Chase Scanlan was in paradise, sightseeing with his Loyola teammates in Portugal, snorkeling, taking surf lessons and doing a few lacrosse clinics in between. It should have been one of those vacations he would remember fondly for the rest of his life.
But on his flight home, Scanlan realized the seven-day excursion last June didn’t feel like utopia. Thoughts rushed through his mind. Where was that team atmosphere that made him want to join the Greyhounds as a highly coveted recruit out of IMG Academy? Scanlan felt isolated, trapped in his own head and disconnected from his teammates.
As a freshman, Scanlan, the top-scoring midfielder in the country with 43 goals, gravitated toward the upperclassmen but felt hesitant to speak up. To some degree, he created that distance, hoping to preserve team chemistry as the Greyhounds advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals.
A second-team All-American, Scanlan has proven to be elusive both on and off the lacrosse field. He started his high school career at Silver Creek (N.Y.) before moving to Florida to play at IMG. He waffled between Canadian Junior A clubs in Ontario and British Columbia. He committed to Syracuse, then chose Loyola.
Once more, Scanlan convinced himself on that seven-and-a-half-hour flight, he needed a change of scenery. When the team returned stateside, Scanlan entered the transfer portal and notified Loyola coach Charley Toomey of his intent to leave.
Once again, he became a highly coveted recruit.
It started with a list.Mark Burnam, Scanlan’s coach at IMG, told him he needed to prioritize what he wanted out of a new school. Scanlan’s father, Thomas, weighed in too. Proximity, system, major, connections — which place would have the best mix?
“This is a big decision, man,” Burnam said to Scanlan. “You’re leaving your teammates. You’re leaving your boys. I mean, you just had a really good year.”
Syracuse checked off everything on Scanlan’s list. “I feel safe doing this,” Scanlan replied.
Six weeks later, Scanlan shared an AirBnB with his new teammates in Lake Placid. They barbecued. Jakob Phaup and Jacob Buttermore invited Scanlan to dinner. They seemed genuinely happy to have him. Conversations turned into heart-to-hearts, and the topic of Scanlan’s heritage — one of the reasons he felt disconnected from his Loyola teammates — would come up.
Growing up as a member of the Seneca Nation, the frugal teenager spent most of his time with extended family, including Zed Williams. Scanlan was a goalie and Williams was a renowned recruit himself, heading to Virginia.
But in games of basketball between the two — Williams was 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, and Scanlan hadn’t hit his growth spurt yet, weighing just 115 pounds — the youngest wouldn’t back down. Williams would back him into the post and try to take over the game. But Scanlan was wiry.
“The little guy would just steal the ball from me, all the time,” Williams said.
Scanlan wanted to follow Williams’ path and play for a top college team. Syracuse coach John Desko got word of Scanlan when he was in ninth grade and invited him for a visit.“His eyes were wide and everything,” Thomas Scanlan said.
Trophies decked Desko’s office, enticing the then 15-year-old. Scanlan committed to Syracuse at the start of high school. But over time, he found his decision to be premature. “I don’t know if they really care about me,” Thomas Scanlan remembered his son saying. “Am I just another Native kid they want?”
Syracuse has a well-known lineage of Iroquois players, including Marshall Abrams, Brett Bucktooth, Sid Smith, Cody Jamieson and Jeremy Thompson. When Scanlan chose Loyola instead, Burnam tried to talk him out of it.
Scanlan doesn’t regret choosing Loyola — he “built a brotherhood with them, too,” he said — but the fit never felt right.
It’s not uncommon for Native Americans to struggle adjusting to college. Several current and recent collegians shared as much in the US Lacrosse Magazine series, “What It Means to be Native in This Sport” (April 2019). Among them was Scanlan’s cousin, Louisville women’s lacrosse player Shayla Scanlan, who said she frequently addresses teammates and classmates about stereotypes. Williams, meanwhile, warned Scanlan about the difficulty he experienced transitioning from a high school with a graduating class of 65 to a university with an enrollment of more than 20,000, saying he didn’t even know what a syllabus was then. Eventually Williams’ situation would normalize, and he hoped his cousin’s would too.
Scanlan called his dad often last year to spell out how lonely he felt at Loyola.
“You need to think of yourself first,” Thomas Scanlan told his son.
When news broke in June that Scanlan had entered the transfer portal , he issued a statement to Lax Sports Network saying he was “looking for somewhere a little more blue-collared.” He walked those comments back some, but maintained that he did not feel comfortable at Loyola.
“I found myself explaining myself over and over again,” Scanlan said.
Scanlan whittled his choices down to Syracuse and Virginia. Desko, looking to attract Scanlan one more time, stayed an extra day at the All-Canada games.
On his way home, Desko’s phone kept buzzing. It was Scanlan, berating him with questions. “I got sense after the fourth call on a four-hour drive that he was going to Syracuse,” Desko said.
Desko also had an ace up his sleeve. Assistant coach Lelan Rogers texted Scanlan to offer him Syracuse’s No. 22 jersey — that which has been worn by Gary Gait, Charlie Lockwood, all three Powell brothers and Jamieson, Scanlan’s idol.
Scanlan would have chosen Syracuse anyway, he said. It just felt right. Through a Loyola spokesperson, Toomey declined to be interviewed for this story, other than to wish Scanlan well at Syracuse.
With Scanlan running alongside Tucker Dordevic, who missed all of last season due to a right foot injury, the Orange will boast a most potent combination. Syracuse also hired former Princeton offensive coordinator Pat March, who will deploy the types of two-man sets in which Scanlan thrived at Loyola. Defensive midfielder Peter Dearth envisions Scanlan filling the void of finisher Bradley Voigt as he transitions into a role at attack.
But Scanlan really came to Syracuse to feel valued. Five of his teammates have connections with him from IMG. He gets invited to Chipotle. They summon him to watch football and play video games.
And when Scanlan committed to Syracuse in July, he was added to the team group chat.
“I don’t have to really think about that anymore,” he said, “that in the back of my head I’m alone.”
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