Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Joe Calvello’s consistency on face-offs a difference maker for UMass men’s lacrosse

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Massachusetts men’s lacrosse senior Joe Calvello was 4-for-10 on the draw in the first quarter against Albany on Saturday. The phrase “next play, best play,” his personal mantra, echoed in his head with each face-off.

The center followed through to win 80 percent of the draws in the second and third quarters combined. The Great Danes (2-2) outplayed UMass (4-1), 25-10, but Calvello was 24-for-37 (65 percent) on the day.

Calvello has a 61 percent success rate at the face-off dot this season. The second-year starter has consistently charged his team’s attack by initiating possession and boosting morale. He also leads the team with 44 ground ball pickups.

“I’ve always had quick hands, which is a way for me to find success,” said Calvello, a 5-foot-8, 155-pounder. “I’m a smaller guy, some of the guys you go against are 200 pounds. I try to scrap it up, do my part and get the ball.”

Calvello often bolts off the field after losing a face-off, only to begin practicing his technique on the sidelines. He put extra emphasis on becoming more of a complete player during offseason training rather than relying on quickness alone to get results.

Minutemen coach Greg Cannella said the center is equally invested in both his own game and aiding the team. He added that Calvello’s skill level is impressive considering he switched to center after his sophomore year of high school.

“A bad game for Joe is 50 percent, which is pretty good for everybody else,” Cannella said. “It’s the extra possessions in tight games when you need possession of the ball – he makes everybody better when we don’t have to play defense.”

Cannella praised Calvello’s competitive streak and said that drive is the mark of a good leader. Calvello also isn’t afraid to be a vocal presence when necessary.

Senior attack/midfielder Connor Mooney has been Calvello’s roommate since sophomore year. He said his friend has established himself in his role after “paying his dues” during the two years before he became a starter.

Mooney also senses more confidence from Calvello, who he said has “jumped a little bit early” on the draw at times in the past.

“He’s really consistent this year,” Mooney said. “He’s a grinder, he’s gritty, he doesn’t mind getting his nose dirty, but he’s also a really smart face-off guy. It seems to me in the beginning of the game, if he’s struggling, he can figure other face-off guys out and get dialed in pretty quickly.”

Freshman attack Nick Mariano, who leads UMass with 17 points (15 goals), said there’s a comfort and flow established by Calvello’s above average face-off win percentage. He directly benefits from possession time as one of the first attackers up the field.

Mariano learned the “gorilla way” from Calvello – a reference to the “Garber’s gorillas” moniker, which began under Dick Garber, the program’s longest-serving coach. The attackman defines the saying as a “blue-collar mentality” that demands hustle and unselfishness.

Calvello has taught Mariano lessons about life in general as well.

“Be confident when you speak to people,” Mariano said. “That’s the biggest thing he says. He’s a great leader and role model.”

Calvello takes pride in being a “sparkplug” for the Minutemen, but feels it’s pointless to get wrapped up in statistics. It’s next play, best play.

“I watch a lot of film on opponents, I watch film on myself and I really critique every aspect,” Calvello said. “I’ve had some okay games, but the only statistic that really matters to me is a win at the end of the game.”

Peter Cappiello can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @petecapps.

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