All season, Syracuse has dealt with a decided disadvantage at faceoffs. So why should Monday’s NCAA tournament final against seventh-seeded Duke at Lincoln Financial Field here be any different?
The top-seeded Orange (16-3) will attempt to capture the program’s NCAA-leading 11th national championship despite the presence of Blue Devils junior Brendan Fowler, who has won 64.1 percent (319 of 498) of his draws this season and passed Bryant sophomore Kevin Massa for the most faceoff wins in a single season with his 16 of 31 performance in the team’s 16-14 win against Cornell in Saturday’s semifinal.
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Syracuse has three contributors in junior Chris Daddio (46.0 percent on 115 of 250), freshman Cal Paduda (44.9 percent on 44 of 98) and freshman Brendan Conroy (40.3 percent on 27 of 67), but coach John Desko knows the team may be hard-pressed to win even 50 percent of the draws against Fowler.
“We’ve lived with that all year long,” he said during a news conference Sunday morning. “Like I said earlier, I think some of the things that we make up for it are with our efficiency on offense. [If] you look at the number of turnovers we were able to cause yesterday, [that] kind of made up for that gap for the number of face-offs that we lost. I think we got some big ones when it counted. We got that big one at the end that gave us a big possession and we were able to score, so we play how we've been playing. It’s nothing new to us.”
The Orange won just 1 of 23 faceoffs in a 12-7 victory over Bryant in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but they almost battled Denver to a draw, winning 9 of 12 en route to a 9-8 decision in Saturday’s semifinal.
Senior midfielder JoJo Marasco said the team has a good amount of confidence in the faceoff unit.
“Not really much worried because our wing play has been incredible with guys like [senior short-stick defensive midfielder] Matt Pratt and [redshirt senior short-stick defensive midfielder] Steve Ianzito and [junior long-stick midfielder] Matt Harris and [redshirt sophomore long-stick midfielder] Pete McCartney,” he said. “They step up and make some huge checks for us on the wings and really fight for that ball and give us a chance to have the ball on offense. I have trust [in them] all year even though they might not have had the winning percentage that they wanted, but we really trust our face-off guys, and Cal really stepped up big where he held [Pioneers senior] Chase Carraro and we've gone against some of the top face-off guys throughout the playoffs and it's just going to be another one going out there and put the trust in our wings, and we'll definitely change it up. Our coaches have been great with that, and we'll be ready for them.”