Syracuse uses any means necessary to win faceoffs

first_img Published on March 28, 2018 at 10:10 pm Contact Josh: [email protected] | @Schafer_44 After more than 19 goalless minutes, Nate Solomon broke Syracuse’s drought. Back within a goal of No. 3 Duke, Syracuse, which hadn’t won a faceoff in the quarter and was 7 of 20 in the game, needed the ball.Insert Nick Martin.The redshirt sophomore, who had only taken four faceoffs prior to Saturday, won the final five faceoffs of the game. Just two of them came off Martin’s ground ball pickups.Martin’s faceoff style isn’t to blow past an opposing faceoff specialist for a fast break. Known as a “raker,” his method centers around getting underneath the opposition’s stick, head coach John Desko said, and pushing the ball to open space.“We wanted to turn it into a ground ball,” Desko said. “I think our poles on the wings did a good job of getting us possessions in a very important part of the game.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAgainst Duke, which ranks last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in faceoff winning percentage, SU salvaged a win with a late-game adjustment — something par for the course for SU this season. The Orange has won fewer than half its faceoffs following the graduation of all-time program faceoff leader Ben Williams. Starting faceoff specialist sophomore Danny Varello, who was primed to take over Williams’ role, has won exactly half of his attempts this season, placing him 42nd out of 73 players listed by NCAA.com.Entering No. 10 Syracuse’s (4-3, 2-0 Atlantic Coast) matchup with No. 7 Notre Dame (5-2, 1-0) on Saturday, the Orange will have won the faceoff battle in three of its eight games. Halfway through its season, the Orange isn’t excelling at the faceoff X. But it’s winning just enough and by any means possible.Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorTo start the season, SU relied heavily on Varello, who had succeeded when subbed in for brief stints last season. But things quickly changed after SU was decimated by the No. 1 faceoff man in the country — Albany’s TD Ierlan — and started 2-of-10 against then-No. 9 Army at the faceoff X.During the second half, Desko placed two long poles at the wings. This challenges the opposing faceoff specialist, Desko said, and exploits their sometimes weaker stick skills. In the third overtime against Army, the second long pole at the X sealed the game for SU, as Grant Murphy’s groundball eventually led to a Ryan Simmons goal on the ensuing break.A week later against then-No. 4 Virginia, a Top 10 faceoff team, Syracuse bested the Cavaliers by five draws. The Orange played with long poles on the wings for most of the game, which at times helped stop fast breaks, sometimes leading to turnovers. From there, the SU poles transitioned well into offense, with Brett Kennedy scoring twice in the game, once off a faceoff turnover by UVA.Before SU played Johns Hopkins on March 10, JHU head coach Dave Pietramala addressed the idea of incorporating long poles at the faceoff.“You bring two poles up there to the wings and you try to muck it up a little bit,” Pietramala said before the game. “Make it more of a groundball rather than an actual faceoff where technique is important.”Pietramala said that his team prepared to play against two long sticks leading up to the game through having wing players practice disengaging from the scrum to open up an outlet pass. In addition, the Blue Jays practiced putting additional defensive pressure on their faceoff specialist Hunter Moreland, who wins nearly two-thirds of the faceoffs he takes. That success rate, which contributed to an eight faceoff advantage over SU, leads to a more defensive-minded approach from opponents, Pietramala said.While Hopkins’ star faceoff specialist solved the Orange scheme on his own, Rutgers benefited from SU mistakes. Syracuse committed a season-high 22 turnovers against the Scarlet Knights, two of which came off faceoffs.“I think our faceoff ability and our ability to get the ball is fine,” Varello said the week following the Rutgers game. “We are really fine with that in that sense. But we really limit the turnovers we get after faceoff wins. If we win the faceoff battle, we need to convert that to offense and not turn the ball over.”Against Duke, the wins didn’t come early. So as it often has, the Orange turned the faceoff X into a ground ball battle, one which it dominated. And for the third time this season, with the game within a goal, Syracuse won the final possession, even if it looked a bit messy. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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