For Peter Baum, winning the Tewaaraton Award last year was a life-changer — both good and bad.
When the Colgate attackman was named the top college player in June after an impressive junior season in which he racked up 67 goals and 30 assists, he called the honor "one of the proudest moments of my life."
Amid his struggles a season later, it would dawn on Baum why only one player has won the Tewaaraton twice since it was first awarded in 2001.
"It's funny the way you look at it because this is an award that only one person has won twice. It was [Syracuse attackman] Michael Powell, and he did not do it in back-to-back years," Baum said. "He won it as a sophomore [in 2002] and then in his senior year [in 2004]. So it is kind of the funny, the pressure that goes on you to repeat. The pressure was certainly on me, but ... no one put more pressure on me than I did. So I think that was a lot of the issue this year. I expected so much of myself and I worked so hard over the summer to make it possible for me to repeat, and I just wasn't able to deal with all of the defensive attention — the double teams, the triple teams, things like that."
With 33 goals and 15 assists, Baum is still the Raiders' leader in points, and he will be the primary focal point when Colgate (8-6) visits No. 11 Maryland (9-3) in the regular-season finale for both teams Saturday at Byrd Stadium in College Park.
Baum acknowledged that he is not enjoying the kind of campaign he had in 2012. He said the first hint of what was in store for him occurred in the then-No. 6 Raiders' 19-3 loss to then-No. 2 Cornell on March 2.
"We really struggled to have possession and we really struggled to get our transition game going," he recalled. "When I started to realize that I was getting locked off in transition and our team wasn't getting as many fast breaks and they just weren't sliding off of me, that's when I realized that what I did last season would be impossible this year. When you look back at last season, I probably scored half of my goals in transition. So when you can't do that because teams are definitely shutting you off, that makes it tough to have 67 goals. That's when I realized it was going to be more of an uphill battle."
In addition to receiving more attention from opposing defenses, ESPN analyst Mark Dixon said, Baum has not gotten much support from his teammates in the midfield. Sophomore attackman Ryan Walsh has 46 points this season, and junior attackman Brendan McCann has added 28 points, but no midfielder has reached 25 points.
"The middies for Colgate don't scare you," the former Johns Hopkins midfielder said. "So you're not as quick to slide off of them, because you know that if you slide, they're going to give it to Baum and Baum's going to score. So it's not a situation where Peter Baum's game has all of a sudden turned to mush. He just doesn't have the supporting cast that he had around him a year ago, and that's hurt him."
Raiders coach Mike Murphy, however, does not buy into the notion that statistics show a decline for Baum. In fact, he said Baum is better than he was last year.
"Guys that look at stats will ask, 'How can he be better? He doesn't have 67 goals or this, that or the other.' Well, he's been a better facilitator for our team," Murphy said. "His 15 assists probably could be 30 if some guys banged some shots that they were on the receiving end of. I think he's done a great job of being a captain of our team and being senior leader."
Baum did not deny that he has at times grown frustrated with his inability to be as productive as he was last season. As much as outsiders had certain expectations for Baum, he raised the bar even higher.
"You expect that it will happen again just because you worked just as hard as you did the year before," he said. "So when it started to not go the way that last season went, I think the pressure kind of went up as well as the struggles we had on offense, which wasn't as fluid as it was a year ago. I just ended up putting more and more pressure on myself and ultimately, I didn't have the Patriot League season that I had hoped to have."
Despite his troubles, Baum will graduate as one of the best playmakers in league history. He is currently two goals ahead of Army senior attackman Garrett Thul for first place on the conference's all-time scoring Iist.
Baum has already cemented his place as Colgate's leader in career points (224) and goals (163), and is one of 25 nominees for this year's Tewaaraton.
Before Baum can move on to a pro career — the Ohio Machine made him the top overall pick in January's Major League Lacrosse draft — he has one final college game.
"There's definitely a lot of nostalgia, a lot of great moments in my career as well as some struggles this year," he said. "It's definitely been an up-and-down career. But I think the ups certainly outweigh the downs, especially with what we were able to accomplish last year. It's definitely emotional playing your last game, but at the same time, I really am ready for it to end. I know a lot of people kind of want to claw their way to the very end. I'm kind of ready for it to be over. So it's definitely a little bittersweet."