OXBOROUGH, MASS. - — FOXBOROUGH, MASS. - Nearly a year ago, Virginia attackman Steele Stanwick lay on a couch in his Roland Park home watching the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse final four on TV.
Occasionally, his mind would drift and he would find himself on the playing field ...
Stanwick doesn't have to dream anymore. The former Loyola High star will start Saturday for No. 1 seed Virginia as the Cavaliers play Cornell in the semifinals. Stanwick is the latest freshman phenom to play attack at Virginia, joining a list that includes Michael Watson, Conor Gill, Ben Rubeor and Danny Glading.
"That's one of the reasons I came to Virginia: I wanted to play in the final four and get a shot at the national championship," Stanwick said. "But yes, I'd have to say I'm a little nervous."
Stanwick will be just fine. He is used to pressure. In the previous two seasons, he led Loyola to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship, which is the toughest high school league in the country.
Last summer, Virginia coach Dom Starsia called Stanwick and told him he should spend time shooting with his off, or left, hand because the Cavaliers needed an attackman on the left side.
No problem. On the first day of practice in the fall, the 6-foot, 180-pound Stanwick seized the moment and the position.
"Steele jumped into the front of the left-handed shooting line and promptly drilled his first two shots in the upper corner, almost to be saying to me, 'I will take care of this for you, coach,' " Starsia said. "Most of his points this year have been scored on the left-handed side."
It hasn't been all easy for Stanwick. He has great skills, but he plays on a team full of offensive standouts. At one attack position is Glading, and at the other is Garrett Billings. On the midfield there is Brian Carroll and Steve Giannone, and the game's greatest twin combination of brothers, Shamel and Rhamel Bratton.
Somehow, Stanwick had to find his role, and it wasn't going to be the way it was at Loyola, where he was the quarterback. He might be the star one day, but it's not his time yet.
"The biggest adjustment was playing at a faster pace," Stanwick said. "Look around. I'm on the same line with two of the best attackmen in the game. We've got some great players at midfield. It just takes time to build some chemistry, and I had to learn the other players and their tendencies. I also had to use my left hand more, and get better at moving off the ball. In high school, I was the initiator. Now, I'm more of a finisher."
Stanwick is deadly. He has 34 goals and 21 assists this season. If he gets his hands free on a shot, count it. Stanwick has scored a lot of goals around the crease, and paid for it physically. He's glad he added 20 pounds since last season.
"It has been a seamless transition with Steele," Starsia said. "Anyone would be impressed with his field sense and skills, but it is his toughness, hidden under that skinny little Baltimore body, that stands out for me. The real attackmen know they have to turn the corner and they have to bring it to the defense to get the job done."
Stanwick didn't appear to be a tough guy in the MIAA. He is quiet, unassuming, respectful and extremely polite. He likes every kind of music imaginable and can fit in with almost anybody.
"He is the only freshman in his class playing big minutes, but I don't sense any resentment or jealousy," Starsia said.
Stanwick comes from a lacrosse family. Three of his sisters were All-America lacrosse players at Georgetown, while his older brother Tad is a junior attackman at Rutgers. He has another younger brother playing at Boys' Latin and a younger sister at Notre Dame Prep. The last of the bunch is Shack, a 14-year-old in middle school whom both Boys' Latin coach Bobby Shriver and Loyola coach Jack Crawford are already jostling over.
"Personally, I'd like for him to go to Loyola, but I'm staying out of that one," Steele Stanwick said.
He has more important business. He has Cornell in the final four today.
"They are a great team, well-coached," Stanwick said. "They can run and they have two of the best midfielders in the game. But I'd like to think we're playing well, and we certainly have the past two weeks. I just hope we keep getting better. I'm excited for my teammates and what we have a chance to accomplish. When we're moving the ball well, we're a pretty tough team to beat."
And when that happens, Stanwick is a tough attackman to cover.