Massa’s warrior-like faceoff style transforming Bryant lacrosse

first_imgThree years ago, Kevin Massa was given a chance based solely on a recommendation. He had very few offers to play Division I, and his future in lacrosse was still very much in question. So Kevin Levy, Massa’s high school lacrosse coach, called up Bryant head coach Mike Pressler, who had been Levy’s defensive coordinator when Levy played on the U.S. national team.“I swear on my reputation,’” Levy said to Pressler, “this kid will be a warrior for you. Take him.”Pressler didn’t need to hear anything else. Levy’s word was enough to give Massa a chance. What unfolded in the three seasons that followed was more than Pressler expected. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMassa went from a virtual unknown to one of the best in the country, transforming an entire program in the process. He’s also become a leader on the team, which includes his brother – and fellow faceoff specialist – Kenny Massa. Now a junior faceoff specialist for the Bulldogs, Massa leads the nation with a 71.4 winning percentage on draws. Last year, when the Bulldogs faced Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament, he torched the Orange, winning 22-of-23 at the X. When his Bulldogs (15-4, 5-1 Northeast) play second-seeded Syracuse (11-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) at the Carrier Dome on Sunday at 7:30 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, he’ll have another chance to show off the dominance and grit that continues to build Bryant lacrosse.“I always wanted to be the best and help my team as much as I can,” Massa said. “I didn’t think it’d be at this level. It’s hard to say. “You never know what the limits are.”Up until his second year at Elwood John Glenn (N.Y.) High School, though, Massa had yet to even take a competitive faceoff. He played on attack for the junior varsity team. But Levy’s varsity team was struggling severely at the X. So he took a bunch of players from the varsity and JV teams and held a faceoff competition. Levy liked what he saw from Massa, and asked him to move up and become his faceoff specialist. “He was a wrestler in high school,” Levy said. “He’s just a tough, hard-nosed kid. He had an unorthodox style, he still does. He’s tough. He just worked and worked on it. “Next thing you know, he’s one of the best faceoff guys in the country.” Levy described Massa’s faceoffs as “wrestling matches.” He said Massa was about toughness, not finesse. When Bryant beat Siena in the NCAA tournament play-in game on Wednesday, several faceoffs were lengthy battles as both he and Siena’s Casey Dowd simply refused to stop digging into each other, smashing bodies as they fought for possession. “I love those as a faceoff guy,” Massa said. “Those are ones where you really get to grind it out … Everyone else on the team is excited. I really like those.” Massa, though, isn’t the team’s only faceoff specialist. Kenny, Massa’s younger brother, is redshirting this season as a freshman. Levy, who coached Kenny in high school, said that Kenny has a different faceoff strategy. His preparation doesn’t take place on a wrestling mat. He learns from studying game film. But Pressler said that Kenny is perfectly capable of beating his older brother, and projects to pick up right where his older brother leaves off when he graduates after next season. “There’s a great dynamic there,” Pressler said. “The similar thing is just their competitive spirit. Going against each other, they’re even more competitive. They get emotional when the other wins.” For now, though, it’s the older brother’s program. What was a Division-II team in 2007 is now returning to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. What was an 8-9 team in 2011 is now 15-4. Massa’s emergence is largely responsible. He has turned into what Pressler calls a face of the Bryant lacrosse program. “I really just came in with a blank slate,” Massa said. “I let go of everything I knew in high school and bought into the program.“It really just worked out for me.”  Comments Published on May 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm Contact Sam: sblum@syr.edu | @SamBlum3 Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Related Stories Getting to know Syracuse’s 1st-round opponent Bryant Resurgent Daddio prepares to face biggest challenge yet in Bryant’s Massa in NCAA tournament openerDonahue looks to benefit from balanced Syracuse attack against Bryant3 keys: Syracuse needs to maximize possessions, take care of ball against BryantBeat writers predict Syracuse to beat Bryant and advance to 2nd round of NCAA tournamentlast_img

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