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Washington makes big impact as freshman face-off specialist

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Washington makes big impact as freshman face-off specialist

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

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Not many college coaches would choose a freshman recruit over a top transfer. But that was the exact decision of Marquette men’s lacrosse head coach Joe Amplo.

One year ago, Thomas Washington was in his final year as a faceoff specialist at The Blake School in Minnesota, dominating all of his competition.

University at Albany sophomore Zack Ornstein was coming off a freshman season where he went 56 percent at the faceoff dot, but he lost the starting role to the nation’s top faceoff man, TD Ierlan.

Both Washington and Ornstein were interested in becoming Golden Eagles, leaving Amplo with a choice to make.

The choice of faceoff specialist came down to Ornstein or Washington. Amplo chose Washington.

So far, Amplo’s choice has not disappointed.

Washington was recently named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week after going 10 of 17 at the faceoff dot against No. 14 Georgetown. The 5-foot-6 faceoff specialist has won slightly more than 56 percent of his faceoff attempts this season.

It’s been an up-and-down season for the freshman out of Minnetonka, Minnesota, after an injury-riddled first few weeks.

“I pulled my hamstring the first game of the season, (and) then I went back two weeks later and re-pulled it against Detroit Mercy,” Washington said. “But it’s good to go now.”

After that first game, Washington, known by his teammates as “T-Wash,” led the country in faceoff percentage, which he said was special despite the limited sample size this early in the season. Washington had only taken nine faceoffs and won eight of them. 

As a sophomore in high school, Washington originally committed to Syracuse University, but then flipped his commitment to Marquette, citing Amplo as the main reason.

“Amplo was the factor behind my decision,” Washington said. “I realized he was a coach that really cares about me and that I could have a big role on this team.”

Washington was also a football player in high school. He said his experience on the gridiron comes into play during faceoffs.

“It helps with the mental aspect, just because I was a running back, so I really have to stay focused (in both positions),” Washington said. “It helps with clearing the ball once I have it and seeing the field.”

Amplo said Washington’s athleticism is his best attribute.

“He’s dynamic. He’s a really good athlete,” Amplo said. “He could be very instrumental (for us).”

Washington’s emergence as a reliable faceoff player has given his team a “three-headed monster” at the faceoff X. Each player brings a distinct style to the faceoff X. 

Along with junior Jared Hershman and freshman Jack Devine’s contributions, the coaches have a variety of options to run out.

“We all have different styles so that’s really helpful,” Washington said. “If one style’s not working, we have something completely different we can throw in.”

Washington said his style is a mix of the other faceoff players.

“Devine is pretty raw, but he’s quick and just battles for the ball, and Hershman is really polished, so I try to combine both of their styles,” Washington said.

But Washington recognizes that his game still has some holes, especially after he gets out into the open field following the initial faceoff.

“My shot needs to improve a lot, also my passing, looking to throw it to the attackman rather than taking the shot every time I have the fast break,” Washington said.

Even though he was named the BIG EAST’s top freshman last week, Washington is remaining humble.

“It’s exciting, but it’s just the beginning,” Washington said. “I have to keep proving myself every week.”

Ornstein got the better end of the first matchup between the two, though. Ornstein, who ended up transferring into Villanova University, went 5 for 9 at the dot Saturday compared to Washington’s 0 for 3.

Amplo still believes in his dynamic freshman.

“He’s got potential to be really impactful,” Amplo said.

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