Sol Bliss answered without hesitation.
When asked about his biggest concern heading into Saturday’s Syracuse men’s lacrosse scrimmage against Navy, Bliss responded: communication on defense.
“It was our biggest problem in fall,” Bliss said. “We can have three of the best defensemen in the league, but if they can’t communicate, it’s not going to mean a thing.”
Bliss said in the fall, players were late adjusting defensively and weren’t meshing well with one another.
But Bliss, a senior, who will start at close defense on Saturday at the Carrier Dome at 6 p.m., felt confident that a month of practice had fixed the problem.
“That was the first thing we worked on,” Bliss said. “If you’re not saying something, something’s wrong. Just say something and that gets you in the habit of talking.”
“Now, we really don’t have a problem with that,” junior defenseman Dan DiPietro said. “Everybody’s getting used to is now.”
The problem originates from the Orangemen graduating All-Americans Billy St. George and John Glatzel, leaving to huge holes in the defense.
A group of players have stepped up to fill the void, including DiPietro and sophomores Donn Vidosh and Joel Howard.
Vidosh started last year’s final against Princeton when Bliss went down with a knee injury.
DiPietro, a transfer from Johns Hopkins, has the most experience, having played two seasons. Still, DiPietro said playing at Syracuse is an entirely different level.
Defensive midfielder Joe Sabasteanski and freshman John Wright will also get looks in the two spots next to Bliss. Sabasteanski started every game at long-stick midfield last year and is among the frontrunners for one of the two close defense positions.
Syracuse head coach John Desko didn’t name defensive starters as of Wednesday, leaving the mystery of who would start alongside Bliss.
“I can’t tell you that,” Vidosh said. “We’ve got a lot of good players and it’s going to be a good fight.”
Having so many people vying for only two open spots has increased competition and made practice even more intense, Bliss said.
Still, the starting three will not be as strong as last year’s.
“You can’t lie about it,” Bliss said. “We’re not as strong defensively as we were last year – yet.”
But having Bliss back there will help the Orangemen. The senior spent the fall rehabbing a torn ACL suffering during last year’s national semifinal game against Virginia.
The intense conditioning has left him in even better shape than he was last spring.
“Everyone busted their butts in the weight room, especially Sol,” Vidosh said. “He was there when I got there, he was there when I left.”
“He’s back at where he was,” Desko said, “if not better.”
Desko can only hope he can say the same about the defense.
This article originally ran in February 2003 in the Daily Orange.