Keeping Face: 35 years after a 1-year break from the faceoff, the value of the X is still debated

first_img Published on February 13, 2014 at 1:35 am Contact Trevor: [email protected] | @TrevorHass Spencer Bodian | Staff PhotographerBut coaches and players around the Atlantic Coast Conference don’t necessarily agree with Desko’s stance on the divisive issue. Virginia head coach Dom Starsia was an assistant coach at Brown in 1979, which is the year faceoffs didn’t exist. After nearly every restart at the midline, one of his players would scurry all the way downfield and try to score. It wasn’t the game he was used to. Something so dramatic requires time, Starsia said. The entire dynamic of the sport couldn’t shift that much in one year without some dissatisfaction. “It was just so dramatically different for everybody,” Starsia said, “that lacrosse fans everywhere kind of freaked out and there was an uproar and so it got changed right back.”Starsia says he can’t see anything similar taking place nowadays in college lacrosse. For Duke coach John Danowski, the faceoff is all he’s known since he started playing the game in seventh grade. “It’s the only thing I’m familiar with,” Danowski said. Desko’s championship teams in 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2009 all won more than 50 percent of their faceoffs, so the 35-year head coach has had many teams thrive at the X.But last year, Syracuse won just 42.8 percent of its faceoffs. JoJo Marasco, Brian Megill and Co. carried the Orange to the championship game, but that’s when the problem finally came back to bite the Orange.The FOGO has become a trend in college lacrosse. Bryant’s Kevin Massa torched Syracuse in the NCAA tournament, nearly guiding the Bulldogs to what would have been a stunning upset in the opening round. Massa won 22 faceoffs. Syracuse won just one. Now you have a guy who doesn’t play offense or doesn’t play defense, but might have the most effect on the outcome of the game.John Desko, SU head coachIn the championship game, that player was Brendan Fowler, who served as Duke’s FOGO. Whenever Duke scored, they’d get the ball right back more often than not. Desko said Syracuse was handcuffed and had to watch Duke play offense most of the game.Fowler and UVA faceoff man Mick Parks, who come from the other end of the faceoff spectrum, are in favor of keeping the system as is. Fowler said it helped Duke get back in games. Parks said it brings out the toughness in a team. “I obviously like taking faceoffs,” Fowler said. “It’s what I do.”But Chris Daddio, Cal Paduda and the rest of Desko’s attempts couldn’t generate any success against Fowler or Parks. Faceoffs were the reason Syracuse didn’t win the national championship.However, a recent study by LaxPower.com found that success at the faceoff X does not necessarily correlate to success overall. The study said good faceoff teams garner 4.4 more possessions per game than the bad teams, which averages out to a one-goal difference.Teams with really good faceoff units contribute about one win per year, and teams with bad units lead to one loss, according to the study. In fact, Duke won the first five faceoffs against Syracuse, but still trailed 5-0 early on before staging a comeback. Starsia believes that’s not nearly enough of an effect to change the entire landscape of lacrosse. He doesn’t see the committee altering the rules like it did in 1978. There was too much negative feedback then and he could never see it happening now.It’s all college lacrosse has ever known except the one year, and Starsia said the key is to work with what you have, even though some years are better than others. “We’ve won championships when we’ve been very good facing off,” Starsia said. “We’ve won championships when we’ve been only OK facing off. You do the best with what you’ve got.” Comments The year was 1978. Johns Hopkins had just won the national championship after Ned Radebaugh controlled 20-of-22 faceoffs, and officials knew a change needed to be made.By 1979, the faceoff was eliminated from the college game. Instead, the opposing team took over at midfield following a goal. But that didn’t bode well with college coaches. The very next year, the rules were switched back to the way they were before, and that’s the way it’s been ever since. At a meeting this year, Syracuse head coach John Desko and other coaches discussed the status of the faceoff position going forward. Desko has repeatedly voiced his displeasure with the current system and the use of FOGOs (faceoff, get off). His opinion on the matter has remained steady over the years. And last May, his team lost to Duke in the national championship game 16-10 after corralling just 9-of-30 faceoffs.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We looked at the faceoff, and I don’t mean it as a knock,” Desko said, “but you probably have the team’s worst lacrosse player being the most important on the field and that’s the faceoff.”last_img

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