His name is Bryan Cole. At the Hill Academy in Canada he was "Colesy." Among members of the Maryland men's lacrosse team he is "Dad."
One might think that name has to do with the senior midfielder's preference for going to bed no later than 10:30 p.m., but it's actually rooted in affection and respect.
"It came about basically because he's got that maturity and kind of leads the guys in the right direction and is always talking to the guys," senior midfielder Pat Young said. "He's kind of the 'Dad' figure aside from Coach Tillman. He's the team 'Dad' figure."
Cole's authority off the field is reinforced by his play on the field. He leads the No. 5 Terps (8-2 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten) in assists with 14 and is tied with junior attackman Matt Rambo for the team lead in points with 27.
In Maryland's past two games, he's delivered game-winning goals. He recorded two goals and two assists in an 8-7 win at Michigan on April 2, including the game-winner with 43 seconds left in the fourth quarter. He then had two goals and one assist in Sunday's 11-10 overtime win at No. 15 Penn State, including the game-winner with 43 seconds left.
CBS Sports Network analyst Evan Washburn said Cole's worth as a playmaker might be the difference in whether the Terps can reach the NCAA tournament Final Four for the fifth time in the last six years.
"He's proven that when this team needs somebody to make a play, he can be that guy," said Washburn, a former Delaware defenseman. "That's what you're always looking for. Once you creep into that third or fourth quarter and the team is down, it's amazing how many decent teams don't have that. The fact that Maryland seems to have that in Bryan Cole is a value that you can't put a price on."
Cole shrugs off suggestions that he is the offense's leader, pointing out that Rambo, junior attackman Colin Heacock (Boys' Latin) and senior midfielder Henry West are also scorers.
But he acknowledged that when the outcome of a game is at stake or a situation calls for a significant play, he lives for that moment.
"As a competitor, you always want to play against the best and play at the highest level and compete as hard as you can," Cole said. "So I definitely think myself and the rest of my teammates and my coaches thrive in those situations because we like competing. That's just how we are."
Brodie Merrill, a former two-time first-team All-American long-stick midfielder at Georgetown who coached Cole at the Hill Academy in Vaughan, Ontario, said Cole is a naturally confident person who doesn't wilt at key moments.
"I think he thrives under those pressure situations," Merrill said. "It's kind of part of his demeanor. He's an even-keeled guy and has a quiet air of confidence about him. So I'm not surprised to see him step up in the last couple of weeks and do well in those situations."
After leading Maryland in assists (22) last spring, Cole continues to be a playmaker this season. Tillman said Cole's field vision and passing ability remind him of former Terp Michael Chanenchuk, who had 44 assists from 2012 to 2014.
"If there's a guy open — whether it's a guy on the crease or a guy all the way through the defense — he just seems to see that guy where some guys don't," Tillman said of Cole. "Some of that could be experience, and some of that could just be something that through all of his playing, he's developed really good instincts."
Cole credits his passing ability to drills installed by offensive coordinator J.L. Reppert where the players use tennis balls. Because tennis balls are bouncier than lacrosse balls, they are more difficult to toss and catch and help with softening hands and working in close quarters.
Cole's skill as a left-handed feeder attracted the attention of the Ohio Machine, which used a second-round pick in the Major League Lacrosse draft on him.
"It certainly helps open things up," Machine coach Bear Davis said of Cole's passing. "A guy like him who draws a lot of attention because of his size, it helps that he has incredible vision and good hands to be able to read the slide packages and make the proper look."
One of four team captains along with redshirt senior goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr, senior defenseman Matt Dunn (Loyola Blakefield) and junior short-stick defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen, Cole said his long-term goal is to help the program end a 41-year NCAA championship drought.
"I personally believe we can be great," he said. "I think we're on the course to doing that. It is a long season, and there are points in the season where you need to make sure guys are staying focused and staying on course with that final goal, and obviously for us, that's championship weekend and winning the national championship. The coaches have been harping on that and reiterating that we need to do the little things right and make sure we're doing what we need to do to get there."
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