By Steve Guglielmo | 4/25/12 3:00 PM
MLL's Steve Guglielmo caught up with Long Island Lizards attackman Stephen Peyser who was named the 2011 MLL Most Improved Player of the Year last season. He tells us what improvements the Lizards have made during the off-season and his expectations for this year.
After scoring 14 goals in 11 games in 2010, Peyser exploded for 22 goals in 2011 and was the Lizards’ second-leading scorer with 32 points. In addition, he ranked second on the team with six two-point goals after not scoring a two-point goal in his career prior to last season. Peyser recorded four “hat tricks” last season, including back-to-back three-goal games against Denver on June 3 and at Boston on June 11. He also collected a pair of three-goal games against Chesapeake on July 23 and against the Rattlers just five days later.
Check out our Q&A with new head coach Joe Spallina here.
You were named the Most Improved Player Last year. Tell me about what that meant to you?
Huge honor. Last year was a fun year in terms of individual play, being at a little bit higher level than I have shown in this league. But the team didn’t really perform the way that we had wanted to. We missed the playoffs and that was frustrating. So, that being said, it was great to get an individual accolade but I would have liked to have been playing in the MLL Championship Weekend. It meant a lot to be recognized but you really want to be playing in that final game.
The Lizards have gone through many structural and personnel changes over the off-season. What do you think about the way the team is looking this season?
The team is looking athletic, fast, young. We’re going to have, essentially a starting attack of all first and second year players. A midfield that has one fourth year guy and a fifth year guy and then we’re going to fill in that slot behind us with probably a veteran back there. I think we are reenergized; we’ve got a really good net-minder in Drew Adams. He’s a great keeper and he’s a great leader. It’s tough losing Brian Spallina and some of the vets, but I’m confident that with his leadership and some of the other guys that have been in the league like Parker McKee, I think that those guys are going to be able to lead our D. We’ve also got Mike Ward back for a full year, where last year we only had him for part of the season because he was taking the bar exam. So having him back and focused and playing for us in every game is going to be a major difference in our team defense.
What are your personal expectations for the season coming up? Team expectations?
Personally for the coming season I think that we have a group of guys that is going to be really unselfish out there. I’m setting the bar pretty high, personally. I’d like to be able to play at the level that I did last season, and even exceed that. I think with this team and with the players that are going to be key parts of this team, I think you’re going to see four or five guys play at that level, at the highest level they can. That’s going to turn into, hopefully, a lot of goals being scored and hopefully we have a lot of individual accolades this year.
How do you mentally prepare for the grind of the season?
It’s difficult with my job, specifically, because it’s long hours. You’re a broker so you have to build your network so it entails building a relationship, which takes time outside of the office. That’s the one challenge that I have is trying to stay in shape for the season. I think that it just comes down to how badly do you want to perform at a high level? I think that there are a lot of guys that have the same routine that I do. You have to look at lacrosse as an escape from the working world and view it as an absolute gift to be able to go out there and play amongst players that are at the very peak of their games. It’s a challenge, but one that I fully embrace and, like I said, it provides me with a lot of motivation in the office also to have that to look forward to, to go out and do something that I really love. If I could dedicate my entire life to lacrosse I would, trust me.
Tell me about your off-season workout regimen.
I went to Hopkins and we trained with our strength and conditioning coach, Jay Dyer, and I know he has tweaked the way he works out his athletes now and he is doing some different things, but I try to take a lot away from the stuff that we did in college and also kind of mix it in with more of a Cross Fit type of an approach. I think that is the way the game is going in terms of what is the most effective way to train for the sport. I think Cross Fit, being a powerful athlete, is everything in this game. If you look at the best players in the league, they’re all incredible athletes but also incredibly hard workers in the gym. I think that cross fit style of training really helps to bring out the most athleticism that you can exhibit on the field. It’s a combination of things but this year, specifically; I want to try to be a guy that has a lot left in the tank in the fourth quarter. So I have been running a lot more and doing more interval stuff and doing more sprint work than I ever have. So hopefully that will pay off and hopefully it will also prevent injury and stuff like that, too.
Last season you guys were right on the cusp of the playoffs and ultimately fell short. If you could pinpoint one thing that the team can improve on that can get you over the top and have you playing in the final weekend, what would it be?
Consistency. We showed spots where we were a special team last year and then we kind of faded. We were just inconsistent. One game we would be great and then the next game we would be the worst team in the league. So, I think that having the new faces on the squad will be good for us to build a new chemistry. We’re going to miss guys tremendously, guys like Dino [Matt Danowski] and Stephen Berger who you can’t just replace. That certainly will be difficult to deal with. But in every other sport it’s viewed as a business and I think that is the way we have to view our sport as well. If managers are making decisions, you have to deal with them. We made a lot of moves and we will see how it all works out. I think we will wind up having a strong squad. We have a lot of young guys who will fill in some of those voids that we have. So, I don’t know. It’s going to be a challenge again this year, considering the fact that you have a Boston team that is great and you have so much competition in this league. Any given team could win it all. The expansion will make that even more clear, who are the better teams and who are the teams that are at the bottom of the list. That is one thing that expansion does to a league. It separates the better teams from the ones who aren’t as talented. I certainly think that will happen this year, again. We traded away two of our best players to an expansion team, so I expect them to be pretty good.
What is your favorite pump up song on your iPod?
I need to get back into rage music for the season. I think right now if I have to go out to one song, the one that is getting me fired up is Midnight City by M83.
What do you think is the single most important exercise or drill a lacrosse player should do?
I would say probably 300-yard shuttles for fitness. Or wall ball.
Best sports movie?
I have to go with Rocky
Jets or Giants?
Giants all the way.
MLL will host its marquee event in Palm Beach County, FL this year on Saturday, June 30! To buy your tickets now click here. To learn more about the 2012 MLL All-Star Game click here. The game will feature the best lacrosse players in the world, all one one field and will be aired live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.