Imagine a basketball game in which there was a tip-off after every time either team scored. The team who could win the most tip-offs would have a clear advantage.
Although basketball players do not have much cause to worry about a future like this, men’s lacrosse players have to deal with the strategic implications of face-offs in every game they play. In lacrosse, frequent face-offs govern the momentum of the game. To win, a team does not have to dominate the face-off battle, but it is much harder to control the flow of the game if a team does not scoop the ball up after draws.
“Unlike a sport like hockey where possessions can change many times in one minute, lacrosse is dominated by long possessions,” Eli draw man Dan Kallaugher ’06 said. “Unless you make a mistake or they make a good defensive play, you have complete control.”
The Yale men’s team has often found itself in this position of control because of the Eli face-off unit and Kallaugher, who was named Ivy League Player of the Week yesterday. By winning 65 percent of their face-offs, the Elis have been able to dominate possession in many of the games this season. Kallaugher’s 17-for-20 performance on draws against Princeton last Saturday raised his season average to an overwhelming .664.
Kallaugher started taking face-offs in high school but did not dominate until he began working with former pro and Canadian national team player Rodney Tapp during his junior year.
“He was one of the guys that started the double-overhand [face-off technique],” Kallaugher said. “When I started working with him, I was facing off in the traditional style and he suggested [the double-overhand]. From that moment on I never went back and I have been so much better. He showed me the technique and why it’s better and through many repetitions it was proved to me.”
The double-overhand is a technique in which the face-off man lines up at midfield with both palms face down as he grips his stick. The traditional style is with the right hand palm up and the left hand palm down.
Kallaugher, a lefty, said the double-overhand is a good technique for him because he uses his right forearm to produce the strength he needs to do the clamp, a popular face-off move.
“It’s very hard to beat someone who is a good clamper and the double-overhand makes the clamp so much quicker and stronger,” he said.
Speed is where Kallaugher has an advantage. He crouches down very low before the face-off and then explodes out of his coiled-spring stance while using quick hands to put the ball in the direction of his wingmen.
James Rump ’07, another player who takes draws for the Elis, said Kallaugher’s technique works well.
“Kallaugher’s style is quickness to get the ball out, whereas mine is aggressive-type style to tie it up and then work it out to the wings,” Rump said. “Kallaugher is huge for us because he gets us a possession almost every time.”
Kallaugher was not always as integral to the Bulldogs as he is this year. Last year, he tore his ACL and suffered from post-concussion syndrome, injuries that kept him sidelined for most of 2004. For a while, it looked like Kallaugher might not play this season, but he was finally medically cleared. Now the only sign of his injuries is the black knee brace he wears during games.
Yale head coach Andy Shay said it is a credit to Kallaugher that he was able to come back and play this way.
“[His comeback] is something I didn’t expect,” Shay said. “He was done, but the bug stays with you. He took a chance to come back, but the guys try to keep him protected in games. It’s great he’s back.”
Kallaugher is assisted on the faceoff by talented wingmen, including captain DJ Barry ’05, David Schecter ’06, Brian Mulholland ’05 and Scott Wexler ’07. Without good communication between the wingers and Kallaugher, the face-off man would not know which way to send the ball and the ground balls could get picked up by the opposing team.
Between the wingmen and Kallaugher, the Bulldogs have given themselves the chances they need on attack by winning draws. But it may not come as easy for the face-off unit in the games during the rest of the season. Kallaugher has yet to face Denver’s Geoff Snider or Delaware’s Alex Smith, two of the players in the country with better face-off percentages at .679 and .733 respectively. In high school in Maryland, Kallaugher faced off against Smith, who also worked with Rodney Tapp and uses the double-overhand. Kallaugher said he started beating Smith his senior year after learning what Tapp had to teach him.
“[Smith] is definitely the best competition,” Kallaugher said. “Smith lines up higher than I do. He is very quick.”
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”16106″ ]