April 8, 2011

NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Notebook: Hofstra's Antoniades is a Faceoff Man Possessed

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Injuries won't keep Hofstra down, and faceoff man John Antoniades is a big reason for that, hoarding possessions for the Pride's high-powered offense.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

The No. 7-ranked Hofstra men's lacrosse team has weathered several season-ending injuries that have severely tested its depth at midfield. The Pride (9-1, 2-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association) has responded admirably by finding different ways to win.

Hofstra's underrated defense, led by junior goalie Andrew Gvozden -- tops in Division I in goals-against average (6.0) and fifth in save percentage (.609) -- has yet to surrender more than nine goals. Its dynamic attack, featuring the twin Canadian towers of seniors Jamie Lincoln and Jay Card, has taken turns abusing opposing goalies. Its ever-improving midfield has seen sophomore Ian Braddish and junior Kevin Ford step up remarkably.

And sophomore faceoff specialist John Antoniades continues to do damage by sustaining Hofstra runs, as he did in last Saturday's 12-5 thumping at Towson, in which the Pride went on a 6-0 roll in the third quarter to break open a 3-3 halftime tie. Antoniades (one goal, one assist) entered the week ranked ninth in Division I (.647) in faceoff win percentage, before taking 12 of 17 draws in Tuesday's 13-8 win over Manhattan.

"This FOGO [face-off, get off the field] position has evolved so much in the sport of lacrosse," Hofstra coach Seth Tierney said. "They are the field-goal kickers and punters, who work off to the side during practice. Sometimes you get a guy who does both [play midfield and take draws]. But it's become rare to find a guy who can play midfield all four quarters and still have that explosive energy left to win key faceoffs in the fourth quarter."

Virginia has holes on defense

Even while it was rolling along as the second-ranked school with a 7-1 record and the game's most productive offense, the soft spots were evident in the University of Virginia men's lacrosse team.

Now that they have allowed 12 goals in back-to-back losses to Johns Hopkins and Maryland – and tumbled to No. 9 in the process – the worst-kept secret about the Cavaliers has been fully revealed.

Virginia (7-3) has got some significant holes to fix on defense. The Cavs, who came into the season with a young unit that includes freshman close defenseman Scott McWilliams and first-time close defenseman Chris Clements, a red-shirt junior, have given up at least 10 goals in five of their games.

It's not as if the Cavs are a total mess around their own cage. For example, red-shirt junior close defenseman Matt Lovejoy has held his own for the most part while guarding the opposing team's prime scoring threat, such as Maryland attackman Grant Catalino and Cornell's Rob Pannell. Senior goalie Adam Ghiltelman is still producing clutch saves.

As Virginia coach Dom Starsia sees it, the Cavs are springing fixable leaks, whether they occur because of badly-timed slides, over-extending on the strong side, too much ball watching, or a lack of communication or stick work.

"We've been lacking attention to detail away from the ball," Starsia said. "Sometimes it's not finishing the execution of a [slide] rotation or getting a stick on a stick inside. We're just not finishing some plays defensively. That's where our inexperience usually shows up, although I kind of hate to use the 'we're young [excuse]' anymore.

"Playing defense is a multi-task operation. We need to get better at it. I'm not alarmed, but there is certainly a legitimate sense of urgency. I feel good that I have a group that practices well and is working hard to fix things. We're in a stretch of games where there's no mercy. We have to get better."

With games against North Carolina and Duke – followed by the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament – on tap, Virginia needs to start tightening things up. This week, the Cavs are ranked first in Division I in scoring offense (13.4 goals per game) and 37th in scoring defense (9.3 goals allowed per game).

Syracuse's Lade expected to start Saturday

A loud of sigh of relief is coming out of Syracuse this week, since senior close defenseman John Lade has been declared healthy by Orange head coach John Desko.

Lade twisted his left ankle during the second half of Sunday's 13-11 victory over Duke, and sat with his foot wrapped in ice while the Blue Devils staged a furious comeback that fell short against the top-ranked Orange (8-0). Sophomore Dave Hamlin replaced Wade, and it was obvious at times that Syracuse missed the heart and soul of one of the top defenses in the game.

Lade is expected to start on Saturday against injury-riddled Princeton. It will be interesting to see how well Lade moves on Tuesday, when he most likely will be assigned the unenviable task of covering Cornell attackman Rob Pannell, who might be the leading Tewaaraton Trophy candidate at the season's mid-point.

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