Freshman Nick Mellen uses quickness to find starting role

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first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 10, 2016 at 10:42 pm Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossman In Syracuse’s final preseason scrimmage against Brown, Nick Mellen poked the ball out of attack Henry Blynn’s stick to cheers of, “Nice hands Nick!” from the Orange sideline.The caused turnover was one of many in a tune-up game that doubled as an underclassmen showcase by the time the game reached an extended “fifth period.” Mellen, a true freshman defender, fit the description.But his poke check came while senior defenders Brandon Mullins and Jay McDermott flanked him. It’s a group Mellen’s been practicing with since midway through fall practice, when assistant coach Lelan Rogers told him to take the field when the other two starting defenders did.“It’s intimidating,” Mellen said of starting as a freshman, “but you can’t really play intimidated. “If you do go out there and you’re nervous, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, if I make one mistake they’re going to pull me out.’”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAs the preseason progressed, Mellen emerged as a rare freshman starter for SU. He’ll officially take the field for the first time as a member of the No. 5 Orange on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the season opener against Siena.While struggling to grasp defensive slide packages and others keeping him off the man-down unit, he’s compensated with his speed. Head coach John Desko already tabbed him as SU’s best option to cover an opponent’s second attack.“He’s got great quickness in his feet and his ability to cover people and clear the ball,” Desko said. “… He’s just someone we’re trying to get as much experience as a freshman as possible.”Even through three scrimmages, Mellen’s proven to be an ambitious playmaker in a starting group otherwise composed of juniors and seniors.While being cornered by a group of Brown attacks and his teammates calling for him to dish the ball, Mellen took off. He sprinted diagonally across the field through four Brown players, and nearly outran them before the ball slipped out of his stick.In part, it’s that quickness that makes him the ideal option to guard shifty attacks Syracuse will face like Notre Dame’s Matt Kavanagh or Virginia’s Ryan Lukacovic.“He’s lights out,” Mullins said of Mellen. “I think you just watch him play and he seems to make plays. … He’s quick so he can cover, and he’s pretty strong too.”Mellen said he feels the weight of responsibility that comes along with playing in his first season. Desko almost always encourages a redshirt season, and this year’s roster features 23 players who sat out a year.Junior attack Jordan Evans relates to Mellen coming into Syracuse as a highly-touted freshman. His expectations were sky-high as the top-ranked high school player and the one chosen to don the esteemed No. 22 jersey.Even with tempered expectations for Mellen compared to Evans, the junior stressed composure to the young defender. He reminded Mellen he went from being the best player on his high school team, to an SU team full of players with the same entitlement.“It’s hard as a freshman trying to be so excited and jump right into things,” Evans said. “The good freshmen who step in are the ones who can keep composed, they can take their time and not make stupid penalties.”The speed of the game has kept Mellen levelheaded, he said. He admires howMullins plays aggressively without taking himself out of position, while McDermottstifles attacks on the edge of the crease.It’s a group he silently hopes he’ll fortify and keep up with, one where he can let his legs do the talking.“They expect a lot out of me defensively. I got to play defense,” Mellen said. “… Being one of the few freshmen out here playing a lot, it’s definitely a lot of pressure.” Commentslast_img

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