Their Grandfather, Fred Mesner, Coached the Men’s Basketball Team in the 1930s. Now Sheehan and Wick Stanwick Try to Preserve …

A Georgetown Tradition

By Sean Gormley Hoya Staff Writer

Long before John Thompson ever graced the Hilltop with his presence, Fred Mesner strode the sidelines as the Georgetown men’s basketball coach, prior even to the acceptance of the term `Hoya,’ let alone Thompson’s `Hoya Paranoia.’ A 1930 graduate of the university, Mesner was the basketball coach from 1931 to 1938 and is enshrined in Georgetown’s Hall of Fame for both basketball and tennis.

Mesner’s Hoya legacy is more than just a plaque on the wall, however, as two of his granddaughters have helped Georgetown women’s lacrosse team to become one of the top programs in the nation. Sheehan and Wick Stanwick anchor one of the fiercest attacks in the nation and are leading Georgetown forward into unchartered territory as a top-5 program.

The continuation of the family tradition at Georgetown came close to never happening, however.

Sheehan Stanwick, now a senior, was the top women’s lacrosse recruit in the nation four years ago, sought after by all the nation’s top teams and had her pick of virtually any program.

Kim Simons, then in her first year as the permanent head coach at Georgetown, was one of many coaches pursing Stanwick, trying to sell the phenom on the virtues of the Hilltop’s burgeoning program.

“We didn’t promise her the world,” Simons said about recruiting Sheehan. “We just promised her that we would do the best we could and that we were going to make her a better lacrosse player. She wanted to build a program. She wanted to be the first at Georgetown, and she has left that legacy along with the other seniors here.”

For Stanwick, it wasn’t just the team that attracted her, but the coach.

“Kim was an awesome player,” Stanwick said about coach Simons, who was a three-time All-American lacrosse player at Princeton. “What sold me the most was when she said that when she arrived at Princeton they weren’t even in the top 10, but she ended up winning the national championship [in 1994]. Knowing that I could be part of something great at Georgetown really sold me.”

Things almost never made it as far as even meeting Simons, however, as her father Will Stanwick’s (CAS ’76) alma mater was not initially on Sheehan’s list of potential schools.

“Georgetown actually ended up becoming one of my official visits kind of randomly when I canceled another, but I fell in love with it the second I got on campus,” Sheehan said.

That visit shifted the fortunes of Georgetown women’s lacrosse overnight, not just because of her individual success on the Hilltop, but also because of the shift in perception of the Hoya program caused by her arrival.

“Obviously, it’s a team sport, and I’ve always preached `team,'” Simons said about her approach to coaching. “But the fact of the matter is that when she made the decision to come to a building program when she was the top recruit in the country changed things for us as far as how we were looked at by other recruits.

“Her decision to come here changed the destiny of the program in many ways. This program would look a lot different if she didn’t decide to come here four years ago. An example is Erin Elbe. One of the reasons she is here is Sheehan came here before her.”

Stanwick’s freshman year saw a shift in Georgetown women’s lacrosse, both in the intangibles that make a team great and actual success on the field.

“Coming in, she was so highly competitive and driven, it was infectious for the rest of the team,” Simons said. “She has been able to challenge her teammates to raise their level as well.”

As a freshman, Sheehan was an immediate impact player, leading the team in goals and points for a team that made its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. The improvements continued two years ago during her sophomore season, both for Sheehan individually and for the Hoyas as a team.

Developing and maturing as a player, Stanwick began breaking school records left and right in her second year, a trend that continued last spring during her junior season. Sheehan now holds school records for career goals, career points, single-season goals and single-season points.

Coach Simons attributes these accomplishments to Sheehan’s phenomenal work ethic, something that sets her apart from other players.

“It is a sheer desire and work ethic. Ask anybody, and they’ll say `I see that blonde girl with the bow, and she plays on that wall every day.’ She works harder than anybody at her lacrosse skills and her stick skills and shooting and at her conditioning,” Simons said. “You name it, she’s done it. She is the most dedicated athlete, male or female, that I’ve ever seen. That’s why she’s great.”

That dedication must run in the family, because Sheehan’s younger sister, Wick, has brought similar attributes to the team since her arrival on the Hilltop last year.

“She’s got the Stanwick work ethic,” Simons said. “Very similar to her sister in working on her skills and her quickness. Wick will continue to get better and blossom.”

Although Wick has followed in her sister’s footsteps in a number of ways, picking a school was a tough decision and it was not certain that she would become a Hoya. The tension wasn’t from her family, however, as her sister never pressured her into becoming a Hoya.

“She didn’t really influence me at all and tried to stay out of my decision-making process,” Wick said about choosing to attend Georgetown. “She’d be like `Oh, no,’ whenever I got home from a visit and told my mom I liked it, but she never really got into it because she wanted it to be my own decision.

“Sheehan obviously did come into play in making my decision to come here, and coming to school here I could not be happier playing with her.”

“Playing with her sister wasn’t something like `I don’t want to play in her shadow,’ it was `I couldn’t think of anything better,'” Simons said.

Sheehan also likes having a sister on the same team, but for different reasons. “I really like it because I’m older. I can tell her what to do,” Sheehan joked, but added in seriousness, “to have a teammate who is also a sister is great. There’s nothing better, I don’t think, especially since we’re both on the attack.”

Wick’s own career got off to a slow start as a freshman, hampered by injury and struggling -to adjust to the college game, but she showed promise and had cracked the starting lineup by the end of the 2000 season.

“You come in as a freshman, and all you can think about is `Oh my God, what is going on?'” Wick said. “It took a while to settle in and feel comfortable. As the season progressed I lost some of the nervousness and became comfortable with everyone.”

Once comfortable, Wick quickly improved and wound up tied for fourth on the team in points and assists and, playing alongside her sister, was an integral part of Georgetown’s potent attack.

Together in the lineup, the Stanwicks are more than just a pair of great talents, however, since they connect and complement each other on the field in a way that makes it even more difficult for opposing defenses to stop them.

“They have an intuition when they play together because they’re sisters,” Simons said. “I don’t think you can teach it. It’s a great complement to the rest of the attackers to have that 1-2 punch that’s always ready to score or assist.”

“I almost have a sixth sense of where she’s going to be,” Wick said, “just a little something out of the corner of my eye. I know her tendencies, she knows my tendencies. I just know where she’s going to be.”

This probably comes from having spent so much time on the field together, including two years playing on the same team at Notre Dame Prep. Living together didn’t hurt either.

“We’ve played together probably every weekend of our lives,” Wick said.

The bond between the sisters is close off the field as well, and the two often spend time together around campus.

“People say they never see us apart, but that’s not really true. I think they just see us over here [at McDonough] together,” Sheehan said, adding “we don’t live together and we never could. We probably wouldn’t be friends if we did. We get along great here, but once we get in the car on the way home to Baltimore we’re fighting.”

As what usually seems to be the case, Wick is on the same wavelength. “People ask us if we live together, and it’s `No, definitely not,’ but we get along much better without living together.”

Sheehan and Wick’s familial bond isn’t alone on the women’s lacrosse team, a tight-knit group that is truly becoming a family. “As far as sisters, we have the Stanwicks, the Raneris [senior Reagan and junior Kristin], we have Katherine Elbe coming in, Erin Elbe’s sister, so it’s becoming a bit of a tradition on our team,” said Simons, who is the matriarch of a program well on its way to becoming the first family of women’s lacrosse.

And who knows, maybe the succession of Stanwicks at Georgetown isn’t ready to end just yet. A younger, and no doubt talented, Stanwick sister, Connor, is a sophomore in high school. Simons said, “hopefully we can keep the line going.”

For now, though, Sheehan and Wick are the centerpiece of what is becoming quite a family tradition.

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