April 1, 2013

Making Sense: Stevens' Inseparable First Midfield

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

Harrison Dorne (above) is the vocal leader of Stevens' prolific first midfield line and is also tasked with making sure his somnambulent roommate makes it to class and practice on time.
© Stevens Sports Information

After two years, Stevens head coach Gene Peluso and his assistant, Matt Madalon, have gotten wise to the ploy.

When the call goes up for a Ducks' intrasquad scrimmage and it's time to choose teams, there stand midfielders Rich Dupras, Nicolas Phillipi and Harrison Dorne, miraculously separated once again by just one person. As Madalon walks down the line repeating, "White, red, white, red," to assign sides — surprise! — the three seniors find themselves with the same color jersey once again.

The arrangement still makes Peluso and Madalon smirk when they see it unfold, day after day, practice after practice.

"It's just like something you would do in fourth grade," Peluso said. "If I line up right, when the coach counts off numbers I'm going to be on the same line as my buddies. Those guys do that every time. They make no bones about it. God forbid I split them up on the practice field if we're going to full field and I want to see them go against each other."

Peluso admits it's harmless stuff, but there have been times when it has annoyed both him and Madalon. When you're splitting up the team but still keeping the most prolific midfield line in Division III men's lacrosse together, the outcomes tend to be slightly lopsided. Evaluation is nearly impossible. As such, the staff now takes them out of their comfort zone.

"That actually happened today, funny enough," chuckled Dupras. "Coach Madalon saw it and split us all up. We just like to have fun together. It makes practice fun."

"It was just a joking around type of thing, but they weren't too happy about that," added Phillipi.

"Coach Peluso got pretty heated one time when I moved over one more person so I could be with Rich and Nico," said Dorne. "Madalon came along and said 'You're white,' and I got separated from those two. It's like we've been together and done so well and had so much success, we want to be on the same line."

It's because of the production that the Stevens first midfield has showed over the last two seasons that Peluso will never truly begrudge the trio its schoolyard antics. While most programs are paced by the attack unit, the Ducks offense is dominated by its three middies. Phillipi (32g, 12a), Dupras (23g, 18a) and Dorne (23g, 7a) own the top three point totals for Stevens and filled three of the top four spots last spring.

It's somewhat tough to fathom that three players on the same line could have such outstanding numbers. Often there is a pecking order in terms of who gets the first looks. With these three, their games are so different that it meshes perfectly.

It starts with Phillipi, who is the initiator of the group. He is a no-nonsense middie, known for his hard dodges toward the cage and ability to use his strength. "He's just a blue-collar type of midfielder," said Peluso.

Dupras is the face of the unit after becoming the first Stevens player to earn first-team All-American honors last year, and he provides both an outside shooting presence and dodging ability. "Let me do my thing and let's feed off of that," said Peluso of Dupras' mentality.

And then there is Dorne down on the crease, chirping for a feed that he has the utmost confidence he can finish. "Dorne is the best complementary midfielder in the country," Peluso said. "He is attuned to Phillipi and Dupras every step of the way. He's such a smart player and he knows where to be."

They have disparate games on the field, but Dorne is somewhat of an outlier in terms of personality. Phillipi and Dupras are reserved, even in their goal celebrations, while Dorne is the most excitable member of the trio. While his linemates typically head to the bench after they score a goal, everyone knows when Dorne gets his.

"Whenever I score a goal, I pretend it's like my first career goal," Dorne said. "I go nuts. I can't help it. Nico and Dupras, they score and they say, 'We're good, let's get the next one.' I'm going to enjoy this moment. Honestly, when those two score, I think I'm more excited than they are. Whenever it goes in the net, I'm hands up and screaming."

While Dupras might be the face of the Ducks' premier line, Dorne is definitely the voice.

Nicolas Phillipi (above) is probably the most dangerous offensive weapon out of his three linemates, but he's generous enough to let Rich Dupras and Harrison Dorne get their time on the defensive end of the field.
© Stevens Sports Information

"It's like two bulldogs walking down the street and Harry is the little Boston Terrier jumping up and down saying, 'Hey guys, what do you want to do? Let's go!' That's what it is," Peluso said. "It's fun to watch."

Dupras is on the other end of the spectrum from Dorne, which it makes it slightly odd that the two have been roommates for the past three years. Dupras very rarely shows emotion and has a penchant for napping at every opportunity he gets. Phillipi jokes that Dorne's top responsibility on the first line midfield is to make sure his teammate is awake — something they jokingly refer to as 'Dupras Duty.'

"That kid can sleep at any time," said Phillipi of Dupras. "Dorne is usually on Dupras Duty on away trips because we have to make sure he gets up on time."

"Dupras Duty is usually on me," conceded Dorne. "Especially those early morning practices or classes, I'll give him a half-hour warning, a 15-minute warning, and a 'Hey, Dupras, we've got to go now!' I'm like a nag, but he thanks me afterwards."

"He's my alarm clock," added Dupras.

Phillipi isn't the face of the trio, nor the voice. But he just might be the best of the three offensively. Because of his strength, Phillipi saw serious minutes in his first two seasons before finally teaming up with Dorne and Dupras last year. He even ran on the first line midfield with Brandon Faubert and Chris Laurita his sophomore year, amassing 33 goals and eight assists.

If there was one quirk in Phillipi's game, it would be the curious coincidence that he always seems to be in perfect position to get the long-stick midfielder on the field in a sudden-change scenario. It's not something that has gone unnoticed.

"When Nick comes off the field to get the pole on, he'll say he's doing it to be a good teammate, but I'm saying he's doing it because I don't think he loves playing defense," said Peluso, who added that Phillipi is right behind Dupras and Dorne as the top defensive middies on the team.

"Dorne and Dupras are pretty good at that, so I let them get some run down there," said Phillipi, magnanimously. "It's not my favorite place to play, and I'm definitely the first one of the three of us to get off the field."

"We set it up so if a goalie makes a save, we say to Nico, 'Just get off. We'll get the far end,'" Dorne said. "I enjoy playing defense, and so does Rich. We're not mad if Nico wants to get off; it's more playing time for us."

The dynamic between the three has reached the point where not only do they know where each other will be, but sometimes they create goals using plays that aren't always drawn up on the chalkboard. Recently, Peluso and Madalon were watching game film where the trio produced a breathtaking goal, forcing Peluso to keep rewinding.

"I said, 'That didn't look like what we were trying to run,'" Peluso said. "Madalon said, 'Oh, it's not. That was just Harry, Rich and Nick being very smart lacrosse players.' They do that more often than not, and they do it within our system. There is just a strong bond. We've had guys who get hurt in that group or have guys missing and the group takes a hit. We filter other guys in and they certainly help the new guys fill in roles, but it's not the same. It's not because there is great talent missing, because we've got some good young kids, but it's just not the same because the chemistry is missing.

"Sometimes we joke if a guy has to be late for practice, we'll ask the other two, 'Are you guys going to be OK? Should we wait for him to come out before you guys play?' We try to have fun with it, but they are a unique, special group that feeds off one another very well."

Durpas effectively summed up the group's cohesion.

"We all have a sense of what the other wants to do and where they want to go," he said. "We're really good helping each other, giving each other space and letting one another do what we do best."

The numbering off of Dupras, Dorne and Phillipi before intrasquad scrimmages has become something of a goof for the Ducks. Everybody's in on the joke, and they try to make the most of it. But Stevens is a serious outfit with seriously high goals this year, so the screwing around stops when it's time for business, especially among the first midfield line.

The other night when Peluso called for a six-on-six drill, the coach got a visual representation of who is leading this team.

"The attack kind of waited for us to tell them which attackmen were going in there; the middies just went out on the field," Peluso said. "It's not arrogance or a cockiness. It's just that everybody knows, to the point where if you change anything up in practice and put a third guy in there, people are looking around saying, 'What's going on?' It's a forgone conclusion that those are our three middies and that those are our three guys."

Players of the Week

NCAA Division II
Connor Reagan, G, Sr., Merrimack
The Warriors posted a 2-0 week, including an upset of No. 1 Le Moyne on Tuesday, thanks to Reagan. Against the Dolphins, he made 24 saves, allowing Merrimack to take the 5-3 victory. On Saturday, Reagan played three quarters and allowed one goal while stopping eight shots. For the week he had an 88.9 save percentage and a 2.29 goals against average.

NCAA Division III
Chris Williamson, G, Sr., Bowdoin
Without Williamson, the Polar Bears don't record a 3-0 week. He had some wiggle room in the opening 13-8 victory over Springfield, but not over the weekend. Williamson stopped 18 shots as Bowdoin posted a 7-6 road victory over No. 11 and previously undefeated Middlebury on Saturday. The following day, he made 14 saves – including three in extra time – in the 7-6 quadruple OT road triumph against Williams.

MCLA Division I
Brad Macnee, G, Sr., Colorado
The week started off relatively easily for Macnee, who only had to make five stops in the Buffs 16-6 win over Utah, but he earned the award the next day. Facing a hot BYU team on its own field, Macnee made 15 saves as CU cooled off the Cougars in an 11-9 victory.

MCLA Division II
Trevor Wada, G, Jr., Cal State Fullerton
The Titans kept their postseason hopes alive with a 3-0 week, and Wada was the backbone. He posted victories against Southern Oregon, Pepperdine and UC San Diego as CSF improved to 10-3. For the week, Wada had a 62.0 save percentage and a 6.33 goals against average.

Power Fives

NCAA Division II
1. Merychurst (8-0) – Dowling will be the Lakers first real test in nearly a month. Playing at home is huge benefit.
2. Adelphi (6-0) – If the Panthers can grind out a win against Le Moyne this weekend, a tourney bid is in the bank.
3. Le Moyne (8-1) – Kam Bumpus is a fantastic player, but not sure if he's the guy you want taking 14 shots against Merrimack.
4. Limestone (10-1) – With all the prolific scorers in Saints history, Riley Loewen's recent accomplishment means something.
5. Merrimack (4-1) – It was a tight race between the Warriors and Post for this spot, but 'Mack gets the nod.

NCAA Division III
1. Cortland (8-0) – You better finish Cortland in regulation because the Red Dragons officially own overtime.
2. Dickinson (9-0) – A little bit of a lull for the Devils before road games against Gettysburg and WAC next week.
3. Stevenson (9-1) – If the Mustangs can down Salisbury on the road Wednesday, they should be free and clear.
4. RIT (7-2) – The double OT loss to Cortland stings, but on the bright side, the Liberty looks like a formality at this point.
5. Tufts (5-2) – Wins are wins, but 26 goals allowed in the last two outings sends up some red flags about the Jumbos defense.

MCLA Division I
1. Colorado (12-0) – Until CSU can prove that it can go to Provo and beat BYU, no one has the resume the Buffs do at this point.
2. Colorado State (10-0) – Hope the Rams enjoyed their week off because BYU is going to through the kitchen sink at them.
3. Arizona State (11-1) – Depending on how the RMLC plays out, the Sun Devils are still in the hunt for a No. 1 seed.
4. BYU (11-2) – The loss to CU wasn't the finish they were looking for, but the Cougars still had a heck of week.
5. Stanford (9-1) – The Cardinal better shake off their first loss quickly because Sonoma is lurking this weekend.

MCLA Division II
1. St. Thomas (5-0) – Fourteen different players scored in the Tommies' 21-11 rout of Western Oregon. That's not good for everyone else.
2. St. John's (8-0) – Saturday's game at St. Thomas will be the first of two meetings, and both are just for seeding purposes.
3. Westminster (8-3) – The Griffins drop a spot, but with a win over Concordia on Saturday, they're guaranteed to move up.
4. Liberty (11-0) – It won't count for anything, but Richmond will give the Flames a tournament-quality test.
5. Concordia (8-1) – The Eagles hop back into The Fives just in time for their last big test of the season against Westminster.

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