This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.06/22/2022 12:00 AM
Ben Costanzo is the faceoff specialist with the Valley Regional boys’ lacrosse team, tasked with earning possession every time he steps into the circle. Ben has proven a reliable force for the Warriors and recently received his second-straight All-Shoreline Conference nod, in addition to being named a senior captain for next year’s squad.
Ben first picked up a lacrosse stick in 5th grade. He had been playing soccer and was looking to try another fast-paced sport. Ben was also playing baseball at the time, but wanted to test out his options.
That summer, Ben competed at the Nutmeg Games, where his lacrosse team lost all three of its contests. Lacrosse didn’t seem to click with Ben, and baseball was still in the back of his mind. Then, taking faceoffs came into play.
“My first year I played lacrosse, I still wanted to play baseball. I asked my mom for ways how I could play both,” says Ben. “But once I started taking faceoffs, that’s when I really started enjoying lacrosse.”
Ben played for the CT River Ticks in Old Lyme from 5th to 8th grade. In 7th grade, he started taking faceoffs. Heading into his 8th-grade year, Ben bought a new stick specifically for faceoffs and began approaching it more seriously. Ben started to do some research, watching the professionals play and trying to emulate their game.
“I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I followed all of the professional athletes,” Ben says. “I looked up to Trevor Baptiste. I used the same stick he used. It was a big thing to me. I just wanted to take faceoffs.”
As he entered high school, Ben had transitioned into a full-time faceoff specialist for Valley Regional. The experience that Ben had gained playing lacrosse before the switch proved beneficial, because it gave him a broader knowledge of the overall game.
“I got to see other positions. I wasn’t taking many faceoffs before high school,” says Ben, who also plays defender for the Valley boys’ soccer team. “I was able to learn the game and how it’s played by positions. I saw how it was viewed through different positions.”
When his freshman season was canceled, Ben looked to the Warriors’ upperclassmen for guidance. The veteran players advised their teammates on how they should train and prepare away from the program.
Ben also had his brother Cam, who was a freshman on this year’s team, to help him train. Cam is a faceoff specialist, too, and filled that role on Valley’s JV team. To this day, Ben and his brother are constantly taking faceoffs against each other at home.
When he returned as a sophomore, Ben had a unique role on the team by sharing the varsity faceoff role with Jackson Bisson, who was a senior. Bisson held the starting role as both players saw time in the circle. Ben says that being underneath Bisson’s wing helped him adapt to the high school level and played a crucial role in his development.
“He taught me a lot about taking faceoffs, how to counter. It was really good for me to be his wingman,” Ben says. “He was a senior at the time, so he would start. If he lost some, I would step in. If I lost some, he would step in. It was always nice to have that split.”
Ben stepped into the starting lineup when the Warriors competed in the postseason last year. Ben remembers feeling excited and nervous about taking on that role. Ben knew that he had an important job and needed to be at the top of his game.
With all that pressure, Ben remembered to stay level-headed. Ben doesn’t like to overthink things when he’s in the circle. He just wants to focus on the task at hand.
“You don’t really think at all when you’re up there,” says Ben. “If you overthink, you miss the whistle or you jump the whistle. You just clear your head.”
Ben served as the Warriors’ full-time starting faceoff specialist as a junior this year. He won 250 of the 340 faceoffs that he took on the season. Ben credits the support that he gets from his teammates for helping him make it this far. Ben says that his teammates, who he calls his brothers, are always guarding his back.
When the 2022 season was complete, Ben was named to the All-Shoreline Conference First Team, marking the second year in a row that he received that accolade. Ben felt honored to make All-Shoreline for the second-straight campaign. Ben will be looking to go for three in a row next season, while hopefully getting some more time alongside his brother on the varsity field, so Ben can serve as a mentor for him.
“I was so grateful to be named All-Conference, especially my second year in a row. I’m hoping to get it again next year and continue the streak,” Ben says. “But I’d also like my brother to take some more reps, too, because he also takes faceoffs. I want to give him an opportunity.”
When Head Coach Colby Hawkins watches Ben play, he sees an athletic midfielder who is always putting in the work to get better. Coach Hawkins says that Ben’s strong play is matched by his passion for the sport, and he believes that attribute can be a huge asset for Ben at the collegiate level.
“Ben is a workhorse faceoff midfielder who is strong at both ends of the field. His athleticism, stick skills, and quick hands make him a dominant player for the Warriors,” says Hawkins. “Ben will make a great leader next year, and we anticipate his passion for the game to carry into his college lacrosse pursuit.”
Ben has been named one of Valley’s captains for next season with Michael Kollmer, who will also be a senior. After admiring the leadership of the captains when he was a freshman, Ben says that it means everything to him to have an opportunity to fill those shoes.
“That was pretty awesome. I’m just hoping to continue what the seniors showed me when I was a freshman,” Ben says. “I want to be a leader and support the team. I just want to continue working with the underclassmen.”
When he steps on the lacrosse field, Ben is determined to do everything he can to win the faceoff for Valley Regional. Ben does it because he loves playing the position and loves the sport. However, Ben also derives motivation from a group of teammates who have fostered his passion for the sport and made him want to continue playing lacrosse in college.
“I’m very grateful to have a position on the varsity roster. I’m very grateful to be a part of the team. It’s an awesome experience,” says Ben. “That team, that brotherhood, that’s what you think of when someone says I’m a lacrosse player.”