Men's Lacrosse

Former Syracuse midfielder Woolford enjoying switch to Denver

Rich Clarkson and Associates

Colin Woolford transferred from Syracuse to Denver after just one semester last fall. He's scored one goal in six appearances for the Pioneers, who meet the Orange in the final four Saturday night.

Colin Woolford said he always saw himself playing college lacrosse in Colorado. But when he was rising through the ranks of the nation’s top high school recruits, he was never given the chance.

Instead, he commited to Syracuse. But after spending just one semester with the Orange, never playing in a game, Woolford reached out to transfer to the University of Denver. Denver didn’t formally offer him a spot while he was in high school. When he knew the Pioneers would take him, though, Woolford left Syracuse.

“I always really saw myself going to college out in Colorado,” Woolford said. “And it just kind of fit all together when I spoke with coach (Bill) Tierney and was given the opportunity to be able to come here.”

On Saturday at 5 p.m., Woolford will face the team he once called his own, when the Pioneers take on the Orange in the NCAA tournament semifinal at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. This season, the freshman midfielder has played sparingly for Denver, appearing in six games.

Woolford said he was drawn to Denver by the fast-paced offense that’s a staple of the Pioneers’ attack. And while their attack is high-octane, he said, there is a method to the madness.

“(Coach Matt Brown) runs our offense extremely fast. There’s a lot of movement,” Woolford said. “The game is just played extremely fast out here, which is what I wanted throughout high school. I wanted to go to a school where the offense is run fast, but not out of control at all.”

Woolford never picked up a lacrosse stick until eighth grade, and wasn’t really noticed as having collegiate potential until his sophomore year of high school. In the summer between his junior and senior years of high school big-time Division I offers started rolling in on top of the Division III schools he’d considered.

Syracuse’s interest was too much to pass up.

“I think when (Syracuse head coach) John Desko called him, he was like ‘Dad, we have to go,’” his father Andrew Woolford said.

At the time, Woolford was the lone captain on his Choate Rosemary Hill boarding school team that played its first winning season since 2006 with him leading the charge. At Choate, Woolford also played hockey, baseball, and soccer, along with lacrosse.

But when Woolford got to Syracuse, he quickly realized it didn’t suit him well. He had chosen the school because of its strong lacrosse and business management school, but the university didn’t live up to what he envisioned, his high school lacrosse and ice hockey coach Mike Velez said.

“I think it was one of those situations where personally, Colin felt like he wasn’t in the best fit,” Velez said. “I think when Colin got to Syracuse there were some personal concerns on his part.

“Maybe concern is too strong a word. But I think the vibe that Colin got was that he wasn’t as comfortable as he thought he was going to be.”

Desko said Woolford transferred for medical reasons.

Woolford said he still keeps in touch with several of the Syracuse players that will be his opponents on Saturday. He’s even received a few text messages from them throughout the week.

“See you in Philly,” they said.

For Woolford though, this game is less about playing against his old school, and more about being in the final four.

“Just the excitement of being the final four is unbelievable,” Woolford said. “It’s been my dream as a kid always to have a chance to go to the final four. I’m just so happy to be a part of this team, part of this great group of guys. So yeah, it is very exciting that we’re playing Syracuse, but it’s just extremely exciting to be in the final four.”

His father shares that same sentiment. He said that although Colin could have taken many different paths in his college career, he’s glad to see him on one that has brought him to such a grand stage.

“Colin had some really interesting opportunities to play Division III, some very strong academic schools with really good programs,” Andrew Woolford said. “But he always wanted to be on a team that would go to the national championship.

“He knows he’s in a program where that’s what they’re working towards the whole time.”

Asst. sports editor David Wilson contributed reporting to this story, dbwilson@syr.edu

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