Stevenson University women's lacrosse alumna Carli Bafford had never traveled off the East Coast, let alone outside of the United States, before July.
Bafford, a 2013 Francis Scott Key grad, was one of 19 former student athletes who received an invitation to compete for the USA Division 3 Elite South team at the World Cup Festival in Surrey, England from July 17-21.
Her experience was one she said she will cherish for the rest of her life.
"It was a really cool experience just to be able to do that and meet new people at the same time," Bafford said. "Not only just the culture, but teams that were there — Japan, Germany, Ireland, there were two teams from England and the other U.S. teams — everyone's culture was such a cool experience. I had never played against a team that didn't speak English and it was really cool. I was nervous, but I went in with an open mind and it was great."
Bafford was named to the 2016 IWLCA Division III All-Metro Region First Team as a senior at Stevenson and got an invitation to play in England a year ago. Players who had received All-American or All-Region honors were invited to play on one of three U.S. teams that included the D1 Elite team and the D3 North Elite team.
The D3 Elite South team played a total of nine games against teams from other countries and competed against the two other U.S. teams as well. They finished 11-2 overall with losses to the U.S. D1 Elite team and in the semifinal to a team from England.
"We never got to practice with each other before our first game," Bafford said. "We clicked after the first game against the D3 North team and we went out there and knew what to do. It was really cool to see it all come together without practice."
Bafford said she and one other girl were the only two who didn't have another teammate from their college on the D3 Elite South team. Everyone was new to her, she said, and clicking with a group of girls so quickly was rewarding.
Bafford attended Bridgewater College for her freshman year, but said it was not the experience she had hoped for. Her decision to transfer to Stevenson was a result of her desire to immerse in a program a step above the rest, so to speak. She got playing time right away, she said, and was playing with girls who had grown up around lacrosse.
The Mustangs advanced to the Middle Atlantic Conference championship for three consecutive years (2014-2016), every year Bafford was a member of the team. She had 26 goals and three assists as a senior midfielder, and earned first-team all-MAC Commonwealth honors.
Bafford totaled 53 goals and 11 assists — with 120 draw controls and 99 groundballs — in three years playing for the Mustangs.
"Every year we started out the season with Top 10 teams for our first four games," Bafford said. "Gettysburg, F&M, Salisbury, our schedule being so hard pushed my intensity and competitiveness.
"We had three games a day in England and it definitely prepared me for that, being able to control myself in a game sense. Slow it down when I needed to slow it down, speed up when I needed to speed it up, making quick decisions on the field."
The girls got to tour Oxford and the University of Oxford, where scenes from "Harry Potter" were filmed, Bafford said. On Wednesday, their second day off, they toured the Windsor Castle and got to watch the U.S. National Team play in the World Cup semifinal and final games to capture their seventh championship.
"Honestly, I'm grateful," she said. "I've had the opportunity to play and continue through my college career and to have this one final opportunity to play competitively, it's so amazing to me to see how many countries are developing so quickly in the game."