Faceoff specialists need take-no-prisoners frame of mind
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Take a little wrestling, mix it with a one-man rugby scrum, then add a little trickery and you get a lacrosse faceoff. Leverage, strength, hand-eye coordination, and above all, toughness are all required.
“A couple words I would use are quickness and toughness,” Syracuse junior Chris Daddio said. “You see a lot of bigger guys taking faceoffs, guys that jam you up. But they’ve implemented some new rules and you are starting to see guys who are smaller using a lot more quickness … like a turf rat or something.”
For many it is about ownership, about being in control of a situation.
“I like it because it is about me getting my team the ball,” said the 190-pound Daddio. “I like having that weight on my shoulders, being the guy that gets us into our offense. It can be mentally straining, especially in those close games."
Daddio will definitely feel that weight when he leads the Orange against Denver in the semifinals of the 2013 NCAA Division I Lacrosse Championships on Saturday.
“First and foremost it is the attitude you take,” assistant coach Leland Rogers said. “Like any position on the field it is a role and that role is to get the ball for the team. You have to have a certain personality, a certain attitude, a certain character."
Rogers was a champion wrestler, winning a New York High School state championship along with a Division III title. He works with SU’s faceoff specialists.
“There are a lot of different moves; guys who are strong, powerful, low to the ground, have good balance, guys who know how to use their body. I personally like the wrestlers. But, in facing off, if you are not quick off the whistle you are going to lose; that initial jump is so important. There really are a lot of things that go into being successful.”
It can best be described as “dirty.” There are things going on in the moments after the whistle blows that should require a parental advisory. Sticks and stones, and sometimes words, converge into a mass of chaos with the end goal being possession of a small ball.
“The face-off guys are different; they are a different breed,” Duke head coach Jon Danowski said. “It really is something unique in our sport; there really isn’t anything comparable in basketball, baseball, football or hockey. But it is certainly a key part of our game.”
Daddio has been successful on 50 percent of faceoffs in 2013. On Saturday, he should go head-to-head with Denver’s Chase Carraro and Chace Calkin, a pair of seniors who take faceoffs for the Pioneers.
The other semifinal, pitting Cornell against Duke, includes two of the nation’s best. The Big Red’s Doug Tesoriero, a 180-pound junior from Syosset, N.Y., has taken 382 of his team’s 449 faceoffs in 2013, winning 226 (59 percent). The Blue Devils’ Brendan Fowler, a junior from Wantagh, N.Y., has won 66 percent of the time, lining up for 449 of his squad’s 517 faceoffs. He is a first-team All-American and the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Fowler played in nine games for Duke’s football squad in 2011. He wrestled in high school.
“It’s almost a rock-paper-scissors type of game,” Tesoriero said. “I actually use the same move all the time, though. It comes down to who has the most speed, whoever gets the best jump off the whistle.
“The bottom line, though, is that you have to be tough out there. It’s been described as like being in a dogfight. [Saturday] is going to be a battle. [Fowler] is one of the best.”
Fowler is likewise ready for a grind-it-out afternoon.
“Fast hands and picking up a ground ball, that is what is most important,” Fowler said. “I think the No. 1 thing is about being quick off the whistle. We have put a big emphasis on faceoffs this week. [Tesoriero] is really good, so we’ve taken extra time focusing on being ready.”
Perhaps, at least mentally, being the faceoff guy is like a closer in baseball. Every game holds another save opportunity. Forgetting about the previous game's blown save is part of life. Taking faceoffs in the fourth quarter of close games requires a mental fortitude, a take-no-prisoners frame of mind.
“I guess you could compare it to a closer in baseball,” Tesoriero said. “When you lose a couple of early you can’t change up what you do all the time. You have to stick with what you are best at, whatever particular technique you feel comfortable with. I’ve been using the same thing since I was four or five-years old.”
“You can’t freak out if things go wrong early, you have to be ready for the next one,” said Fowler, who weighs in at 210 pounds. “A short memory is a good thing sometimes. None of what you did in the first quarter really matters when the game is close late. All you can think about is that next one.”
Cornell (14-3) and Duke (14-5) take the field for the first of two NCAA semifinals at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. Syracuse (15-3) meets Denver (14-4) at 5 p.m.