Tom Meyers preparing to battle in the face-off circle Saturday

UMass and Yale both with competitive face-off players right now


(Eva Trainer/Daily Collegian)

By Ben Painchaud, Collegian Staff

While all sports seem to have catchy and cool-sounding nicknames for positions—an “enforcer” in hockey, a “rim-runner” in basketball—there’s one nickname in lacrosse that stands out: the “FOGO.”

In lacrosse, the “FOGO” denotes the face-off specialist. It’s an acronym that stands for “face off, get off [the field.]” The FOGO for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team this year is a scrappy senior by the name of Tom Meyers, who is fresh off an excellent outing versus Harvard in which he secured 16 of the 25 face-offs.

This Saturday, Meyers will be battling with Yale’s (1-1) TD Ierlan, who is also coming off a terrific game against Penn State that saw the Bulldogs win 25 of the 31 face offs. Ierlan even scored a goal in the game after making quick work of the Penn State FOGO on this faceoff.

via Gfycat

In the matchup with Penn State, Ierlan consistently got lower than his opponent on the face off, enabling him to quickly jerk the ball free and win his team possession, as he does on this play.

via Gfycat

UMass (1-2) FOGO coach Dave Fraboni believes leverage is important in winning, but said “it’s also hand speed, clamp speed. If you can get over to the ball faster than your opponent, then you can—you’re going to win it 80 percent, 90 percent of the time.”

As the game went on and Penn State adapted, the face offs became grueling deadlocks lasting for anywhere from 10-40 seconds, such as on the opening face-off of the third quarter. Ierlan does a good job of eventually getting his feet underneath him and ripping the ball free.

via Gfycat

So, what’s the key to coming out on top in these kinds of drawn-out situations?

“You just want to keep your right hand strong on top of the ball and try to just keep rotating and keep getting closer,” said Meyers. “And keep inching over the ball so you can get most of it and clamp it, then exit.”

To Fraboni, it all depends on the given situation. If the FOGOs are rotating together, or if one is trying to out-rotate the other, or if one goes in a reverse rotation, Meyers must adapt quickly and determine “how to move, when to move and then hand pressure.”

Though the 80-second shot clock has somewhat downplayed the importance of the face-off by preventing teams from being able to dominate possession like they used to, coach Greg Cannella is preparing for the possibility of Yale owning the face-off circle.

“What we can do is try to get any loose balls—whether it’s in our offensive end, our defensive end, off of a rebound or off a poor pass,” said Cannella. “Get those loose balls, get possession. Obviously if Sean makes saves, we’ll gain some possessions.”

The Minutemen are prepared to find ways to counteract Ierlan’s dominance, but late in close games, every face-off won that provides possession is critical. With the rest of this week to prepare, Meyers will do his best to rise to the occasion, granted the underdog UMass can hang with No. 4 Yale.

Ben Painchaud can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Ben_Painchaud.