John Desko Proved His Worth As A Coach In Defeat
Syracuse head coach John Desko began the 2013 season with five national championships under his belt during his previous 14 years as the man running the Orange. Desko may have validated his place among the greats more than ever this past spring, even though Syracuse came up a game short on Memorial Day against Duke.
Watching Syracuse (16-45) navigate its way to the NCAA tournament title game was fascinating. The Orange lacked a game-changing dodger and a true, go-to guy on offense, but found a way to score enough goals to win 16 games with midfielder JoJo Marasco setting the tone for an extremely unselfish group. No one scored more than 31 goals for the Orange, while seven players scored at least 18 times.
Defense became Syracuse's heart a few years back, with the great goalie John Galloway leading the culture change. Defense was the calling card in 2013, even with goalie Dominic Lamolinara feeling his way for a few weeks after winning the job in mid-March. Nine times the Orange held opponents to eight or fewer goals. Only the Orange could blank Wes Berg, Denver's scoring machine, as Syracuse did in its 9-8 win over the Pioneers in the tournament semifinals.
The Orange had serious problems facing off all season, contended with scoring droughts, had enough holes to lose to Villanova and Hobart and nearly lost to Rutgers. But the Cuse kept pushing with poise and effort and enough execution to keep moving forward. I'm still amazed how the Orange survived a 43-minute scoring blank and still edged Yale by a goal in the quarterfinal. I'm still amazed at the way Denver was silenced in that 9-8 win.
Through it all, the Orange showed their cool and confidence and pedigree. Through it all, Desko's calm hands were present. Even after Duke finally broke the Orange, who could not compensate for those terrible shortcomings in the faceoff game, and rolled to a 16-10 romp, I'm still left scratching my head, wondering how Syracuse made it to the last day of the season.
Point the finger at the man with the 31-9 playoff record and the best playoff percentage in Division I history. Point the finger at Desko.