Balancing act

Hopkins midfielder's value goes beyond faceoffs

Stephen Peyser

May 17, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

Stephen Peyser has found his nirvana.

The Johns Hopkins senior midfielder has grown into his role as a team captain. He has fallen for the city that surrounds the school's campus. And Peyser is at peace with being left out of the media spotlight that tends to focus on classmates like midfielder Paul Rabil, attackman Kevin Huntley and defenseman Matt Bocklet.

"That happens in sports all the time. You don't get credit for everything, but that's the way it goes," Peyser said. "I'm not necessarily the offensive gun that Paul or Kevin Huntley is. But we've had so much success as a program that individually, [media attention] doesn't even make a difference. Being able to say that you've won two national championships is more important than any feature on me that I would care to read later on in life."

Peyser will play a critical role as the defending national champion Blue Jays take aim at a third title in four years. The next step toward that goal for No. 5 seed Johns Hopkins (9-5) is getting past unseeded Navy (10-5) in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal today at 3 p.m. at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Peyser is the Blue Jays' top faceoff man, ranking 11th in the country with a .580 win percentage (116 of 200 faceoffs) and first in the nation with 6.7 ground balls per game. But Peyser can't be defined solely by his faceoff prowess.

He ranks third on Johns Hopkins in goals behind Rabil and Huntley with 19 and is tied for fourth in points with sophomore midfielder Michael Kimmel with 26. Peyser runs on the first midfield line and has the green light to remain on the field and play defense if the team doesn't win the faceoff.

ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich said Peyser is acknowledged by opposing goalkeepers as having one of the fastest shots in the country.

"He's athletically nearly as gifted as Rabil in terms of his size, his power and his speed," said Kessenich, a two-time first-team All-America goalie for the Blue Jays. "From a value standpoint, you could argue that he's the most valuable member of the Johns Hopkins lacrosse team. To me, it would be between him and Paul Rabil and Matt Bocklet. His impact is everywhere."

That ability to play both ends of the field is one reason Peyser tries to distance himself from labels like "faceoff specialist" and "FOGO" (which stands for "face off, get off").

"People say, `You're a faceoff specialist.' I say, `Well, I play offense, too,' " said Peyser, who took up facing off in the fifth grade when no one else on his youth league team on Long Island volunteered. "I take pride in [playing offense and defense]. It's an honor to be on the first midfield at Hopkins. That's something I've dreamed about my whole life. To be able to do everything here that I am doing is a dream come true."

A Long Island native like Peyser, senior attackman Michael Doneger has known Peyser since eighth grade, when they played on opposing teams in a youth league. Doneger said Peyser's value to the team cannot be understated.

"The 45 guys on the team and the coaches, we all know that Steve's impact is certainly one of the most important keys to us winning," Doneger said. "He takes the majority of our faceoffs, he plays defense in critical situations, and he runs on our first line in the midfield and right now, he's our third-leading goal scorer. ... He's one of the most well-balanced players on our team and one of the most well-balanced players in the country."

Peyser has grown into his role as a team captain. He and Rabil aren't shy about calling coach Dave Pietramala to ask questions or make suggestions. Pietramala said he relies on Peyser to gauge the pulse of the team.

"He is by far our emotional leader," Pietramala said. "It's taken him some time to understand that role and feel comfortable in that role, but he is the voice of our team in the locker room. He is the guy that gets them pumped up, the guy that brings a lot of fire to the locker room and practice."

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