For most of the 2013 campaign, Maryland has relied on sophomore Charlie Raffa to take the vast majority of the faceoffs. And despite the team’s recent struggles in that department, not much is expected to change as the No. 4 Terps (9-2) prepare to meet Virginia (6-7) in Friday’s semifinal of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
The team has not won more than 50 percent of its draws in five of its last six contests, and Raffa has taken 109 of the 115 faceoffs over that span, winning 54 of them. He has taken 193 of Maryland’s 247 draws (78.1 percent) and senior Curtis Holmes ranks second with 34, but coach John Tillman did not sound very worried about Raffa’s workload.
“We like to spread the wealth because I think the more people you can involve, the better, and I don’t think if we go to Curtis, there’s much of a drop off,” Tillman said during his weekly conference call Tuesday morning. “Faceoffs are tough because I think if you ask any faceoff guy, they like to get into a rhythm. There’s something to be said for getting in there and getting into the flow and feeling comfortable and staying warm. As the game goes on, if a guy is doing fairly well or has taken a number of reps, you kind of about and you wonder, ‘OK, this guy hasn’t taken a faceoff in the past 45 minutes, and he’d be coming in without any reps since pregame. Are we putting him in a position where he could be the most successful he can be or are we better off with the guy that’s been out there running around? He’s been down, he’s been set, so he can maybe anticipate the whistle a bit more because he knows the flow of the game and the way the officials have been calling it.’ It does make it a little bit of a gut feel and sometimes that’s what you have to go through, but all the while, we try to have as much of a systematic approach as we can based on what’s happening out there.”
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Holmes, a Marriottsville native and McDonogh graduate, was an honorable mention All American in 2011 when he won 62.9 percent (222-of-353) of his faceoffs and collected 78 ground balls. Injuries have plagued him, but Tillman said he has no qualms about going to Holmes if the situation arises.
“It hasn’t happened yet, but I do feel like there’s going to be a point in time where Curtis is going to step in at an important moment and do well for us, and we have confidence that he can go in and do the job,” Tillman said. “He’s done it before. I do think he’s facing off better in practice. He’s healthier than he’s been. I think it’s not so much that we don’t have confidence in Curtis. Charlie just has done such a good job for most of the year. … But I think this weekend, knowing what’s at stake and knowing that he’s been through the wars, there’s a chance that Curtis could come in there and really give us a lift at some point.”