James Reilly to replace Zac Tucci at faceoff against Redwoods
By Wyatt Miller | Jun 8, 2023
Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan called rookie James Reilly on Tuesday morning to tell him he’d be starting at faceoff in week 2. It was a quick conversation.
“He just said ‘you’re up,’ and I just said ‘I’m ready,’ and he said ‘alright, I’ll see you then,’” Reilly explained.
After Zac Tucci finished 4-of-14 from the stripe in the season opener, Copelan is giving Reilly a shot at the stripe. Reilly was the final pick in the 2023 College Draft (32nd overall), and went from an NCAA Tournament loss with Georgetown to Waterdogs training camp in just two days.
Copelan was more than impressed, stating that Reilly had a “phenomenal” camp, putting up a real fight against second-year Tucci.
Reilly had to adjust to the new faceoff rules, including the 32-second shot clock, which are vastly different from the college game. There’s less time to make plays and fewer restrictions for starting positions, so Reilly and Tucci worked on acclimating the rookie early on.
College rules require all faceoff specialists to start standing up, but the PLL allows players to go on one knee, so Tucci helped Reilly figure out what worked best for him. In the end, he decided to keep himself upright to “use my athleticism to my advantage,” Reilly said.
During five seasons with Georgetown, Reilly became the program leader in faceoff wins and ground balls, earning over a 50% win rate for multiple seasons. But in his first outing with the Waterdogs, Reilly is just focused on helping the team play to its strengths.
“I know we have some of the best wing guys in the country in Ryland Rees and Zach Currier, so I know my job is to make as many 50/50 balls as I can,” Reilly said. “Having them on the wings is really comforting, so if we can just get a loose ball I know that Ryland or Zach is probably going to come up with it.”
He added that Tucci’s openness during camp helped him adapt to the new rules. So, although they’re competing for the same spot, the two got close quickly and are always rooting for each other.
Of all the personnel decisions Copelan had to make in week 1, he said the faceoff weighed on him the most. And with Jake Withers on holdout for a while, it’ll be a weekly decision at the stripe unless someone separates themselves.
But in his first game of professional lacrosse, Reilly has the chance to get ahead.