OFD Films Men's Lax Edition: ND defeats Virginia, 18-9 - The Importance of Faceoffs

Winslow Townson

Kavanagh goes off with a 6-point day and O'Connor owned the faceoff circle as ND outplayed Virginia in every facet of the game. After a brief recap of the game, let's take a look at how Liam O'Connor was so dominant.

Recap

All The Right Moves might be a typical, cliche 1980's film starring Tom Cruise, but if it were remastered to modern day, it might describe the Notre Dame lacrosse team in their game against Virginia.

Matt Kavanagh scored four goals and added two assists and faceoff specialist Liam O'Connor won a ridiculous 79% of his faceoffs as Notre Dame blasted Virginia 18-9 Sunday at the Loftus Center at Notre Dame.

Virginia scored first, with Zed Williams tallying a score in the opening minutes of the game but Irish Freshman Sergio Perkovic evened it up near the end of the first quarter.

From there, the Irish controlled the rest.

Notre Dame ripped off a 7-goal second quarter, led by, of all units, the Irish middies. Five of the seven goals were scored by the first and second line for Notre Dame, with faceoff specialist ("fogo") Liam O'Connor also getting into the mix.

When Tyler Brenneman scored to make it 8-2, an exasperated Virginia Coach Dom Starsia called timeout to try and stop the bleeding and to try and find an answer to O'Connor.

O'Connor was unbeatable at the circle. Virginia threw Mick Parks at him, and O'Connor beat him so badly that Starsia resorted to putting a longstick defenseman, Nate Menninger, at the circle to slow O'Connor down, with limited results.

Virginia came out flying in the third quarter, closing the gap to 9-6, but the Irish attack unit put the game out of reach for the Cavaliers.

Attackmen John Scioiscia and Kavanagh controlled the Irish possessions and turned them into goals, with each adding a pair of goals and 3rd attackman Conor Doyle adding one of his own. In all, it only took nine minutes of the 4th quarter for the Irish to score 9 goals.

The Irish move to 3-2 on the season and more importantly, 2-0 in the ACC, sharing the conference lead with #1-ranked Maryland.

The Irish visit Columbus next Tuesday to take on a struggling Ohio State squad.

Analysis: How was Liam O'Connor so dominant?

In my opponent preview, I wrote:

"But, [Virginia is] susceptible to scoring. With the exception of the Mount game, Virginia allows an average of 12 goals per game, so the opportunities should be there for the Irish. O'Connor's 67.5% faceoff percentage will definitely come into play as he should be able to beat [Mick] Parks often.

To win, as always, the Irish will have to control the faceoff circle...."

A large reason why the Irish were able to utterly dominate the Cavaliers had to do with Liam O'Connor, the nation-leading, Irish faceoff specialist, or "FOGO." In lacrosse lingo, "FOGO" means "face off, get off." Typically, the faceoff specialists can't do much beyond facing off, in that they aren't as efficient or solid at shooting, offense and/or defense. On my lacrosse team, our FOGO basically can't run at all, but I'll be damned if he doesn't win every faceoff. He wins the faceoff, passes it to the attack, and jogs off the field.

Given O'Connor's offensive proficiency, I'm hesitant to call him a "FOGO," so I usually don't.

Alas, I digress. Against Virginia, O'Connor went an astounding 19-24 from the circle, making Virginia's FOGO, Mick Parks, and a longstick jammer, Nate Menninger, look foolish at times.

How though? Let's take a look at what O'Connor's faceoff style.

To begin, lacrosse faceoffs look more like a rugby two-man scrum than say, a hockey faceoff. The ref puts the ball in the center circle. Each player places the back of their sticks against the ball. You cannot be ahead of the head of your stick, allowing the referee a line of sight. You also cannot move before the whistle and doing so results in a turnover of possession.

Typically, FOGO's can do one of three things, with variations of all three. The first is clamping the back of your stick on the ball, which relies on quick reflexes and light hands. After a player clamps, he can sweep it to a wingman, or sweep or push the ball to himself. The second is pushing the ball, where a player throws his wrists forward, pushing the ball upfield with his stick. The third is a jam, where a player can attack the other FOGO's wrists or stick, making sure to prevent his move while not holding him, which is a penalty.

O'Connor employs the first move. He clamps the ball in his stick and pushes it upfield if he hasn't already trapped the ball in the back pocket of his stick.

Oconnor1_-_knee_down_medium

O'Connor tries to get as low as possible, putting his lead-knee all the way on the ground and getting as tight to his stick as possible. To contrast, the Virginia FOGO is simply squatting low, keeping his knee up and lining up a little off the ball. This move favors O'Connor already. His weight is off his hands, while the Virginia FOGO has most of his weight on his right wrist. It means that O'Connor can get a jump on the clamp if he times the whistle right.

Oconnor2_-_moving_upfield_medium

WHISTLE! The faceoff is on. Both players have gone for the clamp, which is hidden by the Virginia FOGO's left glove. However, we can easily draw the conclusion that O'Connor was won the clamp. His body is moving upfield and he collapses on the ball.

Oconnor3_-_won_the_clamp_medium

Here is the secret to O'Connor's success and a sign that the weight room is important, not just for the football team. As he has won the clamp, his goal now is to break out of the scrum as quickly as possible. He explodes with his lower body, lifting his right leg into a power squat as he rotates his hips upfield towards the Virginia cage.

Oconnor2a_-_solidifying_the_clamp_medium

Here is another look. O'Connor is in tight, relying on his lower body to move upfield. It is a lot easier to get more power out of a faceoff clamp if your legs are in tight and he is clearly overpowering the Virginia FOGO. His body is almost the polar opposite of O'Connor's. His leg is extended, killing any strength. His heels are up as a result, making him off-balance and susceptible to an Irish fast break.

Oconnor4_-_break_out_medium

Panic. The Virginia FOGO's momentum from his over-extension has carried into his legs, making him flat-footed. He is now lunging at O'Connor, who now has the ball trapped in the back of his stick and is in the act of starting a fast break. The Virginia longstick middie (LSM) is lined up 10-yards downfield to try and stop the break from happening but since O'Connor won the faceoff so quickly (look the clock...less than one second), he is stuck in no-man's land and is a non-factor.

Oconnor5_-_pop_the_ball_medium

O'Connor pops the ball out of his stick and starts the fast break. Note: FOGO's who trap the ball in the back of their stick have a limited amount of time to pop the ball into the front pocket. Failure to do so results in an illegal procedure turnover penalty. O'Connor has two yards on the Virginia FOGO and about a step on the Virginia LSM, cementing Irish possession.

O'Connor went 19-24 for a reason. He used his lower body, light hands and quick reflexes to beat the Virginia FOGO's again and again and again. The reason why he kept winning is because no one played at his level. The shortstick FOGO's attempted to engage O'Connor and beat him but couldn't because they simply weren't as good. Starsia attempted to have Menninger jam O'Connor, but Menninger lacked the quickness out of the block, and O'Connor simply countered by sweeping back to himself instead of going upfield. While Starsia prevented the fast break, he still failed in gaining possession.

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