May 24, 2013

Faus, Half of Denver's Goalie Tandem, Back in Final Four

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Jamie Faus, who as a freshman in 2011 helped Denver to its first final four, is back in 2013 as part of a Pioneers' goalie tandem.
© AJ Mast

Denver goalie Jamie Faus still has one more year left to play the amateur game he loves, although the Pioneers' junior already has packed enough experiences into his college years to fill out a career.

As a freshman, the 5-foot-9 Faus was the unlikely anchor of a defense that helped Denver reach its first-ever NCAA tournament semifinal game. Last year, during the season's fifth game — a triple-OT loss to Notre Dame — Faus tore the left, Achilles tendon he had strained earlier that week in practice and missed the rest of 2012. Freshman Ryan LaPlante became the Pioneers' goaltender.

This spring, Faus has split time with LaPlante in the cage, and that formula has helped the Pioneers go 14-4 and make it to their second final four in three years under coach Bill Tierney. A week ago, Faus relieved LaPlante in the first quarter with Denver trailing North Carolina 6-0 in the quarterfinals. Faus made 11 saves and allowed just five goals in the game's final 50:23, as the Pioneers came back to take a gritty, 12-11 decision.

"Yeah, I'd say there is some diversity within my career," said Faus, who helped Denver hold high-powered Carolina to only two goals in the second half. "It's funny how that goes."

To watch Denver deny the Tar Heels so methodically was to watch a team that truly has grown up. The Pioneers overcame a series of early setbacks. Their shooters struck pipes a handful of times, wasting a dominant, first-half showing by midfielder and faceoff man Chase Carraro. It got so bad that the Pioneers got caught switching goalies late in the first quarter. Faus was sprinting toward the net as Carolina was extending its lead to 6-0 on a fast-break goal.

"Coach [Trevor] Tierney came up to me and asked if was ready to go, and I went back behind the bench to have a catch. I didn't realize he wanted me in the box right away," Faus said. "It was a miscommunication."

Faus immediately got to work by barking at his defense, urging the Pioneers to switch aggressively on Carolina's relentless picks, especially when they involved senior and leading scorer Marcus Holman. Denver's slides got sharper, Faus made a few saves, and the Pioneers settled in and began chipping away.

The Pioneers did not take their first lead until Eric Law scored the game winner in the final minute to complete a game-ending 6-1 run. The Faus-led defense shut out Holman in the second half.

Bill Tierney said Denver will stick with its platoon system in goal. LaPlante will start on Saturday against Syracuse, a team Denver has never beaten. Faus is scheduled to guard the net in the second half.

"[Faus] is such a focused young man. Without him being as strong as he is, we never could have pulled this rotation thing off," Tierney said. "Jamie could have said, 'I've gotten you guys to a final four already, and you want to go with this young guy? I'm going to go play somewhere else.' But that's not him."

Not Your Older Brother's Syracuse

There is nothing particularly scary about top-seeded Syracuse. The Orange has no lights-out dodgers or classic, go-to scorers. They win only 40 percent of their faceoff draws on a good day. Their transition game doesn't intimidate quite like those Syracuse teams of old.

But Syracuse shares the ball exceptionally well and plays consistently sound team defense. And the Orange (15-3) has that tenacious, cool-customer identity that makes the Cuse so dangerous and tough to knock out. Just ask Yale, which shut out Syracuse for 43 minutes in last week's quarterfinal grinder, only to surrender three Orange goals in the last three minutes and lose 7-6.

"There wasn't a point in the game when any of the players in the huddle went onto the field and didn't think they were going to win the game," Syracuse coach John Desko said. "These guys never panic."

The evidence is clear on that one. Syracuse is 6-3 in one-goal games. The Orange has won every which way, including four times when it has scored in single digits and four times when it has allowed at least 11 goals. Even in its 11-10 loss to Villanova, a day when the Orange won only two of 24 draws, Syracuse was The Thing That Wouldn't Leave.

"It's almost like we play up or down to the level of our competition," said goalie Dominic Lamolinara, recalling a seven-goal, fourth quarter that pushed Syracuse to a 12-11, comeback in over Rutgers. "We really don't know who's going to score on any day, but I have faith we're going to get the goal we need. We're in so many one- and two-goal games. We're used to the pressure."

The Syracuse defense is especially hard to crack. In each quarter this season, the Orange defense has allowed an average of no fewer than 2.0 goals and no more than 2.4 goals. It will be interesting to see if explosive Denver can go on a big scoring run on Saturday.

Old Guard on Hand

Cornell third-year coach Ben DeLuca is part of a younger wave of mentors that has swept through the Division I ranks in recent years. But you look at this weekend's final four in Philadelphia, and you see the old guard refusing to get near the stage exit door.

Duke's John Danowski, Denver's Bill Tierney and Syracuse's Desko represent longevity and sustained excellence. They have combined to win 12 NCAA titles.

Danowski, in his 31st season as a head coach, has won 328 games, one of four active Division I coaches who have passed 300 victories — Tierney, Virginia's Dom Starsia and Bryant's Mike Pressler are the others. Danowski led Duke to its lone, NCAA title in 2010 and is seven-for-seven getting the Blue Devils to Memorial Day weekend.

Tierney won six titles at Princeton, before taking over in 2009 in Denver, where he has guided the Pioneers to their second final four. He has won 322 games and is 32-12 in the NCAA tournament.

Desko has led the Orange for the past 15 years as head coach, but the 1979 Syracuse graduate helped the school reach its first of 22 consecutive final fours as a senior, before joining the coaching staff he has never left. As head coach, Desko has won 186 games, five NCAA titles and is a remarkable 30-8 in the NCAA tournament. His playoff winning percentage (.789) is the highest in NCAA history.

LaxMagazine.com will have complete coverage of championship weekend with features, live blogs, post-game reaction and more. Be sure to follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter for instant updates as well.


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