THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012
In the crease, looks can be deceiving
Goal keeper Peter DeLuca goes to the ground to make a save in a recent practice. Play Video
Goal keeper Peter DeLuca goes to the ground to make a save in a recent practice.

JU men’s lacrosse goal keeper Peter DeLuca insists that looks can be deceiving.

The sophomore goalie from Millersville, Pa., says despite shots whizzing in at more than 90 mph, the goalie area is quite safe and really not all that helter-skelter.

“It looks really violent but at the Division I level guys are so accurate,’’ DeLuca, who started all 15 games and played 848 of his team’s 903 minutes last season, said. “They’re not trying to hit you -- they shoot really, really fast -- but it’s a lot more organized than it seems. At this level, it’s a lot less scary because the kids are so accurate.’’

Less scary, but it still looks like a human traffic jam in front of the net at times.

Interestingly enough, JU head coach Guy Van Arsdale agrees with DeLuca and he should know. He was a collegiate goalie at Hobart in his playing days.

“When he’s (the goal keeper) in the crease nobody can touch him,’’ Van Arsdale said, “I always tell people it’s the safest place on the field to be.’’

That’s probably a good thing as the goalie’s lower body is unpadded and his upper body protected by a not-too-thick chest protector.

“About once a practice I’ll take a good one to the leg or something,’’ DeLuca said. “It’s not like a puck where it will cut you, but it’ll give you a nice bruise once in a while. You get used to it.’’

While the goalie’s playing area may be somewhat serene, make no mistake the net minder is akin to a football quarterback and must possess an above average skill set on a variety of levels making the position a busy one.

First, according to Van Arsdale, despite how I looks, that a goalie might make many saves is not happenstance.

“No, it’s not luck. That’s when athleticism, technique and hard work come together,’’ Van Arsdale said. “To be really good it’s a guy who understands the position, understands efficiency of movement. If he’s a good stopper of the ball, he’s probably got pretty quick hands. At this level, the stick’s going to make most your saves and that’s your hands. There’s a lot of technique involved with that.’’

Next, the goalie clearly has to have an understanding on what is transpiring before him, both agree.

“He needs to be someone who knows everything that’s going on in front of him, he has the best view of the field,’’ Van Arsdale said. “He’s a guy you’re counting on to be consistent which is one of the most important things a goal keeper can be.’’

“It’s like being the quarterback,’’ DeLuca said. “You’re basically the leader of the defense, the main communicator and you have to tell everybody where to go.’’

And finally, whether you want to believe it or not, the goalie can change the complexion of the game to the point teams have been built around the position.

“It’s funny, growing up my brother (Marc, an assistant at Virginia) was an attack man and his take on it is that a goalie can never win a game, he can only tie it,’’ Van Arsdale said. “That’s not the reality because you can build a strong team on the foundation of a strong goalkeeper. He can take an average team and make them good if he’s great and take a good team and make it great if he’s great.’’

“I remember last year how (teammate) Donnie Lang came up to me before the first game, I was a little nervous, and said ‘Peter, you know, all you have to do is stop all their shots and we win the game’,’’ DeLuca recalled. “Of course, that didn’t help me much but it’s true—it can completely change the outcome of the game the way the goalie plays. A team can be built around a goalie or a good face off guy.’’

Building around DeLuca might not be a bad idea. At 6-2, 200, he has a big enough body to “chew up space’’ according to his coach and he has brains.

He has 3.8 grade point average in a pre-veterinarian curriculum – in other words while taking classes most can’t even pronounce. His mother, Brenda, is a vet and DeLuca knew several years ago that’s what he wants to do.

“He is very, very bright,’’ Van Arsdale said. “He’s bright in the classroom; he’s bright on the field. He understands things quickly and has tremendous work ethic and is very driven. I don’t think anybody is any tougher on Peter than Peter. He demands a very high level from himself which is what you want out of a goalkeeper. He’s also starting to come along as a leader. He allows us to play certain ways defensively so we can try to direct offenses to certain types of shots so he has his best chances to stop the ball.’’

- Jim Nasella