On March 22, in the Georgetown men’s lacrosse team’s 11-10 loss to Loyola Maryland, redshirt junior attack and co-captain Peter Conley broke two major career milestones. With his two goals and three assists in the effort, Conley both notched his 100th career point — becoming the 21st Hoya to do so in the program’s history — and moved into the 19th spot on the all-time scoring list with his 67 career goals.
His performance was made all the more striking given that for a majority of the past two years, Conley has been watching his teammates from the sidelines.
After a breakout freshman season in 2014 — marked by 24 goals, 13 assists and an All-Big East recognition — Conley’s career stalled when he sustained a devastating injury to his left foot in a tight game against Duke partway into his sophomore year.
“It just crushed me,” Conley said. “I remember sitting around right after it happened in my apartment with my roommates — Devon Lewis and Eduardo White — and I’m looking at my foot, and I’m like, ‘I’m done — no redshirt, I’m just done.’”
A promising leader both on the field and on the stat sheet, Conley was now forced to re-evaluate his role on the team — the second time in his career that he had to figure out his place in the Georgetown system.
At the beginning of his freshman year, Conley said he faced a learning curve as a newcomer to the Georgetown program.
“Coming in and trying to get my bearings, I didn’t really know how to play a system or a team offense at all,” Conley said. “At my high school it was kind of random dodges to the goal or taking your guy one on one. Coming here was a bit of an adjustment in the fall, learning how to play with guys who I could have faith in to catch the ball and finish it. That was new for me.”
After the initial cultural adjustment, Conley produced on the offensive end, scoring two goals in each of Georgetown’s first three games of the season.
Head Coach Kevin Warne said it was important for Conley to stay focused early on and continue adapting after his first few breakout performances.
“Once he had early success as a freshman, teams started to [develop] a game plan around him, and he had to evolve. If he didn’t evolve, he would have struggled,” Warne said.
The 2015 season saw a promising start for both Conley and the entire Georgetown program. The team earned several important wins and Conley was again paving the way for the Hoyas on offense.
“I was feeling really confident in my sophomore year,” Conley said. “We were playing really well. … We rattled off a few good wins in a row, and I personally had never felt as confident playing lacrosse as I did [then].”
However, the fateful Duke game marked a significant turning point for Conley on the team. Injured too far into the season to redshirt, he tried to recover in time for the Big East tournament but ultimately required surgery and missed the postseason.
Though he once led the charge on offense, Conley now had to step back and assume a different kind of leadership position.
“I switched my focus more towards viewing the game from an outside perspective and trying to move into more of a coach role,” Conley said. “I tried to help out in any way I could on offense. It gave me a better understanding of the game and a better understanding of different looks, how to read slides and really analyze defenses in a way that I never had before as a player.”
The following season started on a note of uncertainty. Despite undergoing surgery successfully for his left foot, another stress fracture in his right foot prevented Conley from returning in full form.
“When you’re thinking about an injury or thinking about something other than the game in front of you, it definitely takes away from your ability to play effectively and play confidently,” Conley said.
Four games into the season, Conley learned that he would need another surgery and made the cutoff for redshirting the 2015-16 season. Once again forced to take a step back, Conley turned his attention to helping on the offensive end.
“[I was] on the sideline, just trying to do whatever I can to develop some of the younger guys — especially like Danny and some of the young guys who are incredibly talented — trying to help them in any way I can to understand the game better,” Conley said about his mentorship of sophomore attack Daniel Bucaro.
Though Conley found himself in a familiar place in 2016, Georgetown did not, finishing 2-12. But with a more definitive surgery and recovery timeline this time around, Conley gave himself enough time to strengthen his injury and make a full recovery ahead of 2017.
Now at full health, Conley is back to leading the Hoyas on the field. Conley only trails Bucaro in scoring with 22 goals this season to Bucaro’s 30.
Warne said Conley’s natural abilities, combined with his leadership skills, has been an asset to the team this season.
“Peter’s one of our more talented players, there’s no question about it,” Warne said. “He has done a great job of finding the balance of being a competitor, being a leader and being a really good teammate.”
Despite the team’s record, Conley insists that this year is different. After the four one-goal losses the team has had this season, he says that the team is close to putting all the pieces together.
“We’re a really dangerous team and everyone else in the country knows we’re a dangerous team,” Conley said. “We’ve just got to keep our heads down — no one’s given up yet, that’s all we can really ask for.”
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