Each week, The Baltimore Sun will publish a Q&A with a college lacrosse player or coach. This week's guest is Salisbury senior midfielder Bethany Baer. The Most Outstanding Player in last year's NCAA Division III tournament as the Sea Gulls won their second straight national championship, the Westminster graduate was the preseason Division III Player of the Year before a broken elbow sidelined her for 12 games. Baer returned to lead the Sea Gulls to the Capital Athletic Conference title with six goals and two assists in two games. The Sea Gulls (14-3) host Hamilton Sunday at 10 a.m. in the NCAA Tournament.
What was your injury and how long were you sidelined?
I was out for seven weeks and it was kind of a freak thing. It was a radial head fracture in my elbow. I didn't have a cast on it or anything. It was keeping my arm immobile and it was kind of hard to do. I shot and then I tripped over a girl's foot and I just put my hand down and I just cracked it.
How were you able to help the team when you weren't on the field?
My teammate, Laura Maskell, she also was out same time frame as me, so we kind of got through it together. We tried to help out as much as we could. We tried to give them tips, but it was hard to sit out. We just tried to talk to the younger players, especially, and give them words of advice.
Did you ever think you would be sidelined for the whole season?
Yeah. Toward the beginning I was really optimistic. I was like, "Four-to-six weeks, I can get back." I was taking calcium pills, drinking my milk and then I went and saw the doctor at four weeks. I had to get another X-ray and he said, "It's still broken," so I had to wait until the six-week mark. Then at six weeks, he said, "Hmm, we're going to have to wait another week." Finally at seven weeks, I could play.
Did you think about redshirting?
I did, but I want to be a teacher, so I just didn't want to delay things any more. I wanted to come back for the playoffs. It did run through my mind, but I wanted to play with this group of girls.
How has the team overcome losing three All-Americans with Shelby Nemecek out for the year with a torn ACL and you and Laura missing so much time?
The captains weren't on the field anymore, so other people had to step up and they definitely did that. They were so successful without myself and Laura that we started to think, "Maybe they don't need us anymore" (laughs), but we're starting to mesh again. Other people stepped up and they realized that they all have talent and they won big games.
How is the feeling within the team different going into the NCAA tournament as an underdog rather than the favorite to repeat?
I personally like to be the underdog rather than the person with the target on their back, so I'm kind of excited about it. I'm ready to play Hamilton, but we're going to take it one game at a time, because we have a rough road ahead if we keep making it. The young players have seen us succeed so much and go undefeated or have one loss (the past two seasons) and that's not how it is normally. You have to play the best to be there and I think it's humbled everyone kind of, and we realize we have to earn this. It's not going to be given to us.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I'm going to go home to Carroll County and look for a teaching job. I've applied to all of the surrounding counties, so I'm hoping something comes out of that. That's pretty much it — just looking for a job (laughs).
Are you doing anything special to celebrate graduation?
No. I'm just hoping I'm going to the final four (laughs).