44° Good Morning
44° Good Morning

Lizards' Greg Gurenlian turns faceoffs into a weapon

Greg Gurenlian of the New York Lizards looks

Greg Gurenlian of the New York Lizards looks on prior to the start of the game against the Ohio Machine at James M. Shuart Stadium on April 12, 2015. Credit: Getty Images / Mike Stobe

The undefeated Lizards are outscoring opponents by more than four goals per game, a mark that leads Major League Lacrosse.

A prolific offense and tight defense have certainly helped here, but another significant factor has been ball possession, and for that, the team can thank faceoff specialist Greg "Beast" Gurenlian.

"My job is pretty simple: Make sure that we get more possessions than the other team," said Gurenlian, a 31-year-old Springfield, Pennsylvania, product.

The Penn State graduate has gone 82-for-106 on faceoffs this season, good for a league-leading 77.4 percent success rate. This is hardly uncharted territory for Gurenlian, who has led the league in faceoff percentage in every season since 2011 (among players who have taken at least 50 faceoffs).

His teammates are reaping the benefits of this success, as the Lizards offense leads the league in shots on goal per game (34.2), while its defense has faced the fewest shots on goal per game (22.6).

"What's really helped us go on a lot of runs this year is the fact that we're basically playing 'make it, take it,' " Gurenlian said. "My job is really to help us get the ball as much as we can and really compound the runs that we have on the other team, so that they don't see the ball for three or four minutes at a time. That's how you create separation in this league."

In terms of his success, Gurenlian recalls one of his dad's sayings: " 'You're happy but you're never satisfied.' You always have to consistently adapt to what you're doing and find ways to get better. I'm constantly studying film. There's a ton of pressure on me, and there's been a ton of pressure on me for years."

Gurenlian is the poster boy for faceoff specialists, a position he says that began to proliferate about 15 years ago.

"Around the early 2000s, the faceoffs position started to get specialized," he said. "Guys started realizing how beneficial it was to dominating a game. People say now that faceoffs are more important than they've ever been. That's not true. Faceoffs have always been important, but the difference is now you have guys who can take over games because of their skill level, and now people are paying more attention to it."

In addition to thriving on the professional level, Gurenlian is helping make the position more popular thanks to The Faceoff Academy, a company he co-founded in 2013 that teaches clinics around the country devoted to the specialty.

"I think we've made faceoffs attractive for kids," he said. "I think it's become a very cool part of the game."

The 5-0 Lizards would certainly agree.

Up next:The Lizards face the 3-1 Chesapeake Bayhawks Saturday at 5 p.m. at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports