If you’re a high school student that possesses college lacrosse aspirations and a bent towards building things, you’re somewhat limited in your choice of NCAA schools that offer competitive lacrosse programs, and engineering degrees. Oh, sure, there’s a few Ivy’s, Maryland and Hopkins. But if you’re not sporting a 4.0 and a 32 on your ACT, a rocket shot, or a 6’4, 235lb D-Pole body, those options can quickly disappear.
Nothing wrong with the MCLA programs at lots of good engineering schools, but if you’re looking for the NCAA D2/D3 lax experience, there are simply fewer options available for the graphing calculator crowd than for your typical liberal arts student.
Stevens Institute of Technology is one of the best of those few options, as it’s a top tier engineering school, a top 10 D3 lacrosse program, and it sits in Hoboken, NJ, recently named a top 10 college town. (FYI for any LeftCoast-centric folks, Hoboken sits just across the river from NYC.) So when the Ducks’ coaching staff sent out invitations to their 2011 Team Camp, it was no surprise that they got an enthusiastic response.
We hopped on an easy flight over Middle America and showed up for the three day camp.
While waiting in the check-in line, I realized we weren’t in Kansas anymore when the plaques on the nearby Athletic Wall of Fame included athletes from two different kinds of sports in fencing and Team Handball. But there were plenty of laxer plaques as well, and Assistant Coach Matt Madalon (back up goalie for MLL’s Long Island Lizards) greeted the campers with a big smile and a nice chunk of lettuce. Somewhere around 125 players showed up, largely local boys, anxious to strut for Coach Gene Peluso and his staff.
The Stevens Ducks, in just their 2nd year under Peluso’s regime, are coming off an overacheiving season that found them making it to the 2nd round of the NCAA playoffs, sporting a 17-3 record, and ending up ranked 4th by LaxPower. Losing only seven seniors, the Ducks’ staff is looking for a few good men to pop out of this Team Camp and fill the rosters for the years to come.
While there’s plenty of playing and instruction at the camp, Coach Peluso also focuses on teaching the kids about being a college lacrosse player and the process involved in becoming one. Guest speakers address the players in breakout session that focus on the “how it gets done” and “the what’s expected of you” parts of the recruiting process.
Under a barrage of temperatures over 100° and 90% humidity, the boys fight through three games a day on boiling field turf. Skill level is all over the map and teams adjust to who can and can not play. Coach Peluso reigns from a chair on the sidelines, and after each game, the players congregate around him for his observations, criticisms and the odd joke.
Players stay in the thankfully air-conditioned Stevens dorms, on an unbelievably picturesque campus. It’s 55 acres of love nestled on a cliff above the Hudson, and the views seemed wasted on a student body destined to value function over form. But if you’re bent that way, and you can sling the rock, it’s hard to imagine a better place to be.