Few people would have expected sophomore Stephen Banick to look like the attackman who led Stevenson in goals and assists in 2012. Not after breaking his left leg in a loss to Salisbury in a NCAA tournament semifinal that year, and not after missing the entire 2013 season because of an undisclosed injury suffered in the preseason.
But in four games, Banick ranks second on the reigning national champion Mustangs (3-1) in goals (nine) and points (11), which is not terribly far off from the 15 points he compiled in his first four contests as a freshman.
Coach Paul Cantabene – whose team dropped from No. 3 to No. 5 in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll – said Banick is making progress to regaining the form he had two years ago.
“I think he’s getting there,” Cantabene said Tuesday morning. “I think he’s really close now. But I think he’s doing some things a little bit better now than he did back in 2012. I think he’s a better ground ball player, I think he’s a better rider. So he’s doing those things better. I think his scoring touch is going to come. When you miss a year with an injury, you’re going to miss that scoring touch a little bit. But he’s getting it back, and that feel for each game is getting better and better.”
Banick started slowly this winter, taking 16 shots and scoring just twice in the team’s 9-8 overtime decision over York in the season opener Feb. 15 and then scoring just once on three shots in a 15-14 overtime loss to the Rochester Institute of Technology on Feb. 22. Cantabene said the uneven opening was not unexpected for Banick.
“I think when you come back from a leg injury, you’re going to have a little tentativeness,” Cantabene said. “It’s just taken him a while to get back, and what he needs is game time. Practice is a little bit different from games. He needs that game time, he needs that experience, and I think with each game, he’s getting better and better. It’s just taken him a little while to get back to his form, but he’s coming along. He’s starting to make the plays that he did in his freshman year. He’s starting to get that toughness back, and he’s starting to understand that he can make those plays again. So I think his confidence is getting a lot better each week.”
Banick showed flashes of that talent in Saturday’s 12-8 victory at Commonwealth Conference foe Albright. He scored four goals on eight shots and added an assist.
“It was his best game of the year, but I thought he played really well against RIT as well,” Cantabene said. “Stephen’s been doing a lot of things. He’s been getting ground balls, controlling the ball. He still needs to work on a few things, but Stephen’s getting back. He’s getting back to the way he was during his freshman year. There’s more confidence in his game. He’s playing much better and he’s starting to shoot the ball much better.”