first_img Published on January 29, 2020 at 11:11 pm Contact Mitchell: [email protected] During the summer and throughout the fall, when Syracuse goalie Drake Porter walked into the Orange locker room he was reminded of May 11, 2019.The television in the SU locker room repeated highlights of Syracuse’s last game — a 2019 NCAA tournament first-round loss against Loyola — on repeat. He couldn’t avoid it. It was a game that 15 balls ended up in the back of Porter’s net, the most he gave up all season.“I wish I could go back and play [the Loyola game] again,” Porter said.Porter worked out at the Orange facility throughout the summer, making the two-hour drive from his home in Aurora, Ontario. The trips paralleled an offseason of additions for the Orange. New offensive coordinator Pat March. Loyola transfer Chase Scanlan and the return of Tucker Dordevic at attack. But there were also subtractions, like the graduation of close defenders Tyson Bomberry and Marcus Cunningham. That left Nick Mellen as the only returning member of last season’s starting close defense. Mellen will don the No. 11 jersey this season for the Orange, signifying his role as leader of their defense. But behind him, it’s Porter, now a senior, who will help ease the unit’s transition.“His lacrosse IQ is pretty high,” head coach John Desko said. “He’s kind of the quarterback of the defense, it’s one of the hardest things to teach.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAround this time last year, Porter wasn’t even the starter, yet. Porter found out he won the preseason goalie battle only six days before Syracuse’s 2019 season-opener against Colgate, becoming the Orange’s third goalie in three years. He started every game for the Orange and finished with the second-highest save percentage in the Atlantic Coast Conference (.562), while earning the 2019 All-ACC goalie honor.Porter didn’t even know when he was supposed to warm up before the season-opener, he said. During games, he deferred to the veterans on defense, listening to their suggestions and adjustments after goals.“They had been in situations before,” Porter said, “Now I’m the guy who’s been in those situations.”To help an inexperienced close defense this season, Porter is expected to tell his teammates “where to go and when to be there,” Desko said. As the last man back, Porter surveys the entire field while each defender is focused on their zone or individual assignment. He’ll shout out ball locations, if an individual opponent is “hot,” if someone is making a move toward the backside and who players should be matching up with. He’s the eyes of the close defense.“I’m definitely a vocal leader,” Porter said. “I like to yell a lot.”Emily Steinberger | Design EditorBut that communication goes beyond in-game organizing. Porter has to command the huddle, he said, get on guys who are making mistakes in practice, break down plays after Syracuse lets in a goal and prevent the other team from scoring that same goal again. In the huddle after goals, though, there’s not always an adjustment. Sometimes, it’s Porter’s fault, he said.In Sunday’s preseason scrimmage against Vermont, Porter bent his knees and swung his stick to the ground, blocking a shot between his legs. He immediately pounced on the loose ball and passed it to Brett Kennedy on his right. The Vermont attack pressured Kennedy, so Porter moved behind his net and took an outlet pass before moving the ball up field.The Orange have three different sets of clears, and they decide at the beginning of each quarter which they’ll run. Any mid-quarter adjustments are made by Porter. Last season, Porter was dissatisfied with Syracuse’s clearing percentage (85.3%, 24th in the country and second in the ACC). That comes down to him, he said. If there’s an open pass upfield, Porter needs to convert. If the opposition is pressing, he needs to drop back and create space for the clear. It all comes back to being the quarterback. “He can’t get out there and play defense,” Desko said. “So, I think we just need him to lead the group.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img