Keeping Virginia’s Steele Stanwick off the scoreboard is a task easier said than done, but on Saturday, that job is likely to fall into the hands of Johns Hopkins’ Tucker Durkin.
The junior defenseman for the No. 2 Blue Jays has shadowed some of the game’s top players, but acknowledged that the 2011 Tewaaraton Award winner and senior attackman for the No. 1 Cavaliers requires a different approach.
“Obviously, he’s one of the best players in the country,” Durkin said Wednesday. “He’s part of our defensive focus this week. It’s just important to play smart. He’s one of the smartest lacrosse players out there in terms of lacrosse IQ and picking the times to go and dodging at the cage at opportunistic times. It’s about making the smart play, and a lot of times, guys like him are the hardest to go against because you can’t be overaggressive. The second you make the wrong step, that’s when he goes to the cage. Or if you turn your head, he’ll go backdoor. He’s just one of those extremely smart lacrosse players, and you really have to be on your game both mentally and physically.”
According to ESPN analyst and 2006 Tewaaraton Award winner Matt Ward, Durkin is enjoying the best season by an individual defenseman this year. He has contained Syracuse senior attackman Tim Desko (one goal on four shots), Princeton sophomore midfielder Tom Schreiber (1-of-5, two assists), Siena senior attackman Bryan Neufeld (0-of-1, one turnover) and Delaware senior attackman Grant Kaleikau (1-of-4, three assists, three turnovers).
Virginia coach Dom Starsia said Durkin is one of the few opponents who can frustrate a team’s top offensive player, and Stanwick didn’t disagree.
“He’s a great defender,” the Baltimore native and Loyola graduate said Wednesday. “He’s very aggressive, a big guy, likes to get out and play you. He’s guarded me every year so far, and he always does a really good job. I think he’s right up there with the best. I’ve watched him on film, and the guy is very high-energy, and I’m going to have to be ready to go from the start on Saturday.”
Durkin has had a mixed history against Stanwick. In 2010, Durkin surrendered zero goals and just one assist, but the Cavaliers won convincingly, 15-6. Last season, Stanwick amassed three goals and four assists, but Johns Hopkins won a 12-11 decision.
That’s why Durkin isn’t viewing Saturday’s assignment as a walk in the park.
“I just know that you have to be smart against him,” Durkin said. “I can’t go out and pressure like I can against other guys because he’s extremely quick and he’s very smart. So I can’t get overaggressive or start throwing checks because the second I do that, he’s going to make his move. … He had a pretty good game against us last year. So we’re going to try to tighten it up this year.”