'Cuse LAX gets stronger at defense

Onondaga Community College (N.Y.) head coach, Chuck Wilbur, talks defense to CuseNation and what exactly transfer, Ryan Vella, will bring to a Syracuse lacrosse team that lost key defensive players this past season inside.

When asked about junior college transfer, Ryan Vella, the word, athlete, gets thrown out more than once by Onondaga Community College lacrosse head coach, Chuck Wilbur.

"He is probably one of the best athletes," Wilbur said, "if not the best athlete that has ever come through [Onondaga]."

The Syracuse–bound defenseman will be adding yet another dimension to the team's defensive makeup this year and likely fill a void left by Brian Megill, the Orange's go-to defender when it came to locking down its opposition's top attackman. David Hamlin is another defensive stalwart Syracuse lost to graduation this past May.

Wilbur notes that when the Rochester, N.Y., native came to Onondaga, he was, like many lacrosse players nowadays, a multi-sport athlete. He dazzled the Lazer coaching staff with blazing Division I 40-yard dash times and strength. Vella wasn't a full-time lacrosse player until he stepped foot on the Onondaga campus. It was there that Wilbur and assistant coaches Joe and Mike Villano continuously worked with him on his craft.

"He was like a sponge," Wilbur said. "In his second year, because of all the effort he put in, became a premiere defender for us."

Vella was named All-American and Defenseman of the Year.

"For him, it was learning the game of lacrosse," Wilbur said. "Athletically, he will be perfect [for the Orange]. Obviously, he has only a couple of years to play there and has to pick up things quickly, but I.Q., work ethic and personality wise he will be fine at Syracuse."

There is one difference, Wilbur says, between Vella and his former Lazer-turned-Syracuse teammate, Niko Manning.

"Niko is a do-it-all guy," he said. "He is the prototypical defenseman that Syracuse used to have over the years where they have the great stick and athleticism – a little bit of everything. He is able to push the ball. He can definitely be one of those defenseman that Syracuse is always known for having."

As for Vella, he is a physical specimen responsible for blanketing its rivals' top scorer.

Wilbur continues, "I think what makes them so successful is their athletic ability. You need to be a special person to play at a level like Syracuse University, especially playing defense. They will have to pick up all that defensive schemes that Coach Rogers throws at them, that's the other part of it, but the one part they have is God-given: their athletic ability. They both have it."

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