Junior breaks program record for most faceoffs and ground balls

Junior midfielder Austin DiPietro said his greatest achievement came when he broke the program record in March 2019 for most faceoffs and ground balls won in his second year on the men’s lacrosse team.

In the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, DiPietro ranks first in ground balls with 118 and second in face-offs with 176.

DiPietro transferred from Saint Leo University, a Division II school in Florida, in 2017 to pursue his passion for filmmaking at Emerson. DiPietro said being a Division III school allows him to play lacrosse at a less competitive level and focus on his schoolwork.

“It’s a good balance because when you’re playing at a higher level, there is a lot of commitment where you wake up at 6 a.m. every day for lifts and practice every day for three hours, so here it’s just really a good balance between school and sports,” DiPietro said.

DiPietro said he came to Emerson looking to prove himself to the team. He said he finally did so in his second game last season when he won his first face-off against Northern Vermont University.

DiPietro played center in football during high school and said the skills he learned translate well to lacrosse face-offs.

“I’ve always been quick off the whistle when I started that so that’s why I figured I would be good at faceoffs, and the reaction time just transferred from doing that to doing face-offs,” DiPietro said.

Head coach Matthew Colombini complimented Austin for the confidence he brings to the team and said he can rely on him to win the face-off and get the ball back after a reset.

“It gives everyone a lot of confidence that there is pressure on each possession,” Colombini said. “He’s extremely quick on the ball, so right on the whistle, he wins most of his face-offs on that initial draw.”

DiPietro said he enjoys participating in face-offs because of the individuality of the situation.

“The game starts and everyone is waiting on you to see who gets the ball and after that, it’s up to everybody else, but it’s really just on the line—you versus them,” DiPietro said.

DiPietro said face-off scenarios allow him to concentrate on one specific aspect of the game and not everything else happening on the field.

“When you’re playing outside of the face-off you have a lot of time to think, but when you’re going on the face-off as soon as the [referee] says, ‘Down,’ your mind just gets clear and it’s just a natural reaction from then on,” DiPietro said.

Colombini said DiPietro grew physically and mentally during the off-season.

“I realized that it took a little bit for him as he got used to being here in school, but he has a great personality and I think as he’s gotten more comfortable here, he’s let that show,” Colombini said.

Freshman midfielder Alex Hrisanthopoulos, who plays the same position as DiPietro, said he frequently learns from DiPietro by playing alongside him.

“I hope to follow in his footsteps and keep Emerson known for dominating at the face-off,” Hrisanthopoulos said. “That is something that he really started last year and since it, he has left such a legacy in breaking school records. I’d like to keep it going.”

Hrisanthopoulos said he and DiPietro differ fundamentally because DiPietro is quicker and uses his bigger body and strength to overpower his opponent and grind for the ball. Hrisanthopoulos said he and DiPietro compete with each other well during their frequent practices.

“[DiPietro] and I, whenever we face off against each other, it’s very much a good battle,” Hrisanthopoulos said. “He’s said it before and I’ll say it again, whenever we faceoff it’s a grind.”

Hrisanthopoulos also commented on how his relationship with DiPietro grew on and off the field

“As face-off guys together, we really understand each other really well—I feel like that has helped us bond off the field as well,” Hrisanthopoulos said. “He’s probably my best friend at school and I wouldn’t have met him without lacrosse, so I’m thankful for that.”

Colombini praised DiPietro for quickly improving in between seasons and for his ability to become the go-to player for faceoffs.

“I think last year [DiPietro] was just the face-off guy, and this year we’ve asked him to do that as his primary job,” Colombini said. “We have a ton of confidence in him defensively and offensively, [and] he’s become a really good all-around player and we’re going to keep using him that way.”

In the team’s victory over Wheaton College on Saturday, DiPietro totaled seven ground balls and won 11 face-offs. The team will play its final home game of the regular season against the United States Coast Guard Academy on April 24 at 7 p.m.

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