Athlete of the Week: Jarett Witzal ’19, Lacrosse

Devan Schulte, Senior Writer

Hometown: Bethesda, Md.

High School: Landon School

Position: F/O Midfield

2016 Statistics:

.604 Faceoff Percentage win

34 Ground Balls

Jarett Witzal ’19 had a record-setting performance on April 8 under the lights of Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium, as the face-off specialist collected 21 of 27 face-off wins to propel the Bison men’s lacrosse team to a 15-10 victory over Mount St. Mary’s. This impressive performance set the Orange and Blue single-game record for face-off wins. Witzal has played in only 11 collegiate games, but the Bethesda, Md. native has already made a huge impact on the Orange and Blue’s success. He currently boasts a .604 face-off win percentage after winning 122 of his 202 face-off opportunities, placing him at 17th in the national rankings for the season.

Although Witzal has already attained a great amount of recognition for his success on the lacrosse field this season, he is still adjusting to the speed of collegiate play. The freshman played soccer and lacrosse and wrestled at the Landon School before coming to the University, and his athletic background has proved pivotal in helping him transition to Division I competition.

“I think the biggest difference between high school and college is the pace of practice. In college, at all times you are playing at game speed and giving it your all,” Witzal said.

His ability to adapt and adjust to the increased pace of Division I athletics has led to his two-time selection as the Patriot League Men’s Lacrosse Corvias Faceoff Specialist of the Week. Witzal also strongly attributes his success on the 50-yard line to his life-long career as a wrestler, as the two sports share similar qualities.

“It’s a one-on-one battle, you versus the guy on the other side of the line, and that is what I like about it. Facing off is very personal because it is a one-on-one battle, so you can’t blame your difficulties on anyone else besides yourself. It allows me to hold myself accountable for my actions on the field at all times,” Witzal said.

Although Witzal faces a lone opponent at the center of the field, the Bison wings provide crucial support to ensure his success. He attributes his recent accomplishments to his teammates, as he recognizes their imperative presence in making sure the Orange and Blue win full possession after each face-off.

“My wings Alex Spring ’16, Matt Gilray ’18, Grayson Helm ’17, and Brock Ghelfi ’16 were helping me all night when I couldn’t get to the ground ball in time. I knew one of my wingmen would be there to pick it up. It was a full team effort, and I couldn’t have broken this record without the help of my teammates,” Witzal said.

As a first-year starter, Witzal relies heavily on his older teammates to  guide him, teach him, and provide him with positive feedback. Witzal relies most heavily on the team’s two other face-off specialists for advice, Sam Hahn ’18 and Jake Dunlop ’18, as the three players collectively work to create and execute a game plan for each match.

As a result of the support and encouragement from his peers and teammates, Witzal says that his goal for the rest of this year’s season is to be the best teammate possible.

“I want to be the best I can be on the field or the sideline to help put my team in the best position to win the game and Patriot League Championship. Our team this year has our eyes set on a Patriot League Championship and an NCAA Tournament bid.  If we accomplish those two goals, I believe our best lacrosse will come in May, and hopefully will bring us to Final Four weekend,” Witzal said.

Before the Bison can get to the Final Four, they will have to combat two Patriot League foes on April 15 and 22. Witzal recognizes that the team must stay focused and determined to overcome what he deems its biggest challenges: beating Lafayette and Lehigh.

“These next two games can make or break our season. A Patriot League tournament is on the line and I believe our best lacrosse will be played in these next weeks,” Witzal said.

Despite his class year, Witzal classifies himself as “weird, loud, and hyped” on game day. On the night of April 15, he hopes that his excitement and enthusiasm will help lead the Bison to a key Patriot League victory and a berth to the Patriot League tournament.

 

 

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