April 8, 2011

Weekender: Faubert Has Ducks Flying High

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

After toiling for three seasons out of position, Stevens senior Brandon Faubert is back at his natural spot in the midfield. It's not just a coincidence that the Ducks are 11-0 and ranked No. 6 in the country.
© Peter Marney

Stevens coach Gene Peluso has a special play – the name of the set is top secret – and when the call goes up, it dictates that the player with the ball immediately crash the net. Earlier this season, Peluso yelled out the password while the ball was in the stick of senior middie Brandon Faubert.

A split dodge later, and the ball was in the back of the net.

"He starts giving high fives to his teammates and I brought him over and said, 'Not for nothing, Brandon, but I told you exactly how you were going to score that,'" Peluso said. "'Can I get some credit?' Now every time we're in that situation he runs right over me."

Faubert (pronounced faux-BEAR) has since learned to reciprocate.

"Now when I score off of it, I go over and give him a handshake and a hug and say, 'Thanks, Coach,'" he said. "Then I start bonding with my teammates. We joke around about that a little bit."

It's easy to goof around when your team is 11-0 and ranked No. 6 in the country, but this anecdote provides a glimpse into the success that the Ducks are having, as well as the breakout season for Faubert, who is putting up NCAA Midfielder of the Year numbers.

When he first arrived at Stevens out of Virginia Beach, Faubert was an extremely athletic midfielder with a limited skill set after playing for a mediocre Cape Henry Collegiate team.

"My first day I was on the second middie line, and I was kind of stoked about that, but over time the college game was a lot faster than I was used to, especially coming from southern Virginia," Faubert said. "Coach just said I was too athletic not to be on the field, so they put me at defensive middie. I just wanted to get on the field."

Faubert remained at defensive midfield for his first two seasons, but when Peluso came to Stevens from RIT in 2010, the Ducks' philosophy changed. The team's offense went from a rigid system to a more free-flowing concept. This opened the door for Faubert to move out of his shorty role.

"That's the kind of system that helps my game – getting into space and being allowed to dodge from different spots," Faubert said. "In the past, we had a very structured offense and everything was a set play."

"I watched him play for the first time as his coach in fall ball last year and was just astonished by what he could do," said Peluso. "He could clear the ball by himself and could defend real well. They used him as a short-stick d-middie, but I said to the staff, 'If we can get him on offense, he's going to be a tough kid to stop.'"

It started last year, when Peluso felt he needed more speed on his attack unit. Faubert flipped to the other end of the field and proceeded to finish third on the team in goals (24) and points (32), earning Empire 8 honorable mention all-conference honors.

Stevens has filled out its attack this year, which allowed Faubert to move to his natural position at midfield, and the results have been devastating for Stevens' opponents. In just 11 games, he has 40 goals and 14 assists.

It's as if he's making up for lost time.

"Most college seniors get a sense of urgency, and I've seen that from Brandon," Peluso said. "He said, 'Coach, I don't want this to end. I love this.' That was kind of a turnaround where we knew he was going to play with an urgency and a focus."

"One of the other captains will walk around before games and say, 'We're seniors, this is our last time, it's supposed to be fun,'" Faubert said. "So we just try to keep that in mind. This is the last time, and we're on a nice little winning streak."

The type of team success the Ducks are having this season can't typically be attributed to one person, but Faubert's play is certainly a key factor. It's both what he does and what he provides for his teammates.

"He is a guy who can almost single-handedly break a zone with his ability to change directions and get a shot off," Peluso said. "The nice thing about it is he makes the people around him better and more effective. He's seeing shut-offs, long-stick shutoffs, he's seeing zone, and he's responding to everything he's seeing and helping the players around him be just as effective."

"I have two other great middies on my line with me who take a lot of pressure off me because you can't shut anyone off or double-pole anybody," said Faubert, referring to senior Chris Laurita (29g, 12a) and sophomore Nicolas Phillipi (23g, 6a). "The whole team is better."

With the improvement has come the wins, and a little bit of goofing around between Faubert and his coach. So if you see No. 5 run over to Gene Peluso after a goal and give him a high five on Saturday, it means the Ducks are having fun, and St. John Fisher is definitely not.

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