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Adam Hermann | | May 18, 2020

The college lacrosse FOGO explained

4 best face-off guys returning for the 2020 men's college lacrosse season

Lacrosse has four general position groups: goaltenders, defenders, midfielders, and attackers. If you watch sports, these all sound familiar. But lacrosse teams can also have a FOGO. What the heck is a FOGO?

The term is relatively new in the sport. It stands for Face Off Get Off. It’s used to categorize a player whose job is extremely specific: win the face off, give the ball to a teammate, and then get off the field.

For years, the player who took face-offs for a team could be any midfielder or attacker. They’d stay on the field and contribute to the rest of the game. But when coaches realized what can happen when your face off taker is dominant instead of just serviceable, they started looking for specialists.

Lacrosse’s face off is especially powerful because of the way possession works. It’s not like baseball, where a chance on offense is guaranteed. In lacrosse, if you’ve got a great FOGO, it’s effectively like playing a “make it, take it” game of pickup basketball: you can play keep away for possessions on end.

Trevor Baptiste set the career record for DI face offs won in 2018 (1,158 of 1,622,) but that record was broken by just one face off win (1,159) in 2020 by Yale's TD Ierlan before the season got cut short due to COVID-19. Ierlan owns the single-season record of .791 that he set when still playing for Albany in 2018 (359 of 454). He transferred to Yale after two years at Albany, and continued breaking grounds. He set the record for best game with a perfect performance of 1.000 on April 27, 2019 when Yale faced Harvard, and set the season record for face offs won with 393 in 2019 through 19 games. 

Baptiste still owns the NCAA career record for face off winning percentage (.714,) but that likely would have been broken by Ierlan given a full 2020 season. Watch the moment he originally set the record for most face off wins: 

It’s important to note the difference between other specialized positions like volleyball’s libero, or even a goaltender in soccer or hockey. Where there are specific special rules that apply to the libero, or those goaltenders, the FOGO is a self-imposed specialty position. It’s more of a strategic decision by a team. 

MORE: College lacrosse's face-off history books are being rewritten before our eyes

A face off man in lacrosse is still allowed to stay on the field and contribute to the attack; for instance, Denver’s Baptiste, scored 41 points in his four-year career, including 29 goals. 

Baptiste was not relied on by his team for his offensive contributions the way a traditional attacker is, but he was also not exclusively a FOGO. He stayed on fairly regularly and attacked. A FOGO is still allowed to play like any normal player, according to the rules. 

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