Syracuse senior attack Jordan Evans playing the best lacrosse of his career at just the right time
Courtesy of Syracuse Athletics
Sergio Salcido hit the game-winner at North Carolina, but the ball wouldn’t have been in his stick if not for a gloved hand pointing to him. From behind the cage, Jordan Evans rose his right hand in the air, signaling for midfielder Matt Lane to get the ball to Salcido, stationed on the opposite wing. Three passes later, Salcido wound up and ripped the game-winner, extending then-No. 1 Syracuse’s longest winning streak in six years.
Evans’ role in the play didn’t show up in any stat sheet, nor was it noticed by pundits or the ESPNU broadcasters. Yet it’s exactly the type of contribution the attack has made throughout his senior campaign. While his scoring numbers have not met those of last season, let alone those that come with the expectations of wearing the No. 22 jersey or being the nation’s former No. 1 recruit, Evans is heating up at just the right time for an SU team one victory away from its first Final Four since 2013.
“People who may not know lacrosse well,” Evans said, “don’t notice the little things I do for us to be in the right spot at the right time and make the offense flow. I’m trying to facilitate more and add a dynamic to this playoff push.”
That kept Evans on the field for most games earlier this season. And lately, his gaudy numbers are earning him attention. Over his last four games, Evans leads Syracuse with seven goals and nine assists (16 points), the best stretch of his career. He’s growing into a more consistent threat for No. 2 Syracuse (13-2, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) amid its NCAA tournament run which meets its second road-block in No. 11 Towson (11-4, 4-1 Colonial Athletic) on Sunday at Delaware Stadium in Newark, Delaware, in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Evans knows that one more loss means he would be only the second No. 22 since 1988 to not capture a national title. He knows that he didn’t shape up to be the player people thought he would be when offered the number as a sophomore at Jamesville-DeWitt (New York) High School. And he knows that much of what he does goes unrecognized to onlookers. None of it matters to him, because his renewed focus since February has been to be the proverbial leader of Syracuse.
“He realizes that he doesn’t have to be the star,” Wendi Evans, his mother, said. “That shipped sailed. He’s not another Gary Gait. He’s not a Tewaaraton Award winner. It’s more about, let’s win. Let’s see if we can go all of the way.”
Evan Jenkins | Staff Photographer
Last month at Hobart, when sophomore attack Nate Solomon was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Evans threw his hands in the air. He was the first SU player to walk over to Solomon and give him an earful, explaining what Solomon’s actions meant for the rest of the team — man-down, extra defensive pressure, and less possession time for the offense.
Routinely, Evans walks up to players during stoppages to explain the big-picture schemes and little maneuvers alike. He is the one who verbalizes offensive adjustments to the first and second midfield lines. He is usually the one to back up shots, protect against fast breaks and outlets, and analyze what the defense is doing against the SU attack.
“I read how he’s not a superstar. That’s complete nonsense,” said Hobart head coach Greg Raymond, whose Statesmen were handed a 17-11 beat down to SU on April 5. “He’s outstanding, very smart and unselfish. If you know this game, you know that kid can make an impact immediately.”
He relies on several signals from behind the cage to organize the offense’s moving parts and make one of the nation’s most balanced offense’s cohesive. He points with his hand, he reaches his stick out, and he yells to get teammates’ attention to reposition them. His increased production has only made him more of a threat: He checks in fourth on SU in goals (19), second in assists (24) and leads offensive players in ground balls (27) and caused turnovers (five).
“Everybody’s down on Jordan Evans,” said four-time SU All-American defender and ESPN lacrosse analyst Ric Beardsley. “Has he played like the No. 1 recruit in the country? No. This year and in the last five games, he’s done a great job quarterbacking the way things have to go. He’s not given any credit and he’s a big part of their success. Without him, there would be no one to say, ‘Hey, take it easy.’”
Evan Jenkins | Staff Photographer
Sophomore attack Brad Voigt, SU’s man-up specialist, recalled a man-up situation early this season in which Evans told Voigt where to set up. After the play, a near-SU goal, Evans walked up to Voigt and told him that, had he moved to his left a few steps, he would have been in better position to see an opening and dish to a cutter. “He’s like having another coach on the field,” SU head coach John Desko said.
Evans makes it difficult for his man to help on defense. By playing far behind the cage, he occupies his man and rotates in spots to stress the defense. Plus, senior midfielder Nick Mariano, who leads Syracuse in scoring, said he learned from Evans how to keep his head up more. He also learned how to time a pass, and when to throw a skip pass versus a regular dish.
Now that Evans is scoring, too, he’s building up a deep Syracuse attack eyeing its first national title in eight years.
“You can’t forget about Jordan,” said Salcido, a First Team All-American and SU’s assist leader (33). “He stresses the defense. That extra stress makes it harder for them to focus on Mariano, me and the others.”
Published on May 17, 2017 at 8:22 pm