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Remembering the best Syracuse athletes of the decade

first_img Published on December 27, 2019 at 8:22 pm Facebook Twitter Google+ UPDATED: Dec. 28, 2019 at 11:04 a.m.After 10 years of NCAA tournament appearances, busted seasons and iconic moments forever etched into Syracuse Athletics history, the 2010s have come to an end. A switch to the Atlantic Coast Conference followed with Final Four runs, the first national championship by an SU women’s team, NCAA scandals and other historical moments. And during those times, the best athletes of the decade emerged on their respective teams.The Daily Orange Sports Staff selected one individual from each athletic program that defined its decade. Below is our list, filled with record-setters and holders whose contributions led their Syracuse team to new heights.Football — Eric Dungey (2015-18)AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe man who did seemingly everything for Syracuse’s offense while playing quarterback from 2015-18 finished with nearly all the records too. Dungey’s all-time lead in passing yards (9,340) is one of 25 individual records he has at least a share of. Dungey, who rushed for 1,993 yards and 35 touchdowns, went 20-18 as a starter. Ten of those wins came in 2018, Dungey’s senior year in which he solidified himself as the most impactful player of the decade. After two 4-8 years under head coach Dino Babers, Dungey and the Syracuse offense showed what it can be with Babers’ high-tempo system. The Orange ranked 19th in total offense while scoring 40 points per game in their first season since 2001 that ended with double-digit wins.Beyond the accolades, Dungey’s performances often sparked something out of nothing. He’d spin out of multiple sacks to complete passes. Using his legs to gain a first down was never an issue. He even once ripped the ball back from a defender after throwing an interception. Perhaps Babers summed up Dungey’s heroics best: “When it comes to Eric Dungey, the tall tales are true. The stories are true. You know, we’re going to be telling them for a very long time and after 10 or 15 years, people are going to be calling bologna and cheese.”For a Syracuse football team that had its fair share of imperfections, Dungey and his heroics were the perfect solution.Men’s Basketball — CJ Fair (2011-14)You might remember the moment: CJ Fair drove with his left hand to the rim and rose up above a Duke player who met him at the bucket. Down two with under 15 seconds remaining, SU called upon its best player to preserve it. Fair rose with his dominant left hand, but then switched to his right. The shot fell down, but a controversial charge call created one of the more infamous tirades in Jim Boeheim’s tenure as head coach at Syracuse.Fair was at the center of a number of the Orange’s iconic moments of the last decade, good and bad. But the 6-foot-8 forward was a mainstay as a top option for SU in his four years at the school. Fair had career averages of 13.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and was a threat inside and outside the arc. His scoring rose gradually each year and he started 74 games between his junior and senior season, leading the Orange to the 2013 Final Four next to another Syracuse great in Michael Carter-Williams. Fair’s senior season was one of the best seasons by a Syracuse player this decade — a 16.5 scoring average with 6.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists while pacing the No. 1 team in the country for much of the season — and his junior season wasn’t far behind. When taking into consideration the best Syracuse players of the 2010s, a number of names come up: Tyler Ennis, Brandon Triche, Carter-Williams, Rakeem Christmas. But Fair has longevity, team success and statistical comparisons on his side. It’s close, but Fair’s certainly one for Syracuse fans to remember.Women’s Basketball — Alexis Peterson (2013-17)The 2010s is the perfect decade to evaluate the best players in SU women’s basketball history. In the past 10 years, Syracuse reached its first National Championship. Four of the program’s five All-American honorees came in the 2010s. The Orange reached the NCAA tournament seven times, marking a true Golden Age for the program. No player better represents the era than guard Alexis Peterson. Though her backcourt partner Brittney Sykes was selected higher in the WNBA Draft, Peterson remains the only Orange player to be named to the WBCA Division 1 Coaches All-American team, not as an honorable mention. For Syracuse’s 2015-16 National Championship runner-up team, Peterson made her second consecutive All-ACC Defensive Team as well as All-ACC First Team. In SU’s tournament run, she scored a Syracuse record 29 points against Tennessee in the Elite Eight. Peterson may have been even better the next year, leading the ACC in points per game (23.4) and recording the second-best assists (seven) and steals (three) per game in the conference en route to the All-American Second Team. Peterson ranks second second in program history in both scoring (1,978 points) and assists (590). She averaged 14.8 points per game in her four-year career at SU, and led a tenacious full-court press defense that has become part of the Orange’s identity.Men’s Lacrosse — Brandon Mullins (2012-16)Syracuse men’s lacrosse appeared in the NCAA tournament every year this decade. It won four conference tournaments, had 28 All-Americans, a 50-goal scorer and multiple 80-point seasons. But, Syracuse’s best men’s lacrosse player this decade does not appear atop the scoring record books.Brandon Mullins was the Orange’s only player since 2010 to be honoured as an All-American three times, including as a member of the 2015 first team. Stabilizing the Orange defense for four seasons in the mid-2010s — and after a 2012 medical redshirt — Mullins led Syracuse to three consecutive NCAA tournament quarter finals.A two-time Tewaaraton Award nominee for the most outstanding American college lacrosse player, Mullins started every single game on close defense for the Orange in his final three seasons. In 2015 and 2016, Mullins led Syracuse in caused turnovers and set career highs in ground balls. “I think he’s pretty much stopped and shutdown every attackman that he’s played,” head coach John Desko said in 2016.Women’s Lacrosse — Kayla Treanor (2013-16)This past decade has proven to be another stepping stone in making Syracuse women’s lacrosse a national power. After just one NCAA tournament semifinal appearance in the school’s first 12 seasons, the Orange reached that stage six times in the 2010s. An integral part of their four consecutive semi-final appearances was Kayla Treanor, the most prolific goal-scorer (260) in program history. Treanor was named to the IWLCA All-America first team three times in her career and was named the IWLCA’s top attacker in the nation from 2014-2016. She was the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year for all three years of that span as well. Treanor also holds the NCAA single-season record for draw controls (217), which she set her senior year. She is third all-time in school history with 133 assists, giving her 393 points for her Syracuse career — second by three points to Katie Rowan (2006-2009). Treanor begins this next decade as an assistant coach for Boston College’s women’s team and a member of the US National team. The Orange open the 2020s as the No. 2 team in the preseason Nike/US Lacrosse poll, still searching for that elusive first NCAA final appearance. Men’s Soccer — Alex Bono (2012-14)Alex Bono came into Syracuse in 2012 as the No. 1 goalkeeper recruit in New York. From Baldwinsville, Bono was a three-year starter in goal for the Orange and started all 20 games as a freshman. Bono was named to the All-ACC third team as a sophomore before breaking out as a junior and leading SU to the fourth round of the NCAA tournament. After his third season with Syracuse, Bono was named an NSCAA first-team All-American. In goal, he allowed just 12 goals in the Orange’s 21 games, keeping 12 clean sheets as the Orange came within overtime from reaching the College Cup.He left SU after his breakout junior season, when he was drafted sixth overall by Toronto FC in the MLS Draft. Bono has made 80 appearances since joining Toronto and started the MLS Cup Final in 2017, a 2-0 win. Bono ranks second in SU history in goals allowed per game (0.93) and is tied for third in clean sheets (18). In his three years, Bono started 59 of the Orange’s 60 games. Women’s Soccer — Stephanie Skilton (2013-16)In a decade where the Orange only had one season above .500, Stephanie Skilton shone bright for the program. Skilton finished her career tied for the second-most goals in Syracuse history with 27, the most by a SU player since Candy Reich’s tenure in 1998-2001. Skilton’s 58 points were good for fifth all-time.Her six-point game against Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2013 was tied for second-most in a game in program history. Her hat trick in that same game is tied for the most goals in a game in SU history. During her senior season, her six goals led Syracuse to a 8-8-3 record, the Orange’s second best season of the decade (bested only by the 2012’s 9-7-2 run).Skilton is currently a member of the New Zealand National Team, which competed in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.Field Hockey — Alyssa Manley (2012-15)During the past decade, field hockey brought Syracuse to a point it had never reached with a women’s team before: a national championship. The Orange went into Ann Arbor, Michigan and defeated North Carolina in the 2015 NCAA tournament to reach the pinnacle of Ange Bradley’s career to this point. They made the tournament every season but 2018 and topped that off with a trip to Storrs, Connecticut this year that ended with a first-round loss to Princeton.Syracuse’s best field hockey player this decade was a senior when the Orange won the national title. Alyssa Manley was awarded the Honda Sports Award as the top player in the nation that season, and also earned ACC defensive player of the year honors to go along with All-ACC and All-NCAA tournament status. After starting in almost half of SU’s games as a freshman, Manley went on to tally 14 goals over the next three years as a part of Syracuse’s primary rotation.She earned All-American status her final three years with the Orange — including first team the final two — and notched one of five SU shots against the Tar Heels in the 2015 title game.Ice Hockey – Stephanie Grossi (2014-18)Syracuse women’s ice hockey won their first College Hockey America Championship in 2019, something even the program’s best player this decade, and arguably the best of all-time, was unable to do. When forward Stephanie Grossi’s four years, and 138 games played, at Syracuse came to an end in 2018, her name littered throughout the Orange record book. She finished holding records — that all still stand — for most points (117), most assists (72), most points in a game (5), most shots on goal (486), and the second most goals (45) in program history.One of only two members in Syracuse’s 100-point club, Grossi was awarded with CHA first team honors twice in her career while adding a CHA Best Defensive Forward award in her senior season. Volleyball — Polina Shemanova (2018-present)After making the move from the Big East to the ACC in 2013, the Orange made program history five years later when they appeared in the NCAA tournament for the first time ever — even advancing to the second round. Polina Shemanova led that 2018 team with 447 kills — the Syracuse record for kills from a freshman — and continued her momentum into the 2019 season where she had 485 kills, the fourth-most in Syracuse history. The sophomore also finished this season as the conference leader in points, points per set, kills and kills per set; she also recorded the fifth most kills per set in the NCAA.Shemanova is one of three players in Syracuse history to receive an All-American mention. With two years of eligibility remaining, the Orange will continue to lean on her offensive abilities in the coming years. Tennis — Gabriela Knutson (2015-19)During the past decade, the Orange made their first three NCAA tournament appearances in program history. All three occurred during Gabriela Knutson’s time with Syracuse. From 2015 to 2019, Knutson racked up 179 wins for Syracuse, second most in program history. She was the first to crack the top 10 since Masha Kabanova (151) and Shervin Saedinia (142) did so from 1999-2003. With Knutson, the Orange rose as high as No. 10 in the Oracle/ITA rankings.In 2018, Knutson became the first Singles All-American for the Orange since 1995 when Erica O’Neill received the honor. Knutson was named an All-American again in 2019 and received All-American doubles honors with partner Miranda Ramirez in 2018. Knutson finished the 2018 season ranked No. 8 in both in both the singles and doubles Oracle/ITA Rankings. In 2019, she was ranked the entire spring season at singles, peaking at No. 13. Knutson also reached the round of 16 in both the NCAA doubles and singles championships in 2018. She qualified for the NCAA Singles Championship again in 2019.Softball — Sydney O’Hara (2014-17) Since moving away from the Big East in 2013, Syracuse has struggled to find its footing, still searching for its first ACC tournament win. Nobody has done more to avoid this slide than Sydney O’Hara. O’Hara hit .348 in her career for SU with an on-base percentage of .454, both good for second-highest in program history. She tallied 28 homers and recorded 66 extra base hits while driving in 127 runs.Beyond hitting, O’Hara is the best two-way player in program history. She compiled 29 wins and 411 strikeouts while also earning a program-record 13 saves over her four seasons. She is one of five Syracuse players to ever record a no-hitter, doing so in her collegiate debut.She’s the only SU softball player in program history to receive multiple All-ACC honors. In 2017, O’Hara was named a NFCA Third Team All-American and earned Syracuse’s first-ever espnW National Player of the Week accolade. That year, she also set Syracuse single-season records for average, on-base percentage and saves, leading SU to its winningest season in the ACC to date.Track and Field/Cross-country — Justyn Knight (2014-18)Since moving to the ACC, the Syracuse track and field and cross-country teams have excelled. Picking one athlete out of the many successful runners should be hard, but when it comes to athlete of the decade there’s only name that stands out: Justyn Knight.He blazed a path of multiple records and championships, finishing with 11 individual and five team ACC championships. Knight’s success started early, as he was named ACC Rookie of the Year and broke the school record in the 1500-meters on his debut with Syracuse. By the end of his freshman year, Knight was a first team All-American at the NCAA Championships. But for Knight, it was just the beginning. By the time he graduated, Knight had become the most decorated track athlete in ACC history and won two NCAA Championships – one in cross-country and one in the 5000-meters.Knight turned pro after graduation, has since finished top-10 twice at world championships and is now competing for a spot on Team Canada’s 2020 Olympic roster.Rowing – Natalie Mastracci (2007-13)Syracuse women’s rowing made program history this decade by appearing in three consecutive NCAA championships and continues the search for more speed under new coach Luke McGee. Before moving from the Big East to the ACC, one woman catapulted Syracuse rowing onto the international Olympic stage: Natalie Mastracci.Mastracci raced in the varsity eight after her freshman year, pushing Syracuse to three podium finishes in the Big East. Mastracci was named a Big East All-Conference teammate during her final two years at Syracuse.Between her junior and senior years, Mastracci took a two-year academic break to train for the 2012 Olympics and compete with the Canadian National Team. In 2012, Mastracci earned a spot on Team Canada’s women’s eight that brought home the silver medal. Mastracci returned to Syracuse in 2013 to finish her senior year and help Syracuse to a second-place finish at the Big East Championships, its best finish of the decade. After graduation, Mastracci and Canada’s women’s eight finished fifth in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and she’s had a Syracuse women’s coxed four named after her.Photo graphics by Asst. Digital Editor Roshan FernandezCorrections: In a previous version of this post, it said the women’s lacrosse team is searching for its first national title appearance, but it has made two Championship games before. The team is searching for its first national title. It also said that the men’s basketball team was undefeated heading into its game against Duke, but it had one loss. The Daily Orange regrets these errors. Commentslast_img read more