Experienced Velepec Offers Hoyas Fresh Perspective

By Karen Travers Hoya Staff Writer

You can excuse Peter Velepec for not being serious all the time at lacrosse practice.

You can even excuse Peter Velepec for coming out onto the field donning a helmet with a mask that looked more like Darth Vader’s than his own.

That’s because Velepec is not your typical attackman.

Then again, the word typical is probably not used very often to describe him.

Velepec, the self-proclaimed reigning champion of locker-room Foosball competition, is the first player to lighten practice with a joke.

“He’s the man, a character no doubt. He’s pretty creative, and he jokes around with the best of them,” said Scott Urick, senior attackman and Velepec’s roommate. “I’ve never met anyone like Vele.”

“Peter’s an interesting character to say the least,” Head Coach Dave Urick said, laughing and echoing the words of his son. “Before the Navy game, we had an incident with [senior attackman Andy] Flick that was disconcerting [involving his contact lenses]. He was very sensitive to light. Well, we got him a tinted visor to wear for the game on Saturday and tinted goggles. By Saturday, Flick didn’t have to wear it, but he did use the visor at practice on Friday. And he didn’t like it at all.

“Well sure enough, on Monday, who comes out with the visor on his helmet but Peter. That’s a typical Velepec maneuver. He’s always just a little bit out there.”

“I’m just fun,” Velepec said laughing, in his own defense. “I just go out there to have fun.”

A fifth-year senior on the Georgetown men’s lacrosse team, Velepec has proven himself to be a scorer and a feeder this season, with a balanced stat sheet of 18 goals and 16 assists.

“His style is different. It’s different than you would have from your stereotypical attackman,” Urick said.

Hailing from Rochester, N.Y., an area where kids grow up playing ice hockey and box lacrosse, Velepec learned the fundamentals of the game from his brother, who played for Coach Urick at Hobart College. Velepec learned how to play with both hands, not to just rely on his left side – something that has benefited him greatly in college.

“Vele’s more shifty, he changes direction a lot,” Urick said. “He uses his right hand a lot too.”

As a freshman, Velepec knew that he would take five years to finish his academic requirements at Georgetown, something that he planned, knowing how difficult it is to play a varsity sport and keep a full course load. A friend from home, Andrew Whipple, an All-American for Maryland who graduated in 1999, had taken a similar route, so Velepec knew how beneficial it would be for him to spread out his classes.

“[Whipple] did the same thing, and it was a lot less stressful,” Velepec, a theology major, said. “I saw how it worked out for him.”

As a freshman, Velepec made an immediate impact for the Hoyas on offense, playing considerable minutes at attack. Over the next two years, however, his playing time decreased gradually, especially since he played the same position as All-American Greg McCavera (COL ’99). Both were small, quick and left-handed. Velepec found himself taking a backseat to McCavera during his sophomore and junior season.

Before what would have been his senior season of eligibility but just his junior year academically, Velepec approached Coach Urick and asked him what he thought about taking a redshirt year that season and finishing out his athletic career at the same time as his academic career.

“Knowing that he was going to be here an extra year, he opted to take [a redshirt] year last year, and that’s a tough thing to do,” Coach Urick said. “He’s rolling the dice a little bit, and I think it’s working out pretty well for him.”

“I’m glad things worked out the way they way worked out,” Velepec said. “Looking back now, I can’t imagine being here [for a fifth year] and not playing lacrosse.”

Watching from the sidelines last season was difficult enough for Velepec, who could practice and even suit up for games, but could not take the field. During practice, he was used primarily as an opposing attackman, working out with the goalies and imitating upcoming opponents in order to prepare the defense.

“It was hard. I don’t know how to explain it,” Velepec said. “The only thing I didn’t do was play in the games. I saw people get hurt and not play in games. I still got to practice. It was fun [to play as other players], and I think it really helped out the team.”

Coming into this season, Velepec did not have any guarantees that he would see time, even with the graduation of McCavera.

This year’s freshman class has a strong core of attackmen, and there is always someone biting at Velepec’s heels.

“There’s always going to be, at this level, a lot of competition. There’s no guarantee for Peter, that just by redshirting last year, he was going to be playing this year,” Urick said. “He’ll be the first one to tell you, he can’t relax – there’s someone right there waiting to pick up the slack if he doesn’t keep playing hard and playing well.”

But Velepec came back onto the field this season as a senior in all aspects of life, approaching the game with a different mentality than he may have a few years ago.

In the first three years of his career, Velepec scored 33 points. This season, he already has 37, making him the second leading scorer for the Hoyas.

Since his freshman year, he has put on about 10 to15 pounds that he attributes to a weight training regime and hard work

“Strength definitely helps. Looking back, I would have gained more weight a lot quicker if I knew what a difference it would have meant,” Velepec said.

“He really sees the field better and makes good decisions with the ball,” Urick said. “But he’s not quite as big as he thinks he is – and you can quote me on that!”

“He’s gotten a lot better here since he’s gotten serious about weight training,” Coach Urick said. “He’s gotten the strength that I think you need to play at this level. That’s something that I think he was behind on when he came here his freshman year.

“The five-year program has really benefited him.”

The men’s lacrosse team lifts in the mornings in the fall, and Coach Urick remarked how Velepec was usually the last one in the weight room.

“One of the coaches has to sit around in there with Peter an extra 40 minutes because everyone else is gone and he is still going through his reps,” Coach Urick said. “It’s really made a difference for him.”

Since his freshman year, Velepec has not just grown on the field as a lacrosse player but off the field as well.

During his freshman year at Georgetown, Velepec’s father died after an extended illness. This experience caused him to grow up faster than most of his peers. Despite his reputation as being a comedian and, as Coach Urick said, sort of “out there,” Velepec matured and learned to approach the game and life as something fun.

“Character is a pretty good description for Peter. He’s an interesting young man to say the least,” Coach Urick said. “He’s had to grow up a little quicker than others, make some adjustments and deal with things a little earlier than others.

“You’ve got to give him credit for it. He’s going to graduate from Georgetown, and that’s to his credit as well.”

A few years ago, Coach Urick received a promotional gift from Reebok in the mail at his office in McDonough.

“I got a black leather jacket from Reebok, something that I obviously would never wear,” Coach Urick said. “But Peter fell in love with it. I took it home and said, ‘Peter the day you graduate I am going to give you this jacket.’

“And I still have it. I look forward to giving it to him in a couple months – I don’t want to jinx him though.”

On the field, Velepec has certainly gained physical strength that has enabled him to develop into a premier attackman for the Hoyas. Off the field, Velepec has gained strength that cannot be measured by pounds or scoring. It is that strength that is reflected in his attitude about the game.

Velepec is more relaxed this season, both in life and on the field. He doesn’t get nervous any more. In the waning minutes of the Hoyas’ close game against Duke earlier this season, a player with less experience might have suffered from nervous qualms. But Velepec was not nervous that he would make a mistake – another reflection of his confidence in his own strengths.

“I try to lighten things up. Sometimes people on our team are stressful about the game and everything. You’ve got to look at it as a game, something fun,” Velepec said. “It really is only a game. It ends after this year.”

Lacrosse at Georgetown might end, but for Velepec, the fun and the joking will never go away.

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