Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/13/20
From Press Release
The faceoff in men’s lacrosse is one of the most unique and intense moments in sports. Crouched four inches away from your opponent, your stick parallel to the midline, you have a split second to react to the referee’s whistle and battle to win possession for your team.
A good faceoff man can make a huge impact on a game, providing his team with more scoring opportunities and keeping the ball out of the opponent’s stick. For Delaware men’s lacrosse, the return of midfielder Jake Hervada (Haverford School) could make a huge difference at the faceoff X for a team with postseason aspirations.
Hervada got off to a red-hot start to 2019, winning 27 out of 39 faceoffs for a blazing .692 faceoff percentage, but a broken wrist ended his senior season after just two games. With a medical redshirt, the Bryn Mawr, Pa., product is now ready to close out his collegiate career as a fifth-year player and a captain.
“Obviously a pretty unfortunate situation, but reflecting and looking back I was fortunate that it happened in the second game of the season and not the fourth or the fifth because I wouldn’t have this opportunity to come back,” Hervada said. “So I’m trying to make the most out of that.”
“It’s huge. I think it’s huge for us on the field in a lot of ways, but I think most importantly, off the field,” assistant coach Trey Wilkes (who works with Delaware’s faceoff specialists and was a faceoff man himself for Ohio State from 2010-13) said. “He does a lot of things at a very high level; his training, his ability to lead and be a great leader, his performance in practice and in games, his recovery.
“He does all the right things and I think because he does all the right things, he sets a good example for our guys. I think he just brings our whole team to another level.”
Without Hervada at the X, the Blue Hens won just 34.4% of their faceoffs in 2019. Wilkes believes the sheer athleticism of Hervada, who was also a wrestler in high school, will turn the tide for the Hens in that category.
“I think there was a period of time there, even during my era as a player, I don’t know that guys playing that position were the most athletic guys on the field. I think that’s starting to change, and I think Jake is one of those guys,” Wilkes said. “One area we try to focus on as a faceoff unit is our strength and explosiveness; you have to be able to beat your match-up physically. Being a player that takes your health seriously, who commits to the weight room and nutrition, are all key factors in building a strong foundation for success at the X.”
In addition to pure athleticism, Hervada possesses the desire and ability to chase down ground balls.
“There’s obviously the technical part of the game, but I think being able to execute and finish plays,” Hervada said of what makes a good faceoff man. “Just because you win the faceoff, that doesn’t really do much for you if you don’t get the ball to the offense.”
“Just having the ability to be athletic, maybe he’s having a day where he’s not winning the ball off the whistle, he’s able to get to his feet and make it a 50-50 and make it a scrap,’ Wilkes said. “And because he’s strong and athletic and fast, more often than not he’s coming up with the ball.”
As the position has evolved within the game, many teams deploy players who are hyper-specialized to win faceoffs and nothing else, commonly referred to as a FOGO [Face Off, Get Off]. But make no mistake, while Hervada is a talented faceoff man, he does not fall into this category.
“His ability to be a lacrosse player, and not just a faceoff guy, is critical for us. He’s able to clear the ball if we need him to,” Wilkes said. “If he gets stuck on the field as a defender, he can defend for us. He understands the game, he understands what we’re doing on defense, he’s a student of the game…He is nowhere near a FOGO.”
Of course, in addition to physical strength, a faceoff man has to be mentally strong as well. Losing faceoffs is inevitable, but staying locked in throughout the game is crucial to being successful.
“That’s something [Head] Coach [Ben] DeLuca talks about all the time: not too high, not too low. I think just staying in the moment, taking it one play at a time is really all you can do,” Hervada said. “I’ve learned a lot in my time here.”
Hervada brings the same laser focus required to win faceoffs to his role as a leader of the Blue Hens. On a roster that has a lot of senior experience, but also a lot of young talent that will contribute all year, that leadership will be key for Delaware’s success this season.
“I think he’s someone that not only cares a lot about his performance, but those around him. He’s not afraid to hold people accountable,” Wilkes said. “Hard-working, honest, direct. He’s a good communicator and leads by example. He checks all the boxes that you look for in an experienced leader.”
As a senior leader, and the person to first touch the ball for the Blue Hens at the start of the game, does he feel an obligation to set the tone for his team?
“Not really an obligation, more of an opportunity, I’d say,” Hervada said. “It’s a pretty interesting position because it just happens in a matter of seconds, and a lot can happen, good or bad.”
Delaware has had a long history of excellent faceoff men. Steve Shaw (1983-86) and Alex Smith (2004-07) each at one point held the NCAA record for career faceoffs won, with 838 and 1,027, respectively. Now, Hervada, who ranks 10th all-time in program history with 274 faceoff wins of his own, looks to bring that elite level of play back to the X, and to help lead the Blue Hens back to the NCAA tournament.