For four seasons, Johns Hopkins lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala had to find a way to defend Virginia attackman Steele Stanwick. On Saturday, the roles will be reversed because No. 8 Virginia has to find a way to stop his brother Wells, an attackman for the No. 10 Blue Jays.
A lot has changed for Hopkins and Virginia in recent years. Hopkins' offense is no longer centered on midfielders, but quarterbacked by Stanwick, a junior from Boys' Latin who has a team-high 20 assists as well as nine goals.
Virginia coach Dom Starsia has seen a similar act in Charlottesville. From 2009 through 2012, Steele Stanwick scored 126 goals and had 143 assists as he won just about every award imaginable.
Now, he's the one who has to slow a Stanwick.
"Hopkins has clearly diversified themselves on offense from recent years past. A team that would initiate with middies who could run over you to a unit that is utilizing picks, movement away from the ball and putting a lot of responsibility in the hands of Wells Stanwick," said Starsia.
"Wells is steady and smart and does remind me of a young Steele," he said. "In any game against an offensive team of this caliber, we will need to be efficient, disciplined and alert at the defensive end of the field."
Pietramala and offensive coordinator Bobby Benson made the switch to get Stanwick more involved during the offseason. The Blue Jays run more two- and three-man games with Stanwick and fellow attackmen Brandon Benn (14 goals, 4 assists) and Ryan Brown (23, 8) and are still getting ample scoring from midfielders Rob Guida (7, 4) and Holden Cattoni (7, 4).
Stanwick has good vision, which makes him an excellent passer, but he can also score. Because he is such a dual threat, Stanwick is starting to see more of the opposing team's top defensemen every week.
"Wells is a team guy," said Pietramala. "He is going to do what is best for the team. Quite frankly, we didn't know it was going to turn out this way, that the ball would be in his stick this much."
"We knew there was an opportunity for that to happen, but it depended on how they grasped it," said Pietramala. "It was brand-new to all of us, but it's an offense based off playing, not running plays. It's based off the strengths and weaknesses of defenses, and your players. It's perfect for a guy like Wells."
Stanwick had played well at Hopkins his first two seasons, scoring 33 goals and adding 37 assists, but he had run the current Hopkins system for four years at Boys' Latin.
The additional responsibilities this season means more time in the film room, where he might spend about 90 minutes a day, and certainly more bruises. Stanwick isn't that big at 5 feet 11 and 172 pounds.
Opposing defenses want a piece of him.
"I spend more time breaking down film, trying to see stuff I can take advantage of," said Stanwick. "I watch attackmen and see what defensemen are doing to them in certain situations and put myself in that position to see what I would do."
"You definitely get beat up little bit, but honestly you don't feel it during the games," said Stanwick, "because the adrenaline kicks in. You've just got to be able to maintain your body to get through all the games."
When it comes to toughness, Stanwick is underrated. But he certainly isn't when it comes to passion and knowledge of the game, as well as being a great listener.
The passion and knowledge come from a family where three of his sisters — Sheehan, Wick and Coco — were All-Americans and another older brother, Tad, played at Rutgers. There are eight children in the family, and all of them have starred in lacrosse.
"There was never any pressure to play the game; we just played," said Wells Stanwick. "All the others said they were going to play lacrosse, so you just went along. People say all the boys have the same style, and it's probably true. You've played with each other so much that you emulate them and end up looking the same."
All the boys — even the youngest one, Shack, a senior at Boys' Latin — have an easygoing demeanor. They are all well-mannered and humble. They all practice hard and manage to stay even-keeled.
Wells, though, seems to be the comedian and most extroverted of the four boys. He is sporting a mustache and talking about growing a mullet. He likes to do impersonations of family members and is fond of basketball, pingpong and country music.
He is the quarterback of one of college lacrosse's most esteemed programs but doesn't show it.
"I enjoy him; I like being around him," said Pietramala. "He has made an impact here as far as recruiting because local kids now know it's all right to stay home and play lacrosse. Their family name is just like the Kellys' when it comes to lacrosse.
"He absorbs things well and knows how the offense is supposed to work, which pass to make, where each person is supposed to be. He overcomes not being a great athlete with those qualities and his ability to get his hands free. Steele was different as far as athleticism, but their styles are very similar."
Steele Stanwick is an assistant coach with the Hopkins women this season. There are times when he'll watch Wells play or practice and offer advice. Steele knows Virginia well, and little has changed with the Cavaliers.
They always have good, athletic defensemen. In recent years, they have played more zone, but the Blue Jays won't be surprised if Virginia plays them man-to-man. Whatever the case, Wells Stanwick will be a marked man, just as his brother was when he played with Virginia.
Now, the roles have been reversed.