Wentworth provides possible faceoff option as sophomore walk-on
Last year, Austin Wentworth and his teammates would all gather before games.
They’d lace up their shoes, throw on their jerseys and blast pump-up music, all before walking to Flanagan Gym for intramural basketball.
For Wentworth — who came to Syracuse with aspirations to walk on to the lacrosse team — recreational basketball was all he had, and never enough to satisfy his competitive fire.
“I just wanted to get back to the lacrosse field,” Wentworth said. “We all had fun, but it didn’t exactly do it for me.”
The Stamford, Conn. native tried out for the lacrosse team as a freshman, but didn’t make the cut. Then he watched as the team he dreamt of being on reached the national championship game but fell short when its faceoff ineptitude caught up to it.
Wentworth was a midfielder and faceoff specialist in high school, and tried out again before this season thinking he could help the Orange rectify its problems at the X. It seemed like wishful thinking, but he made the team and is now one of three active specialists — along with long-stick midfielder Peter Macartney — trying to solve a seemingly unsolvable puzzle for the nation’s ninth-ranked team.
“We’re all working hard to figure this out,” said senior faceoff specialist Chris Daddio. “And having Austin has helped. He walked on and works hard, and has made good contributions.”
When Wentworth joined the lacrosse program at Westhill (Conn.) High School, it was less than a decade old and he would never play on a winning team.
Yet that didn’t stop him from standing out in the Vikings’ midfield, where he scored 65 goals, dished out 41 assists and picked up 232 ground balls in four varsity seasons. He notably excelled at the faceoff X, where he won at a 73 percent rate in his high school career before committing to Richmond as a junior.
But at the time, Richmond was transitioning from a club team to a Division I program, and it ended up not being a good fit. Instead, he set his sights on walking on to a program with 10 national championships to its name.
“It wasn’t the easiest track to playing, but I thought why not?” Wentworth said.
After failing to make the team the first time around, Wentworth kept his next try on the backburner. During the summer, he worked an internship in New York City that took up most of his time, but he spent nights in his basement working on his timing and technique.
And a year after falling short, the unseen work paid off.
“I didn’t tell anyone except my dad that I was trying out again,” Wentworth said. “My mom was afraid I would get upset again and didn’t want me to try again, and I didn’t want to tell my friends.
“Then it was like, ‘Hey guys, I’m playing for Syracuse.’”
With incumbent faceoff specialists Cal Paduda and Daddio, and junior college transfer Mike Iacono joining the Orange a week before the team’s opening scrimmages against Hofstra and Le Moyne, the chances of Wentworth seeing the field were slim at the onset of the season.
But Paduda remains sidelined with an injury, Daddio has struggled mightily and in turn, Wentworth — with his approach of getting as low to the ground as possible — has taken as many draws and picked up as many ground balls as Iacono.
He’s just 4-for-12 at the X in limited action, but SU head coach John Desko has seen improvement and said the sophomore’s role isn’t an easy one.
“He’s been doing a pretty good job, he has a different technique,” Desko said. “The tough part for Mike and him is when they get in the game they are cold. Somebody else has been taking 10, 12 whistles and it’s a very difficult thing to come in and make it happen.”
So far this season, Daddio’s been the guy Desko’s used at the start of games. But the senior has won just 48 percent of 92 draws, which is allowing another specialist to emerge.
Maybe it’ll be Wentworth, who shamelessly admitted that he was just excited to sit on the bench at the start of the season.
Said Wentworth: “We just want one of us to get in a rhythm. If it’s me, then we’ll have done our job.”
Published on March 5, 2014 at 2:10 am