No Moral Victories for the Ducks
Gene Peluso hates the term "moral victory." Mostly because if you score a moral victory, it means you lost. It also denotes a certain level of complacency, and the Stevens head coach never wants that to be a part of his program.
"People are going to say 'Great job; way to play with Tufts,'" Peluso told his players in the locker room after the game against the Jumbos on Saturday. "'Our goal today wasn't to play with Tufts, our goal was to win.' Sure enough, I'm walking to the parents' tailgate and one of the parents said, 'Way to go today. You really played with them.' It's just not the mentality that we have."
Peluso understands why the parent said it, and he's appreciative of the unwavering support, but if the Ducks want to continue their evolution into a national power, the players need to understand that they can't be content with near-misses.
Stevens learned a lesson last year when the Ducks entered a game with No. 4 RIT boasting a No. 6 ranking and got throttled, 18-8. That loss was extremely painful for Peluso, both personally and professionally. While the loss to the second-ranked Jumbos stings, it's a lot easier for the coach to analyze the outcome.
"I can talk confidently and calmly about what happened yesterday," said Peluso on Sunday afternoon. "Truth be told, the team that played better, played a cleaner game and played a full 60 minutes won the game. Playing 40 minutes out of 60 isn't going to get it done against anybody, especially a team like Tufts."
Just as unseemly as moral victories are, so are excuses. Still, the inability of middie Rich Dupras, the Ducks second-leading scorer, to run a regular shift (he was limited to the man-up unit) was a blow to the offense. The absence of standout LSM Tim Culloty left a hole on the defensive end of the field.
The loss to Tufts wasn't completely without merit. The man-up unit went 5-for-5 and, while it doesn't fall under the distinction of being a moral victory, Peluso admitted that just playing the game will provide dividends.
"We know that we scheduled Tufts for a reason, as well as Endicott and Springfield," he said. "We want to play a lot of the top teams in the North. Yesterday was successful in one way because we wanted to schedule a good, tough team. It certainly was that. They certainly gave us what we wanted in regards to a strong opponent."
Stevens enters what Peluso calls "New Jersey Week," with Montclair State on Wednedsay and FDU-Florham on Saturday before the Empire 8 conference slate opens up.
"We told the guys that we need to get ourselves ready for a really tough Montclair State team," Peluso said. "We ended their season last year in the NCAAs, so I don't care what the records are, they are going to be ready. Frankly, they are on a winning streak and we're on a losing streak."
There are no moral victories. Just victories.