April 16, 2011

RIT Spoils Peluso's Homecoming in Blowout

by Sal Maiorana | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Midfielder Jordan Collins-Hartwig scored two goals and added an assist in fourth-ranked RIT's 18-8 victory over sixth-ranked Stevens and its former coach Gene Peluso. Both teams came in undefeated.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- This was not exactly the homecoming that Stevens men's lacrosse coach Gene Peluso envisioned. Never mind the fact that his Ducks lost to RIT. It was the manner in which they did so.

In a much-anticipated Division III battle between fellow unbeatens who are jockeying for the top spot in the rugged Empire 8 Conference, fourth-ranked RIT – where Peluso coached for eight years – blew out sixth-ranked Stevens, 18-8, on a cold, wet, raw Saturday afternoon at RIT Field.

Peluso helmed the Tigers before leaving after the 2009 season with a career 88-45 record.

"It's not so much that," he said of losing to his old team, "but this is our first loss of the season so that's more disappointing. We didn't feel like we did a great job today and they did a real nice job of taking it to us. I know a lot of those kids over there and in a weird way I'm proud of those kids."

RIT coach Jake Coon, who inherited some of Peluso's players when he took over the program in 2010, improved his career record with the Tigers to 25-6. This season, the Tigers are 11-0 overall – RIT's best start since going 13-0 in 1985 – and they are now 5-0 in the Empire 8, tied with 5-0 Nazareth and one game up on 4-1 Stevens.

"Yes, I am shocked, no question, because I know that's a great team," said Coon, referring to the one-sided result. "And if we face them again [in the conference tournament], we have to respect them. They are very dangerous."

What made RIT's goal total and margin of victory even more impressive is that the 18 goals came in the final 50 minutes, because the Tigers spent the first 10 minutes looking nervous and disheveled in the attack zone.

"We had to get the nerves out and had to get used to the weather, but we played through it," said midfielder Jordan Collins-Hartwig, who had two goals and an assist. "We were like 'Hey, let's pick it up.' Coach got us going and we finished the job."

Stevens scored the game's first two goals, but RIT goalie Bob Tonnessen was superb after that and finished with 17 saves. Meanwhile, RIT responded with the next nine goals, and the closest Stevens would get the rest of the way was six goals on three occasions, the last at 11-5 early in the third quarter.

"Once we got a couple transition goals, that got us settled," said attackman Kelso Davis, who scored five goals and three assists. "They got the first two and then we went on a big run from there. We got some good stops and just kept pushing the tempo in transition."

Coon told his team that transition would be vital. The Ducks like to play aggressive on the ride and they often utilize a 10-man ride all the way up the field. It gave the Tigers some early trouble, but almost none the rest of the day, and they simply ran past the Ducks.

"We knew clearing the ball would be the most important factor because they really pressure you on the ride," Coon said. "I thought we did a good job beating their 10-man and we got transition out of it."

Attackman Tyler Russell, RIT's leading goal scorer this year with 38, scored RIT's first goal 10 minutes into the game, and Chris Cherami tied it 50 seconds later. Goals by Ryan Specale and Davis made it 4-2 after the first quarter, and then Russell, Davis, AJ Tingle, M.J. Kiekebelt and Davis scored in the first 8:16 of the second period for a 9-2 lead.

After the Ducks' Brandon Faubert scored his third goal of the game and 46th of the season to cut Stevens' deficit to 11-5, the Tigers went on another binge as Davis, Collins-Hartwig and Jordan MacIntosh closed out the third quarter, and then a pair of goals by Russell and one by Cherami made it 17-5 midway through the fourth.

"That's kind of what we are, a run and gun team," said Collins-Hartwig. "We like to push the transition and get goals off that when we can. We kind of knew we'd get some transition goals if we stuck our shots.It was a top 10 matchup and we wanted it bad."

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