Men's lacrosse: Orange dominates faceoff X en route to opening victory

Ben Williams dominated one of the best faceoff specialists in the country as the Orange offense rolled past the Saints.

Syracuse seems to have finally found its long-awaited dominant faceoff specialist after a brilliant performance against Siena, which had the defending MAAC faceoff specialist of the year on its team. 

Led by the performance of Ben Williams, the Orange (1-0) won 25 out of 30 faceoffs en route to a 21-7 victory over Siena (0-1) in the Carrier Dome. Williams finished 17 for 20 for an 85-percent clip at the X. 

The Orange has struggled at the midfield circle for years, with outgoing senior Chris Daddio only winning about half (50.4 percent) of his faceoffs last year. 

“I’d like to say I feel sorry for the other guy but not really,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said. “It was good. We’ve been on the other side of the fence. It just changes how you can play offensively and defensively.” 

In the past, Desko said the team would have to give up the fast break style it wanted to play in order to maximize its opportunities on offense. However, with the impressive play of Williams, Desko said he believes his team has the opportunity to finally play at a tempo that best fits his players’ skill sets. 

“Now I think, knowing we have the chance to get the ball back after the goal, we play differently,” Desko said. “It’s an entirely different psyche when you are playing lacrosse out there having possessions.” 

That showed early in the first quarter, as after only 10:44 had passed in the game, the Orange was already boasting a 5-1 lead. 

Williams won his first six faceoffs against Siena senior Casey Dowd. Not only was he able to dominate the draws early on, but he was also able to score unassisted to give his team a 4-1 lead with only 5:31 remaining in the first period. 

“I was just bringing it downfield and they didn’t slide,” Williams said. “Saw the window and let it go. It felt good. I didn’t put them away in the scrimmages so I was hoping I could do something today.” 

Desko eventually pulled Williams after a third quarter in which the Orange extended its lead to 15-6 with Williams winning each faceoff. 

That feat is even more impressive considering whom he did it against. Dowd finished 15th in the country last year in faceoff percentage (58.8). In his career, he had won the 23rd most faceoffs in NCAA history with 616. 

“We had a lot of respect for this guy,” Desko said. “You mentioned he was in the 58% range and that’s pretty impressive, especially in his conference. There are some good faceoff guys there. It was a great test for us, and it was great to see Ben have that kind of success against such a quality faceoff man.” 

The Orange’s faceoff success against Siena is a welcome change for many of the Syracuse veterans who had to play on a team that never consistently won them. 

Senior co-captain Kevin Rice, who finished with four assists and two goals on the day, recalled how excited he felt when he looked at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter and saw his team leading the faceoff battle 23-5. 

“I think if you talk to any guy on offense or defense, all smiles after that,” Rice said. “It doesn’t get much better than that. I think you saw what our offense could do when we get that sort of possession. It’s exciting. Good job to Ben.”

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