When No. 2 Penn State takes on No. 6 Yale Saturday in New Haven, there's another top 10 showdown that will also be taking place within the game.
It will take place at the faceoff circle between the Nittany Lions' Gerard Arceri and the Bulldogs' TD Ierlan, both of whom are among the nation's top faceoff men in the sport.
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Heading into the matchup, Arceri ranks as the top faceoff man in the country. Through three games, he has capitalized on just under 80 percent of his battles, while Ierlan was able to win 72 percent of his battles against Villanova in Yale's season-opening loss last weekend.
While technically speaking Arceri ranks at No. 1 and Ierlan at No. 7 heading into Saturday, Greg Gurenlian, a former Penn State standout and 2015 Major League Lacrosse MVP sees both guys as the top faceoff men in the country at the collegiate level.
Ierlan joined the Bulldogs after two years at powerhouse Albany, where he was a Tewaaraton Award nominee. On top of that, Ierlan set Division I records for face-off percentage (.791), face-off wins (359) and ground balls (254) last season with the Great Danes.
While Gurenlian sees similarities in their styles, he also sees differences that distinguish the two.
"They're both super strong and athletic. Where the contrast lies is that TD is more of a wrestler, so his first initial motion is similar to Gerard's," Gurenlian said. "But when he makes 'impact', TD goes down and sprawls, spinning like a wrestler.
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"(Arceri) puts his body weight on that right hand and keeps turning with his right arm locked. So on impact, you will see a contrasting style where (Arceri) goes high to use leverage and (Ierlan) will go low to use leverage."
Arceri himself tended to agree with Gurenlian's assessment of the matchup, noticing how quick Ierlan can be to counter offensively after winning a battle.
"The way he battles around the ball and secures it is something the coaches and I have been looking at."
Arceri himself was a Tewaaraton Award Nominee and was named First Team All-Big Ten last season, but he has faced a long road back from injuries that made taking faceoffs difficult at times last season.
"It's definitely a great feeling. When you're hurt, at times you can second-guess yourself on how you're going to play when you come back," Arceri said. "But I'm thankful that I rehabbed well and I credit our whole unit to the early success I've had."
With Arceri's injury last season and Ierlan's transfer to Yale, Gurenlian thinks that Saturday's matchup makes for an interesting storyline between two players who are trying to fight through differing, yet challenging circumstances.
No. 2️⃣ @PennStateMLAX 🆚 No. 6️⃣ @YaleLacrosse— US Lacrosse Magazine (@USLacrosseMag) February 21, 2019
Gerard Arceri 🆚 TD Ierlan
Who's stoked for this top-10 showdown and marquee FO matchup Saturday in New Haven?
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"(Arceri) is coming from an injury and now feels healthy, while (Ierlan) is trying to prove some people wrong," Gurenlian said.
Arceri is looking forward to the battle as well, and has known Ierlan personally for some time now. The two have trained against each other and now, look to be the catalyst for two of the more potent offenses in college lacrosse.
"I know a couple guys have been talking about it, but I've known TD for a pretty long time," Arceri said. "We've practiced against each other at clinics and trained in years past. It's definitely going to be a great opportunity."
The key to the matchup might also lie outside of the faceoff circle. Gurenlian credited Penn State's wings for knowing Arceri's habits and reacting accordingly.
Last Saturday, @HobartLacrosse's Matthew Pedicine won 32 faceoffs against Siena, setting the all time #NCAALAX DI single game record, breaking Bill Dirrigl's record from 1988. pic.twitter.com/cOsVFvrl49— NCAA Lacrosse (@NCAALAX) February 22, 2019
"Nick McEvoy is a lynchpin for that faceoff unit," Gurenlian said. "Not only is he an athletic, short-stick guy who came in the same year as (Arceri), but McEvoy was a faceoff guy through high school. He has the ability to look at a faceoff and has that extra sense that a regular wing doesn't have."
"From a fan perspective, the game is everything a lacrosse fan could want," Gurenlian said. "They're two of the best teams in the country. And from a faceoff fan perspective, I consider these two guys the best in the country."