The first college lacrosse game of the 2020 season is less than a month away, and there is a lot to be excited about. Who you will see back at the face-off X is one of them.
2019 RECAP: How Virginia took home the national championship
So, let's take a look at four of the best face-off men returning for the season. Of course, there are a lot of them, and we couldn't pick them all. Here is how I selected them: USILA All-American awards from last season were taken highly into consideration, so was face-off win percentage, face-offs won and taken, and a few other factors such as ground balls and records. Once again, these aren't the only great face-off guys returning, just four of them.
TD Ierlan – Yale
If there is anyone on this list to argue about, this guy is not one of them. Ierlan undoubtedly deserves to be called one of the best face-off guys returning for this season, if not called one of the best face-off guys of all time in DI NCAA men's lacrosse. Ierlan led the country in face-off winning percentage, having won 75.8 percent of face-offs last season. He also led in face-off wins, by a TON, with 375 wins. The next best is 278. If you were talking about Yale last season, chances are you were talking about Ierlan too. He was a main reason why they were so successful — they possessed the ball a lot.
Ierlan was a Tewaaraton award finalist last season as a face-off specialist and a USILA first-team All-American. He broke an NCAA record for face-offs in a single game when he went 26 for 26 at Harvard, broke a NCAA tournament record when he won 31 of 35 face-offs against Georgetown and broke an overall NCAA record for ground balls in a game with 29.
To think we have another season of this guy is incredible.
Kyle Gallagher – Penn
Gallagher was a USLIA third-team all American last season. He set Penn’s single-season record with 270 face-off wins and 432 face-offs taken. He ranks third in the country in face-off wins and fourth in ground balls per game with 10.56. Last season, Penn made it to the NCAA championship quarterfinal game where they fell to Yale, so we are talking about the face-off man for one of the top teams in the country, who finished fifth on the 2019 season.
Since Yale and Penn are Ivy League rivals, we are going to see a lot of Ierlan and Gallagher facing off at the X this season.
Gerard Arceri — Penn State
Here is another face-off guy for one of the top teams in the country. This time for a team that made it to the top four last season and fell in the NCAA championship semifinals to Yale as well. Arceri has been the successful face-off specialist for the Nittany Lions and part of one of the top offenses in the nation.
He was an USILA third-team All-American last season with Gallagher and was second in the nation in face-off wins with 278 on 577 face-offs taken. He is also fifth in the country in ground balls per game, with 10.39. Arceri did a great job sparking transition for the Nittany Lions last season.
Conor Gaffney — Lehigh
Lehigh may not be ranked as high as the other schools on this list, but Gaffney is still an elite face-off specialist. He has the numbers to show for it, the awards, and success against top teams. Last season, when Lehigh faced Virginia, the eventual 2019 national champions, Gaffney won 65 percent of the face-offs that game.
Gaffney was also a USILA honorable mention All-American last season. He ranked fourth in the nation in face-off winning percentage, only behind Ierlan on this list, with a 69.7 win percentage. He finished last season with 249 face-off wins and he won 60 percent or more of his face-offs in 15-of-17 games. We’ve got another season with Gaffney at the X as well.
Ohio State's Justin Inacio is one more player to keep an eye on this season. He had really strong numbers in his sophomore season at Ohio State, with 9.75 ground balls per game, and a 63.7 face-off win percentage. He didn't win or take nearly as many face-offs last season as the other guys on this list, but could have a big season at Ohio State this year.