February 25, 2011

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Stevens, Peluso Feeling Good in Year Two

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Now that the Stevens players, like co-captain and leading scorer Chris Laurita (above), are more comfortable with Gene Peluso, and vice versa, the expectations are rising in Hoboken. A better faceoff percentage will help, too.
© Peter Marney

There's no place Gene Peluso would rather be than Stevens. Especially in his second year at the helm of the Ducks men's lacrosse program.

The first year was satisfying. Stevens finished with a 9-6 record and came within a game of qualifying for the Empire 8 tournament. There was a learning curve, however.

"It doesn't matter how long you've been at this, each situation is different and unique," said Peluso, who spent eight previous seasons at RIT. "All of the guys here are hard-working guys, and they live their lives in great balance and they really care about lacrosse. But at the end of the day, they are different than the guys I've coached in the past, and I'm sure I'm different to them than other coaches they have had."

There was no discord in the Stevens camp, but the two stakeholders took a little while to figure each other out.

"There aren't as many question marks about what the players are going to do, and I'm sure there are fewer questions about what they're getting from the coaching staff, as well," Peluso said. "We've been pretty fortunate in year two to get to know each other real well."

When the Ducks take the field Saturday in Hoboken against Endicott -- a team that made the NCAA tournament last spring and lost to Stevens, 7-6 -- it will likely be the strengthened cohesion that will push Stevens to a victory.

And faceoffs.

Putting aside the feeling out process between Peluso and the players, the biggest bugaboo for Stevens was at the 'X.' For the season, the Ducks won 41.2 percent of their faceoffs in 2010, an astounding number for a team that finished with nine wins.

The instinctive reaction is to take a look at Bobby Steinhauser, a senior on last year's team who took the majority of the draws, but Peluso waved that notion off.

"Bobby was also our first-line midfield, and he was also a real strong defensive role," Peluso said. "At the end of the day, we asked him to do too much. He jumped a lot early last year so we statted that and found out he was at 60 percent otherwise. We were putting so much pressure on the kid that we created that.

"It can be frustrating when you're not winning faceoffs at the level you'd like to. We were 9-6, and we played some real good teams close. I think if we had a better faceoff mark as a team, not just Bobby, we could have won a couple of those games."

Peluso believes he has his answer in sophomore transfer Marc Malecki. Malecki took nearly 300 faceoffs for Division II Pace as a freshman in 2009 at a 51.1 percent clip, and is now expected to give the Ducks a couple of extra possessions a game. That, Peluso hopes, will be the difference in making the postseason in his more comfortable second season.

"Just having a year in the pocket and going on year two, it is just easier, less helter skelter," he said. "I've got the commute down pat and I know the good to places to eat, which is important for a guy like me. I knew that first year was going to be crazy."


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