By Raj Sagar
There are certain moments in team sports when the game is reduced to a match-up between just two players. A striker with a breakaway and only the keeper to beat, or an isolation play with the shot clock winding down both feature an individual contest predicated on the physical as well as the psychological. Anticipation is crucial as competitors relish any opportunity to get a step ahead of their opponent. The oldest team sport in North America, lacrosse, employs the moment of individual competition in a wholly unique manner. Following every goal, each team’s faceoff man vies for momentum, possession, and the opportunity to score as they grapple over the ball in what resembles Greco-Roman wrestling.
A veteran faceoff man is an invaluable asset to any team as maturity, familiarity and a certain wisdom of the position come only with experience. With the addition of fifth-year faceoff man and Dartmouth graduate Chad Guadet, Virginia has found a perfect fit.
Coming out of Middlesex School in Burlington, Mass., Gaudet had already established himself as an elite athlete in his area. His senior year he captained the basketball, football and lacrosse teams. Though he was named All-New England in lacrosse twice, he had always preferred the gridiron. Gaudet, a tailback, was named New England Prep School Class C Player of the Year and Eastern Massachusetts Super 26 in football his senior year.
Gaudet wasted no time in asserting himself on the football field in 2004 during his freshman season he ran for a team-leading 389 yards to become the first freshman to lead the team in rushing since the restoration of freshman eligibility in Ivy League athletic competition. That year he was named the Earl Hamilton Award as the team’s outstanding rookie.
Despite the fact that he was having great success with football, Gaudet realized he still had a desire to play lacrosse. A serious knee injury sidelined him for the 2006 season, and upon recovery, Gaudet decided he would shift focus, and reunite with the game of lacrosse.
In 2007, his first year on the lacrosse team, he appeared in 14 games and won the team’s Blue Collar Award for hard work on the field.
The next year Gaudet’s faceoff approach improved tremendously as he ranked 18th in the country in winning percentage (.560). He finished 12th nationally in both wins and faceoffs taken. He was the team captain, started all 14 games, and received the Tom Dent award as the team’s MVP.
Dartmouth was UVa’s opponent on a late-season Senior Day match-up at Klckner Stadium. As the graduating Cavaliers’ future plans were announced, Gaudet noticed several players were pursuing a one-year Master of Science in Commerce at the McIntire School of Commerce.
“It seemed like something that was the perfect fit for me,” said Gaudet. “I went home and researched the program, and found that it offered everything I was looking for. After that, I called coach Starsia and told him I wanted to use my last year of eligibility, and was hoping I would have a spot on the team. We started a little late in the process, but we were able to get everything taken care of in about two months. The team and the program have been a great combination, and have made this an incredible situation for me.”
Upon hearing from Gaudet, Cavalier head coach Dom Starsia had a few inside connections from his Ivy League days as a coach at Brown.
“The assistant coach at Dartmouth, Andy Towers, played for me at Brown,” said Starsia. “He was the faceoff guy, and then became the faceoff coach at Dartmouth. Andy was a first-team All-American middie for me, and also a terrific faceoff guy. He has tutored Chad the whole time.”
Gaudet’s approach to the faceoff is especially unique as he unconventionally uses a long stick. While it may seem disadvantageous and rather defensive, Gaudet’s aggressive style and commanding approach has been beneficial in allowing Virginia to run the fast break, and attack the goal with ferocity.
“After the draw, you still have to pick up the ball,” said Starsia. “You’re making your life more difficult by trying to do with a long stick, and so the kids that can pick up a ball with a long stick in a crowd possess a pretty unique skill.
“Chad has the ability to pick a ball in close quarters, and has an uncanny knack for using his feet to kick it out to a better spot. When a team is facing off with a long pole, they are usually doing it in a very defensive manner. They know they are going to lose the face off and they are hoping they are going to be able to create a scrum. That’s not the case with Chad. We have already created more fast breaks (so far this season) than we may have had in the last year. He expects to win the draw and pick up the ball himself. Really good faceoff guys pick the ball up themselves.”