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MX News Update 2024


Pat March developed an attacking style through specific recruitment

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Yahoo Fantasy Baseball provided Pat March with the perfect blueprint for his current recruiting tactics. While playing with his friends in high school, he learned how to take a first baseman early as there weren’t many good ones on the board. Sometimes it is not necessary to get the best five midfielders in a class. Balance is the key.

“You don’t want to end up with really good players on the left flank, but you only need one or two,” March said.

March’s recruiting prowess led to key additions at Vermont and Princeton in the 2010s, and he continued to land top talent at Syracuse. He was also instrumental in recruitment through the transfer portal, bringing in Jake Stevens and Sam English (whom he originally recruited to the Tigers) to strengthen SU’s midfield. And as the Orange’s offensive coordinator, March produced the nation’s sixth-best offense during the shortened 2020 season and this year.

“I’m very happy with where I am with Syracuse,” March said. “I have worked hard to build the team we have now and the team we have in the future.”

March’s coaching career began in 2011 at Division III Roanoke College, where he played from 2007 to 2010 as a two-time All-American. After a year patrolling the Maroons’ sidelines, he became an assistant at Dickinson College, another D-III program.

Recruiting at the D-III level required an extensive work ethic, said Matt Madalon, who coached at Stevens College and is currently the head coach at Princeton. It took hours of cold calling after high school demonstrations, with the first 25 calls going nowhere as players committed to top Division I programs. The only reassurance was that you were looking at the right players, Madalon said.

Madalon, who played at Roanoke from 2003 to 2006, started coaching D-III around the same time as March. Although they never crossed paths with the Maroons, Madalon followed March’s playing career and saw his toughness as he recorded the sixth-most points (243) in program history.

Madalon and March quickly became friends as they each climbed the coaching ranks. They had many conversations about working together or running a program. After Madalon was promoted to head coach of the Tigers in 2017, that became a reality.

“Whoever became head coach first, we would hire each other,” Madalon said. “We trust each other and think very similarly about the game.”

At Princeton, March brought with him a classification process for recruits, which he created as an assistant at Vermont. The system numbers players based on their positions and skills. March still uses a similar version. The left wings would be No. 3 and the right X players would be No. 6. The players were then assigned a second number if they were a two-way player (No. 1) or a one-way player (No. 2).

The procedure also helped with roster management and ensuring there were the right number of players on the field, Madalon said. In March’s freshman year at Princeton, Zach Currier, Austin Sims, Michael Sowers and Gavin McBride were ranked No. 3 through No. 6, respectively.

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“It was an innovative way to look at a limited recruiting roster,” Madalon said. “We weren’t in a position to hire 16, 17 guys… you have to be very sharp with your recruitment with your spots.”

Princeton’s 2017 squad led the nation in shooting percentage and was second nationally in goals per game, using a “400” set (four players in front of the cages and two behind), inverts and big-little play. The latter was something March had also instituted with the Catamounts.

Less able to recruit the best American players, Vermont placed a premium on recruiting players from Canada due to its proximity to the border. March has always developed his offensive sets based on the players he has, and at Vermont that meant implementing a “pairs” system, which involved aspects of box lacrosse that players like Ian MacKay were familiar with.

The closest I came to playing boxing lacrosse in March was practicing at a basketball school growing up just south of Baltimore, Maryland. He learned more about the two-man game he played with Jon Mason and Matt Quinton in Roanoke. And even more so by asking questions of the Canadian players he coached.

“I’m not Canadian,” March joked. “I don’t play box lacrosse at the level that a lot of these guys do.”

March said the two-man game exploded onto the college scene around the time he started using it at Vermont. It’s something he’s used throughout his time at Syracuse.

When March arrived at SU in 2020, he said the Orange had three midfielders who “took a slide down the field” – Jamie Trimboli, Tucker Dordevic and Brendan Curry. The following year he had at his disposal then-freshman Owen Hiltz, who had been familiar with the “400” since his high school assistant coach Riley Thompson played under March at Princeton.

Hiltz moved from midfield to attack after Syracuse’s season opener against Army. March wanted to get the left-wing two-man between Stephen Rehfuss and Hiltz working, where Rehfuss facilitated from X. The Dutch team defeated then-No. 3 Virginia 20-10 the following week, with the duo connecting on three scores.

“You start talking about these triangles or chemistry pairs and guys start developing that throughout the season,” March said.

Once March realizes that players cultivate chemistry with each other, he tries to lean on that as much as possible. Against the Cavaliers this year, March said he made sure English and Finn Thomson had plenty of room to utilize their chemistry versus short-stick matchups.

That freedom is something March has given his players everywhere he has coached. It allows them to be flexible within the “400” and “500” set (five players in front and one behind the cage), which has similarities to what March used at Vermont and Princeton.

“He wants them to make decisions and have ownership over them,” Madalon said. “He allows for a lot of creativity and teaches them the game at the same time.”

But March isn’t solely responsible for the Syracuse offense. He is also responsible for the drive and cleanup, which he said he mastered under head coach John Desko from 2020-21.

Syracuse offensive coordinator Pat March (orange hat) draws a play on a whiteboard during a timeout. goes here. Courtesy of SU Athletics

When March was absent for nearly two games this season after an early ejection against Cornell, the clearing unit struggled. SU lost to the Big Red before late turnovers and failed clears allowed North Carolina to get an Orange lead.

March’s return to the sidelines came at the most opportune time, as Syracuse faced UVA’s difficult 10-man drive. SU passed the test with flying colors, methodically beating the ride to secure a win in the regular season finale.

“Coach March led the flawless unit all week,” Syracuse head coach Gary Gait said. “With him on the sidelines, players look at him and feel a lot calmer and ready to go.”

Now all of March’s contributions are coming to fruition with the first NCAA Tournament bid of his SU career. But being an assistant is not his end goal.

At every stop of his career, March has dipped his toe into everything surrounding a program. For Vermont he was in charge of equipment and briefly academics, as well as organizing trips since there was no director of operations. For Princeton, he put all his energy into recruiting offensive schemes.

He is happy at Syracuse, but his goal is to take the next step at some point.

“I’ve tried to put myself in a position where I’ve done a lot of the things that need to be done in a program to hopefully prepare myself to be a head coach one day,” March said.



Contact Anish: (email protected) | @anish_vasu