True blue all the way through

The Baltimore Sun

When considering where to play college lacrosse last year, Severn's Mark Staines showed his true colors.

North Carolina, Maryland, Georgetown and Virginia were hoping to land him, but the decision came down to the Cavaliers and the Tar Heels.

"He made up his own mind, but I think he figured that in 20 years from now, at the Thanksgiving dinner table, he didn't want to talk about the wrong color blue," said Ron Staines Sr., Mark's father.

It should come as no surprise that the powder blue of North Carolina won out. That's because Mark has three older brothers -- Ronnie, Billy and Ben -- who all played at Chapel Hill.

"I kind of had an idea that I wanted to go there, but I wasn't dead-set on it from the beginning," said Mark Staines, a senior defenseman who was an all-Anne Arundel County first-team member in 2007. "I always probably idolized my older brothers a lot, and I always wanted to play in the big college games like they did."

In addition to making its mark at North Carolina, the Staines family has built a tradition at Severn.

Ron played for the Admirals and graduated in 1972. Ronnie (age 26), Billy (24), Ben (23) and Mark (18) all went to school there and played football and lacrosse.

Lacrosse was always the sport of choice for the Staines brothers. Ronnie and Billy were All-Metro first-team performers their senior year, and Ben was second-team All-Anne Arundel County as a senior. The family's love for North Carolina started on a spring break lacrosse trip when Ronnie was a sophomore.

"We went down there for spring break and there was just something about it," Ronnie said. "Things were so nice, people were so friendly and everything was simple around there. I just remember coming out of Chapel Hill thinking, 'Oh my God, that place is ridiculous and incredible.' "

Ronnie signed with North Carolina and became an All-American there. He now plays for the Washington Bayhawks in Major League Lacrosse.

North Carolina lacrosse coach John Haus said Ronnie started the family recruiting process.

"In each situation, I think the brother sold the program to the next brother," Haus said. "Ronnie helped Billy, Billy helped Ben and it kind of just trickled down."

When it was time for Mark to pick a school, though, the family stressed that he didn't have to necessarily follow his brothers. They wanted him to go to a school that was the best fit for him.

"We really didn't want to influence him and wanted him to make his own decision," said Lauren Staines, Mark's mother. "I think he really wanted to be part of the tradition and the legacy. It has been a great thing and we're looking forward to another four years."

Because all of his older brothers had successful careers at North Carolina, there could be added pressure on Mark. The Staines have made sure that's not the case.

"We're all individuals," Billy said. "I tell him to just play like your other brothers didn't go there. Make a name for yourself, listen to what Coach has to say and ultimately you'll be successful."

Mark shouldn't have any problem adjusting. Having three older brothers has a way of speeding up one's maturity.

"Mark has really grown up a lot quicker than all of us," Ronnie said. "He has seen us go through anything you can possibly go through as a lacrosse player. He knows a lot and he'll pick up the phone and call us. He has been really open and verbal with what goes on in his head. I guess that just comes from experience."

At one point during the 2003-04 season, three of the Staines brothers played on the same North Carolina team. Ronnie was a senior, captain and close defenseman. Billy was a sophomore and starting long pole midfielder and Ben was a freshman short-stick defensive midfielder.

Mark won't have that luxury, as all of his brothers have graduated. That might turn out to a blessing.

"It might be a nice thing because all my brothers are gone so I won't be in their shadow," Mark said. "There will be all new people there. It'll be nice and I think I'll have my own space and hopefully my own term there at college."

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