jr. (1971-1998) and John Desko (1999-present) have won a combined 806 out of 1115 games, which comes out to an outstanding .723 winning percentage. That’s not to mention the 11 times they’ve hoisted the trophy for National Championship seasons, which does not include the previous 5 Championships before the creation of the three separate NCAA divisions that we associate the sport with today.

The ‘Cuse Championship era of the 80’s is remembered by the spectacular play of legends like Tim Nelson, who was awarded the Jack Turnbull Award for being the best attackman in lacrosse a remarkable 3 times; Brad Kotz a 4x All-American and Raymond J. Enners Award winner as Division I player of the year for his role in leading the team to their first National Championship in ’83; John Zulberti another 4x All-American and 2x Jack Turnbull Award winner who sits at 6th all time in points for the Orangemen.

jz 2
John Zulberti recorded the highest scoring season of any freshman player at SU with 74 points (33g, 41a) in 1986.

Then came along the first set of brothers, Gary and Paul Gait who shocked the lacrosse world with their smashmouth style, behind the back passes and infamous moves like the “Air-Gait”.

The twin brothers are US Lacrosse Hall of Famers and widely recognized for revolutionizing the game. Pat McCabe and Tom Marechek, who were also 4x All- Americans and HOF inductees finished out the 80’s and continued the dominance into the 90’s for the Orangemen.

It is safe to say that at this point, Syracuse was the clear university of choice and an idolized institution for those outstanding players coming out of high school looking to play at the next level. And play at the next level, they did. The 90’s brought about many more great players, like Charlie Lockwood, Roy Colsey and Ric Beardsley, who each earned All-American honors for their performances every year of their four year collegiate career.

And then lacrosse changed forever, when the first of three brothers, Casey Powell (4x All-American) suited up for the Orangemen. Casey was the first and only player to earn first team All-American honors AND be named NCAA Most Outstanding Player at more than one position. Younger brother Ryan Powell followed suit, earning All-American honors for each year of his career and earning Raymond J. Enners and Jack Turnbull Awards for National Player and Attackman of the year in 2000. It only seems fit, that Casey and Ryan would eventually share the number 2 spot in ‘Cuse history for career points at 257 (158-129) and (130-157) respectively.

For those of you who don’t know, there was a third Powell brother, and needless to say he did not disappoint in the slightest. His arrival at SU was probably one of the most anticipated the university’s long list of excellent recruited players. Mikey Powell picked up right where his older brothers left off, earning First Team All-American Honors a remarkable four seasons running, the last player to do so wearing a ‘Cuse jersey. Mikey is the only player in lacrosse history to win the Jack Turnbull Award four consecutive years as the nation’s most outstanding attackman. He was also a four time finalist and two time recipient of the Tewaaraton Trophy, college lacrosse’s equivalent to the Heisman that was introduced in 2001. Oh yeah, he surpassed his older brothers in career points, tallying 307 (150-157) over his four years. The Powell brothers’ style and performances during their college years grew popularity of the sport across the nation tremendously. I think it is safe to say that the Powell brothers will go down as US Lacrosse Hall of Famers in due time.

Since the Powell era, Syracuse has attracted many of the nation’s top high school prospects, and put together some of the best overall teams talent wise. While the 80’s are widely known for Syracuse dominance led by spectacular individual performances, in the 2000’s era they have won the title of National Champions (2000, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009), Runners-up (2001) and Final Four appearances for the years they didn’t win it all (2003).

The latest title appearance for Syracuse was in 2013, where they fell to eventual National Champion Duke University. There are only two seasons in NCAA Tournament history where SU has not made it to the post season, 1982 and 2007. Although fans and alumni alike would never count their team out, others in the lacrosse community have suggested Syracuse University might be on the decline, as other universities like Notre Dame, Denver and Duke are building stronger teams with better recruiting classes. Needless to say, expect the Carrier Dome to be packed near its 50k capacity tonight for a matchup that is guaranteed to keep fans on their feet. Faceoff starts at 6:00pm.

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