Blogs and Commentary

posted 05.23.2011 at 8.20 p.m. by Gary Lambrecht


Stanwick Playing Like A Trophy Winner

Since about mid-April, Cornell attackman Rob Pannell has built what appears to be an insurmountable lead as the favorite to win the Tewaaraton Trophy, which recognizes the game's top player.

But after watching Virginia attackman Steele Stanwick slice up a very good Cornell defense with three goals and four assists in a 13-9 victory that sent the Big Red home and put the Cavaliers in their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament final four, it makes one wonder. What if Stanwick had been healthy all spring? Might this trophy competition be tight, at least?

Virginia beat the Big Red twice this year, and ended Cornell's 11-game winning streak in the quarterfinals. For the second time, the Wahoos held Pannell to three goals without an assist, which goes to show how good Pannell has been while racking up a staggering 42 goals and 47 assists this spring.

Just because the Virginia zone defense contained Pannell's incredible passing skills again does not diminish his place as The Man on an excellent Big Red squad, or his place as the game's premier player. But Stanwick, who appears fully recovered from a foot injury that partially derailed his game a few weeks ago, has played like Pannell's equal lately.

Put aside Stanwick's comparatively low overall numbers (although anyone with 29 goals and 35 assists is nobody's slouch). During a late-season, three-game stretch, Stanwick -- who barely practiced for a month -- recorded just five points. He did not play in a 13-11 loss to Duke, then was shut out in a 19-10 rout at Duke's hands in the ACC tournament.

But Stanwick has really turned it on of late. He has six goals and nine assists in two NCAA tournament wins. That followed a five-assist effort in an 11-2 win over Penn to end the regular season.

As the ultimate distributor and decision-maker, Stanwick is the heartbeat of Virginia. If the Cavaliers win their first NCAA title since 2006, Stanwick might end up in the 75-point range for the year. He most likely will not catch Pannell for the trophy.

One thing is certain. Next year, Pannell and Stanwick will be considered the two most likely to battle it out for the game's top individual prize.