By Katelyn Massarelli
The opening face-off is the first opportunity for each team to swing the momentum in their favor. It continues to set the momentum throughout the game and the player who wins the face-off is the one who gains control for his team. The players trained to take on this role are specialists.
In the game against Tusculum College, junior midfielder Sam Watts took the field for the first time as a Spartan on Feb. 5 after transferring from Onondaga Community College (OCC). Serving as the specialist for UT, he was recognized for his performance as the first Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Specialist of the Week of the season.
“Feels great to receive an honor like this,” Watts said. “I couldn’t have done this without the team’s win. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
In his first appearance on the field as a Spartan, Watts won 17 out of 20 face-offs and registered 10 ground balls.
Watts may be new to UT, but he is no newbie to being a part of national title winning team. In his freshman year alone, he started four games and led his team to 168 face-off wins and was named Region III Male Athlete of the Week. His team went on to win the NJCAA National Championship.
His team made it to the National Championships again, but came up short in Watts final season before making the transition from Lazer to Spartan. Last year’s loss only seems to keep him fired up to get to the NCAA Championship with UT’s lacrosse team. Knowing the UT’s lacrosse came close last season to a National Championship, he’s ready to make a statement this season for UT.
“Once you get one [National Championship] ring on your finger, you want to be able to go back and get another one,” Watts said.
Coming on the team as a transfer, Watts noticed the large amount of energy each teammate brings to the field, including team captains Marty Heyn, Jake Schmidt, Conor Whipple and Charlie Cummins. Watts said the four captains are players to look up to because they have done their part on the team as veterans who have continued to dominate the field.
The lacrosse program has shown support for Watts as a player and has put trust into his abilities on the field, according to Watts. This is something freshman attacker James Pugliese has seen as well.
“Sam Watts is a hard-working player and has proven to the coaches that he deserves the starting face-off position for our team,” Pugliese said. “He has quick hands and has a fast reaction time, which will hopefully help us make it to the NCAA championship and claim the Division II title.”
UT fell short in the NCAA Semifinals against Limestone College with a close score of 13-10. Feb. 25 will be the chance for the lacrosse team to redeem themselves against their NCAA rival. Never having competed against Limestone, Watts has heard all about Limestone from his teammates and it is said to be the most challenging game the team will face this season.
“We have to get past Limestone,” Watts Said. “They don’t really scare me. I don’t worry about the team we’re playing against; I’m just worried about the game we play.”
Since the first win of the season against Tusculum College, the lacrosse team landed another win against Queens University that ended with a final score of 14-9. Watts totaled a 13 out of 20 face-off wins.
Going forth with the rest of the season after earning SSC Specialist of the Week, Watts is using the honor as a motivator to continue to put in the work necessary to end this season as an NCAA Champion along with his teammates.
“This only makes me want to work even harder and do better this season than any other season,” Watts said. “The biggest thing is bringing it in practice everyday, trying hard, staying healthy and playing my best in every game.”