Each week, The Baltimore Sun will publish a Q&A with a college lacrosse player or coach to get you better acquainted with the player and his/her team.
Today's guest is UMBC senior faceoff specialist Phil Poe, who will graduate this spring as the program's leader in faceoff wins in a season (218 in 2013), wins in a career (604) and ground balls in its history in Division I (303). The Harwood native and DeMatha graduate ranks 14th in the country in ground balls per game (7.7) and 29th in faceoff percentage (54.5 percent on 157-of-288).
How does it feel to be in your final season?
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The last game [Saturday] on senior day, it really sunk in because our first game, against Maryland, feels like it was just last week. So going out prior to the Albany game, it was a 'wow' moment. You can say it as many times as you want, but to step out there for the last time, it never really hit me. I still remember my freshman year and on day one, coming out for our run test.
How does it feel to leave a legacy behind?
I'm really happy that I was able to etch my name into a few things here. Coming into my freshman year, I was not just a faceoff man. I played for DeMatha and had played some offense, some defense and had faced off. My freshman year, when I got my chance to face off, I understood that's what I was going to be doing, and I knew that I wanted to do it to the best of my ability. So that's what I dedicated myself toward.
Did you think you could be more than a faceoff specialist?
I did. When Coach [Don] Zimmerman and I sat down, he said, 'We're going to use you between the lines.' That could have meant playing some offense with a little defense here and there, but I did know that I was going to be taking faceoffs. So when I knew this was something I could do well, it really was not hard for me to say: 'This is what I need to focus on. Don't spread yourself too thin. Commit yourself, and if you're going to do something, do it 100 percent.'
Is there a record that means more to you than others?
Of course, it's great to have the all-time [career faceoff wins] record. Prior to breaking it [against Maryland on Feb. 15], Mr. [Ray] Ignacio [the previous record holder at 450] himself emailed Coach Zimmerman, who forwarded it to me, and it said, 'Congratulations. I'm very proud of Phil for going out and having such a great career, and I hope he does wonderful this season.' That was a really nice touch on top of the actual record.
After finishing 2013 with 99 ground balls, how badly do you want eight ground balls to reach the 100 mark [this season]?
I rely on my wing men more than some other faceoff guys do. Something we stress is that it's not a one-on-one competition here. So if their wing men are going to stop a fast break, that will open up our wing men to where I can kind of throw it behind me and have them pick up an easy ground ball. It's not so much me coming out here and saying, 'I'm going to get every single ground ball possible.' I want our unit to be the best it can be. So if that means throwing a couple of easy ground balls to my wing men, that just makes my job easier.