Connor Eakes is very good at what he does.
In the sport of lacrosse that has so many specialized positions, perhaps nothing is more important than having a good face-off man. The good ones give their team a chance to not only have possession, but score on a regular basis.
Eakes, a junior at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina, has done it better than anybody in all of Division II lacrosse this season. Going into the weekend, the Broomfield alum has won 189 of the 246 face-offs — a staggering 76.8 percent — he has taken.
"It's just about putting in the work. I was really fortunate last year to be behind a kid (Daniel Rew) that was also ranked nationally with his percentage," said Eakes, who played lacrosse at Monarch during his high school days. "I was doing everything I could to help out wherever I could, but also putting in the time to keep my hands quick and my wrists strong."
There was a stretch of games from the end of March and to start April, where Eakes won 87 of the 97 draws he took. Against Mars Hill on March 21, he won 20 of 22; and against Tusculum he went 16 for 17.
A three-sport athlete while at Broomfield, the 6-foot, 205-pound Eakes was an accomplished wrestler and football player in addition to lacrosse. His strength he gained as a wrestler plays an integral part of his game today.
"If I make the first move on the ball, I've kind of got to work my hips a little bit to make sure I can get to a place where I can pick it up," said Eakes, a junior who played football for the Indians during his freshman season. "The wrestling has been huge for that. It helped my grip strength a lot and my wrists too."
The Indians are 4-8 this season and despite the rough season, Eakes has been able to point to some highlights over his three year career and some big wins. He is still holding out hope that with two big home game next week against Brevard and Lenoir-Rhyne that they can still qualify for the SAC Tournament at the end of the month.
"We have some big wins on some big stages," he said. "And that has really been the highlight for me."
Eakes, who admits he always had a knack for face-offs and used them as a way to get on the field in high school, is one of three Coloradans on the Catawba roster that also includes Frederick's Keenan D'Arcy.
Eakes is a business major that is really enjoying his time on the east coast and away from the unpredictable Colorado weather.