Freshman faceoff specialist Conor Gaffney poses on one knee in his faceoff position before practice on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, at Banko Field. Gaffney was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week for two consecutive weeks. (Annie Henry/B&W Staff)

Freshman Faceoff Phenom: Conor Gaffney shines for Lehigh men’s lacrosse


When freshman Conor Gaffney came to the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team, he completely changed his technique as a faceoff specialist. Originally taking faceoffs in a standing position, he now starts down on one knee.

That switch has paid off.

Gaffney was named Patriot League Rookie of the Week for the first two weeks of the season and has the 14th highest faceoff percentage — 60.9 percent — in the nation.

“This has a lot to do with what the coaches have been teaching me,” Gaffney said. “At the beginning it was a little bit of a learning curve, but now I’ve adjusted to it and am working to get more consistent.”

Gaffney said he was honored the first week he won the award but was totally surprised the second week. He said he felt like he struggled the second game, which was against Jacksonville University.

Coming to Lehigh as a highly-ranked recruit, the Mountain Hawks hoped Gaffney would serve as an asset to the team.

“(Gaffney) is an absolute warrior, a grinder and a fierce competitor,” coach Kevin Cassese said. “He has been that way since the moment I met him during his rising junior summer in high school when he attended our Lehigh prospect camp. After watching him compete that summer and the following fall, we knew we needed to make him a Mountain Hawk.

Cassese said the Patriot League, which he thinks is the best league in the country for faceoffs, will serve as intense competition for Gaffney.

“There are five proven top-20 faceoff men in our league,” Cassese said. “(Gaffney) will be tested this year, but there is not another faceoff guy in the country I would want to coach. I believe in (Gaffney), and I know that his teammates do as well.”

The senior leaders on the team, as well as the rest of the underclassmen, think highly of the freshman standout. Senior midfielder Ian Strain said Gaffney’s talent helps make his job as a team captain easier.

“We are a young team,” Strain said. “Gaffney as well as a lot of the other freshmen are getting playing time. It’s our job and goal to really show them the way since they have not been in this situation before, but they are here for a reason and are very talented guys.”

Strain said Gaffney is one of the hardest workers he knows. He said Gaffney puts in the hours for everything he does and is always trying to become a better player.

“This season, if we give him space to do his thing, his work ethic and talent will show, and he will do what he needs to do,” Strain said.

For the 2017 season, Lehigh (2-1) has been focusing on keeping an attacking mindset. Strain said always being prepared to attack on offense and ready to defend will be vital in achieving the team’s goal of winning the Patriot League.

Gaffney said the team has circled specific teams on the calendar, but knows all Patriot League games will be big. He’ll get his first test against league competition Saturday against Holy Cross.

The game will be held at noon on Saturday at Holy Cross.

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