With the body of a linebacker and footwork of a point guard, University of Albany-bound Will Stenberg has asserted himself onto the lacrosse scene aggressively the last few years at Needham High, and enters the season as one of the state's premier attackers. A season ago, he took home Bay State Conference MVP honors and earned an All-American nod as he totaled 129 points (65 goals, 64 assists), giving him 313 career points headed into this, his final season.
Earlier today in Westwood, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound bruiser got off to a solid start, scoring four goals and two assists as the Rockets cruised to a 12-8 victory over host Xaverian at the Hawk Bowl. Following the win, Stenberg sat down with ESPNBoston.com to discuss his inclination for playing the body, the Rockets' strong tradition, and where he sees himself among Needham lore.
Q: When did you first pick up a lacrosse stick?
A: "I started playing around fourth or fifth grade, just town leagues, and then just watching my dad [Paul Stenberg] coach, he's been [an assistant] coach for the last 12 years for the Needham high school team. So, just being around this atmosphere in itself is a lot of fun."
Q: What kind of stuff did your dad teach you growing up, lacrosse-wise?
A: "You know, he's taught me most of my moves as a kid. He's taught me to be pretty patient as a player, play what comes to me, don't force anything."
Q: You have a pretty good sized frame for an attack. How much do you incorporate physicality into your game?
A: "Mostly for riding, because when you play aggressive on the riding end, that's caused goals. So I try to use my body and hit kids as much as I can."
Q: How much do you enjoy hitting?
A: (smiles) "It's a big part of my game. I love hitting."
Q: What makes the tradition at Needham so important to you?
A: "You know, just...years past, there's been so many guys that help, the alumni always come back and help out. They give us tips, because they've played in college. It's just, over the years kids have always just helped one another, which is great. We're all friends. The team chemistry's really high."
Q: Do you remember your first Needham lacrosse game on the varsity?
A: "Yes I do. It was against Wellesley, I got called up from the JV at halftime and scored three goals. That started to where I am right now, four years ago, a couple games into the season."
Q: What about watching as a kid?
A: "You know, I would go on all the bus rides, and I'd go to all the playoff games, and it was my goal to be a starter for this team, and to be one of the greatest players to ever come through Needham High School. That's my goal, and hopefully I'll end up being one of them."
Q: Who is the greatest Needham High player, in your opinion?
A: "It'd have to be Ben Chadwick. He's a senior at Bowdoin right now, and just one of the fastest...one of the greatest sticks I've ever seen. He's also one of the greatest teachers. He always comes back, and adds a lot to my game. I credit him a lot."
Q: Behind the net, you seem to have a pretty good feel for things. What is your favorite way to set up a teammate from behind the net?
A: "I like to slow down the offense, call who has the shorty, and I basically dodge. Someone slides, I'll find the open man."
Q: How about your favorite move coming into the circle?
A: "I like to just beat my defender on a split-dodge. I use my big body, and I back him in, then I'll shoot it."
Q: You've got an accurate stick. One goal in particular today, you hit top corner, short side, from a pretty wide angle. How much work goes into developing that accuracy?
A: "A lot, [especially] this offseason. As a freshman, I was more of a catch-and-shoot kind of a guy, so that helped me with my accuracy. And as the years go on, now I'm creating more. So now, when I have the ball I know exactly where to shoot, and it's easy for me."
Q: Where would you say you've improved the most this past year?
A: My quickness, mostly. My footwork. Again, I was more of a catch-and-shoot guy, everyone wasn't really taking me as a dodger, but now I've added that to my game, so it's more of a threat."
Q: How in tune are you with your fellow attackers? You guys seem to communicate well out there, and obviously you're very vocal.
A: "Jamie [McGill] and Nico [Panepinto], Nico being a transfer from CM [Catholic Memorial], they're both young. Basically, I just want to get them comfortable in the game. And with them scoring so many goals, it keeps the pressure off me, so each defender doesn't know who's gonna be the threat."
Q: Take me through your pregame routine.
A: "I like to listen to some music, some techno, get the blood going, you know. I like Scrillex and Swedish House Mafia. Then I get loose, start shooting, stretch a little bit, and then I tune in."
Q: Some like to get loose, some like to get aggressive, before a game. What kind of person are you?
A: "I'm more of a loose guy. Sometimes I get nerves, so I just laugh it off. But come game time, I get focused."