Each week, The Baltimore Sun will publish a Q&A with a college lacrosse player or coach. Today's guest is Tufts senior attackman Cole Bailey, a Millersville resident and Severn graduate who was the only Division III player named to the Tewaaraton Award watch list on Feb. 26. Bailey has 262 points (112 goals and 150 assists) in 65 games and is the reigning Lt. Col. J.I. (Jack) Turnbull Award winner for outstanding attackman in Division III. The two-time first-team All American helped the Jumbos capture their second NCAA championship with a goal and five assists in a 12-9 victory over Salisbury last May.
How did it feel to be named to the Tewaaraton Award watch list last week?
I guess I was pretty surprised, knowing that usually goes to a Division I player. But I think it's awesome. It just speaks volumes about the players around me, the coaches, my parents, my family. Without them, that's never accomplished.
Were you surprised to be the only Division III player on the list?
It definitely did. It's usually a Division I award. But knowing some of the guys I go against and get to watch, I think there's definitely some other Division III players that could be on that list, too.
How much pressure is there on you and your teammates to repeat as national champions?
There's definitely some pressure there, just knowing that the expectation you have to meet is to repeat or it's kind of looked at as an underachieving season. But I'm just excited to spend my last season with my closest friends and grow as a team and not get caught up in the big picture. We're just taking each week at a time.
What do you remember from the title game against Salisbury?
Just the whole week building up to that game, you kind of felt like a celebrity. We were signing autographs, they took us to lunches, there was a banquet. So it was a cool feeling and it felt like getting a glimpse of what a professional athlete's life is like all the time. Once it got to game day, the whole team was pretty anxious, but it was pretty awesome to play in a venue like [M&T Bank Stadium]. In terms of the actual game, I know they came out quick. We scored the first goal of the game, but then they responded well with four in a row before we calmed down and got our feet under us. We tied it up at halftime and then in the third quarter, we exploded and the ball bounced our way and we capitalized. I think we scored five straight goals, and at that point, you kind of started to feel that it was getting closer and closer. Once that final whistle blew, you were on top of the world. It's funny, but you don't really remember any of the actual plays that happened during the game.
Were you recruited by Division I programs?
There were a few, but to be honest, I was on the edge of even wanting to play lacrosse. I love the game, but I kind of wanted to experience college without a sport. I have an older sister who played Division I sports [Lelan, a Virginia women's lacrosse player] and was always telling me how it was a lot to balance school and athletics. It's almost like you're a full-time athlete when you're playing Division I. There were a few schools, but I knew that I didn't want to play or that I would play Division III.
What convinced you to go to Tufts?
When I was at Severn, Beau Wood, who was a year older than me, was accepted at Tufts University. So he brought me to the game when they won the national championship against Salisbury in 2010 and before that, I had never heard of Tufts. I knew they were a good academic school, but I had never heard of it in terms of lacrosse. The next year, our coach, Beau's dad, Brian Wood, said, 'Yeah, you should go check it out. Beau loves it.' It's a smaller school, and that's kind of like Severn. So I took him up on it and came up here in September of my senior year of high school and immediately fell in love with the school, the team, the players on the team, the location. I like how it's so close to Boston. There's always something to do. This winter has been pretty brutal, but I'm used to it.