Emphasis at the X

Ranked outside the top 50 when it came to face-off win percentage last season, Syracuse men's lacrosse coach John Desko knew he and his coaching staff needed to get creative. Desko alongside freshman face-off specialist, Joe DeMarco, talk about the position inside.

After last season's showing at the face-off position, Syracuse head coach John Desko and coaching staff knew they had to switch it up and do something out-of-the-box thinking once fall ball rolled around.

"We are doing things totally different," he said. "These guys have taken more face-offs this fall than maybe we took all of last year. We have almost like a separate practice for our guys."

Syracuse, to put it mildly, was mediocre at best, going 200-for-476 (42 percent) at the X and struggled to find a go-to specialist throughout the year.

"We've also consulted in some outside coaches and specialists in the game as far as technique goes and how to practice with these guys. It's become a point of emphasis."

It has also been somewhat difficult Desko notes, pointing out that some players have been hurt, specifically, freshman face-off specialist, Joe DeMarco, who has only been out on the field for a short period of time.

For DeMarco, his senior year statistics were every college coach's dream when it came to finding that perfect face-off, get-off guy (FOGO for short) - a 91 percent face-off winning percentage (82 percent for his high school playing career), two goals, 14 assists and 235 ground balls. The Massapequa, N.Y. native earned the Nassau County Lacrosse Asscoiation's Jim Condon Award (top offensive player) and was an all-county selection.

"We are spending most of our practice doing face-offs, listening to the whistles and getting prepared," he said. "I hope to bring just another body to give some competition and hopefully, one day, start depending on how the coaches see it."

DeMarco is one of a handful of face-off specialists that will be vying for time out on the field and includes the likes of senior, Chris Daddio (45 percent) and sophomore, Cal Paduda (43 percent) as the two most noted players at the position.

"Daddio is back this year and giving us some runs," Desko said. "Paduda comes back, too. He got some experience as a freshman and has worked very hard all summer. He is definitely in the running to be the top face-off guy."

On the other hand, DeMarco's transition has been smooth sailing, stating that Daddio and Paduda have taken him under their wing.

"All the older guys really accepted us, especially the face-off guys," DeMarco said. "They really just took me in, showed me the ropes and how I should string my stick. They taught me all the advantages."

He continued, "Both Daddio and Paduda have seriously been embracing the fact that I'm here and want to help the team and not just come in and be obnoxious. It's for the team."

As far as playing time goes, Desko mentions that these exhibition games will be a good barometer to not only evaluate the younger players, but get them some playing time early. DeMarco will be one of those players trying to seize their moment.

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