Under normal circumstances, Steele and Wells Stanwick would call each other and compare notes on games their respective men's lacrosse teams just played and offer advice on upcoming opposing defenses.
This week, however, has been anything but normal. With Wells and No. 2 Johns Hopkins slated to visit Steele and No. 1 Virginia on Saturday, there hasn't been much conferring between the brothers.
"This week, we haven't talked as in depth as we usually have," said Steele, the Cavaliers' top senior attackman. "Usually, if he's scrimmaged Cornell and I've played Syracuse, we'll talk about what we saw in the defenses and the little tips that we have. But this week, I think we're sticking to our guns and just asking how practice is, how he's doing and stuff like that. So we haven't gotten into any of the details, and I think it's going to stay that way."
Added Wells, a freshman attackman: "We won't trade any secrets, but we'll probably talk about how they played Ohio State and how we played Syracuse. As we get closer to the game, we probably won't talk as much. Maybe a 'good luck' text that night."
Saturday's contest is the first between the brothers on the college level, but they met on opposing sidelines in high school. On May 6, 2008, Steele's Loyola team defeated Wells and Boys' Latin, 8-5.
"We were out there on the starting lines together, and I remember looking at him and kind of smiling," Wells recalled.
Many members of the Stanwick family plan to attend the game in Charlottesville. According to Steele, parents Wells and Dori, sisters Sheehan and Wick, and brothers Tad and Shack intend to watch.
The game will be an interesting one for the family patriarch. Steele said his father usually finds a spot along the goal line of the net that his sons are shooting against and flips to the other side at the end of each quarter.
"From what I remember from my high school days when I used to match up against my brothers' teams, he just stays at one end the whole game," Steele Stanwick said. "So we'll get two quarters of him right there."
ESPN analyst and former Virginia attackman Matt Ward has gotten to know the Stanwick family —especially Steele and Wells — and said their desire to win will pales in comparison with their affection for each other.
"I think both brothers are competitive and definitely want to win, but I think their brotherhood goes to another level," said Ward, the 2006 Tewaaraton Award winner. "They're all very close. They'll be rooting for one another, but at the end of the day, it's a lacrosse game, and I think they kind of appreciate the challenge. You always want to go out there and compete against your brother and maybe go one up on the situation. So in that sense, I think the brothers are looking forward to the game."
Perhaps more than any other opponent or coach, Steele and Wells are knowledgeable about what makes each brother tick and what each brother likes to do on the lacrosse field. But both agreed there wasn't much advice they could offer their defensive teammates.
"He does a lot of different stuff every week, so it's kind of tough to know," Wells said of his older brother. "I'm going to try to stay away from telling them what I think because I don't want to be that one where if they take me too seriously, he does a different move."
Added Steele: "Wells is just a good player. He's a tough player to guard, but I think he plays a lot like me, to be honest, and I think they know that. If I can help them out, I will, but Wells is a smart enough player where he kind of takes what the defense gives you. So I don't know how much help I'll be to the defenders on our team."
Johns Hopkins junior defenseman Tucker Durkin agreed that it's difficult to compare the two, but he said watching Wells in practice does assist his preparation for Steele.
"Watching Steele on tape and watching Wells in practice, you see a lot of similarities in their movements and the way they carry themselves down the field," Durkin said. "They're both great players. ... So I think playing against Wells in practice this week and throughout the year helps me prepare a little bit. They're obviously different players, but they also do a lot of similar stuff. So that could be helpful."
The presence of the brothers figures to be a prominent storyline, but Wells did his best to make sure that the overall objective doesn't get lost in the hype.
"Honestly, it's more that it's Virginia, and it's as important as every other game," he said. "Our seniors had never beaten Syracuse, and together as a team, we did it. Virginia will be a great test, too, and it'll be awesome to play against them. Obviously, my brother's on the team, but the bigger picture is that it's another team."
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