Give Thanks For The Face-Off Rule Change
When Loyola meets Johns Hopkins on Saturday at Homewood Field, where the Greyhounds will try to win for only the fourth time in 49 tries against the Blue Jays, count on the battle between the team's primary face-off specialists to say something meaningful about the final result.
And thank the NCAA for adopting its face-off rule change and improving the game in 2011.
The "set rule" has brought an element of purity back to one of the sport's most important games-within-a-game. And it has made talented face-off men such as Hopkins senior Matt Dolente and Loyola senior John Schiavone that much more valuable to their teams and relevant to the game.
The rule change was designed to curb the practice of "rolling into the face-off" by anticipating the whistle. This strategy often helped specialists use superior size to overwhelm smaller combatants. It also produced an unsightly amount of illegal procedure calls, which remove the face-off battle from the field altogether. The new rule forces the specialists to get down into position, set their sticks before the whistle, then have at it.
"Coaches were screaming to make this change five years ago," Towson coach Tony Seaman said. "The rule has really benefitted the 'technique guys.' It's just better for the sport."
Dolente, who ranks third in Division I in face-off win percentage (.670) and will contest Schiavone (ranked 16th at .560) on Saturday, thinks the rule change has clearly helped him go from average to outstanding as a senior. In 2010, the Blue Jays violated on nearly 30 percent of their face-off attempts.
"I love the set rule. That's how we faced off in high school," Dolente said. "It takes some of the cheating out of facing off, the rolling into it. You can just focus on the whistle and your moves after that."