Joey Spallina didn’t want to wait any longer.
The No. 1 ranked boys lacrosse junior in the country, according to Inside Lacrosse, has had a busy few weeks. Spallina began receiving calls from lacrosse coaches at midnight on Sept. 1 -- the very second coaches could start recruiting members of the Class of 2022. But in the end, Spallina picked the school that has been closest to his heart since he first picked up a lacrosse stick.
Spallina announced his commitment to play lacrosse at Syracuse via Instagram Live on Tuesday night. The Mount Sinai junior said Syracuse has been his "dream school" since he was young.
"The tradition there is like none other," Spallina told Newsday a few hours before making his official announcement. "It was pretty much my dream since a kid to play for Syracuse in the [Carrier] Dome and wear 22."
Spallina, an attack, will don No. 22 at Syracuse, which is a significant number at the university. The school doesn’t let just anyone wear the number. It’s reserved for a special talent, and Spallina will become just the 10th player since 1988 to wear it. Jordan Evans last wore No. 22 in 2017 and all nine players to wear it were All-Americans. Spallina, who wears 22 on his club team, said the coaching staff promised him he could have the number.
"It’s an amazing honor to be able to wear that," Spallina said. "And to be offered that was a dream come true."
Spallina had Maryland, North Carolina, Loyola and Virginia in his final five schools. The junior said he wanted to commit early, in hopes to get other players to come to the program. He said the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t change his timeline much, but it took away the ability for him to go on official recruiting trips.
"I always wanted to commit somewhat early," Spallina said, "so I’d be able to bring people I want to play with to where I’m going."
Spallina also had help from his father, Joe Spallina, the women’s lacrosse coach at Stony Brook University. Joey said his father was helpful in the recruiting process, in part because of his experience as the recruiter.
"I think as a parent you want your kids to dream and dream big and you tell them you can do anything you put your head to and that’s the thing he put his head to," Joe said. "So it’s beyond words when you watch your child set a large goal and for them to achieve it."
Joe credited his son’s work ethic and drive to becoming the top-ranked junior in the country. Spallina became the first freshman to be named to Newsday’s All-Long Island boys lacrosse first team after recording 65 goals and 66 assists in 2019 for Mount Sinai.
"This is a kid that wakes up and is at the gym at 5:30 in the morning, that runs and lifts before school every single day," Joe said. "He really has dedicated himself to his sport and goes above and beyond to be the best player he can be."
Spallina said he hopes to lead Syracuse, which went 9-5 in 2019, to its first Final Four since 2013 and first national championship since 2009. He’s aware being the top-ranked player brings additional attention and expectations, but Spallina welcomes the responsibility.
"My dad has prepared me for that kind of pressure," Spallina said. "I’m the hardest worker in every room, so obviously it’s a huge challenge to me, but I’ll embrace that challenge."