"I'm playing for much more than myself," junior attackman Steele Stanwick said earlier this week in the intro montage to the 2011 NCAA Men's Lacrosse National Championship game on ESPN. Behind his tremendous skill and leadership, the Virginia Cavaliers won their fifth NCAA title, but that's not all. The Greater Washington Sports Alliance and the University Club of Washington, D.C. announced this evening that the ever humble Steele Stanwick is the winner of the 2011 Tewaaraton Trophy.
The Tewaaraton Award is the pre-eminent lacrosse award awarded annually to the NCAA men's and women's lacrosse player of the year. Northwestern's Shannon Smith is the recipient of the women's award this year.
It was down to a two-man race between Stanwick and Cornell's Rob Pannell, who led the Big Red to a quarterfinal appearance as the tournament's No. 2 seed before ultimately falling to the Hoos for the second time this season. If you asked anybody the day before the tournament started who they thought would win the Tewaaraton, you were almost guaranteed to hear Pannell's name come out of their mouths.
Stanwick put up 21 points during the NCAA Tournament, just one point shy of tying the Virginia record of NCAA Tournament points, set in 2006 by Tewaaraton Trophy winner Matt Ward. Stanwick finished the season ranked third in Division I in assists (38) and fourth in points per game (4.1).
More valuable than his numbers, though, was his presence. Stanwick was forced to play two offenses this year -- one that was primarily middie-driven, with Shamel and Rhamel Bratton leading the pack. But after the two were dismissed and suspended, respectively, the Cavaliers took on a completely different offensive scheme, one in which Stanwick found himself behind the net running point. Stanwick's instincts and tremendous field vision are credited for Virginia's national championship.
Simply put, the Cavaliers almost certainly would not have won the title without Steele Stanwick this year.
"I'm humbled to be up here and mentioned in the same sentence as these guys," Stanwick said when he received the award, which was presented by Lacrosse Hall of Famer Jim Brown. Earlier this evening, Brown received the first Tewaaraton Legends award.
The Cavaliers are every bit deserving of the trophies and accolades they've accumulated this season after what can only be described as a wild ride. Congratulations to the entire Virginia Lacrosse family!