By VINCENT SMIROLDO
Faceoffs are a big part of lacrosse that can change the dynamic of the game by giving a team extra possessions on offense and keeping the ball out of their defensive end. During his time at UMW, senior Eli Ayer has excelled in this part of the game.
“I have been playing lacrosse as long as I can remember,” said Ayer.
Ayer did not start off as a faceoff specialist though, when he first started playing, he was a long stick defensive midfielder. He soon made the switch to short stick midfielder before becoming a faceoff specialist before high school.
“I didn’t really go to camps for faceoffs and I never really had a coach to help me through it. I was more self-taught,” said Ayer. “Faceoffs were not a big thing when I made the switch from midfielder. There were no faceoff academy’s or bigger camps like there are today.”
There are many tactical aspects to facing off like having quick hands, reaction time and grip strength. Lacrosse is one of the fastest games on two feet, but this was a main reason Ayer ended up switching to a faceoff specialist.
“I honestly hated running and being a faceoff specialist decreased the amount of running I had to do. It ended up working out though because I ended up being a lot better at faceoffs then playing LSM or midfield in general,” said Ayer.
Ayer is from Maryland and went to St. Paul’s High School which is a powerhouse for lacrosse.
Reflecting on what brought him to UMW, he said, “I knew I would get playing time and I liked Coach Gordon, who recruited me, he sounded like a solid coach who I could get along with and he knew what he was talking about.”
With three games left in his senior year, he has left his mark in the UMW record books. He currently has the record for ground balls in a career with 328 and ground balls in a single season with 138. Even though there is no faceoff statistic in the record books Ayer would without a doubt hold that record too.
These records are even more impressive because the next closest person in career ground balls is Johnny Esposito with 217.
“I was surprised and didn’t even know there was a record. When I saw how much I beat it by I was very excited,” said Ayer.
The main factors that Ayer credited towards his success was working hard in practice and trying to push himself every day so when game days came around, he would be ready to go.
After Ayer broke the single season record, he kept a looking at the task ahead and not too much on the stats or the record book.
“I don’t even keep track of records I only focus on individual faceoffs,” said Ayer.
Fellow teammate Robert Tata, who is currently second on the all-time ground ball list behind Ayer, was able to give his perspective on what has made Ayer so successful.
“As a wing player who is part of the faceoffs, I’ve been lucky to play with Eli. His technique and speed are incredible and makes my job easy,” said Tata.
In his last game against St. Mary’s, Ayer was able to go 15-18 on faceoffs and scoop up 11 ground balls. For the season he is 161-279 in faceoff category but has turned it on for conference play going 64 for 91 or 70.3 percent.
Ayer is furthering his all-time ground ball record this season scooping up 77 with three more game to play. He is currently second on the team this season trailing Tata with 99. Men’s lacrosse’s next opponent is York next Saturday, where Ayer will hope to continue his dominant play against another conference opponent.