Cole Blazer center of attention after career performance

Sophomore goalie earned national Defensive Player of the Week honors


(Photo courtesy of Maggie Bean/Marquette Athletics)

Sophomore goalie Cole Blazer’s dad Joe is active on Marquette game days. He makes the short commute from their home in Libertyville, Illinois for every home game, keeps stats and runs the parents’ cookout.

When Cole found out early last week he’d be making his first collegiate start in place of incumbent Jimmy Danaher, he decided he’d hold off telling his father, giving him a surprise when the starting lineups were called.

“Partly I wanted it to be a surprise, and the other part (was) I didn’t want the dad inspirational texts throughout the week,” Blazer said.

Joe watched his son play the game of his life, shutting out Division I lacrosse’s second-ranked offense for nearly a half in Marquette’s 11-3 upset of No. 6 Villanova. He was locked in from the start, making point-blank saves and frustrating Villanova’s star-studded offensive unit. With every stop, Blazer’s confidence built and the nerves started to disappear.

“He makes one big save, and the next one they get the rebound and hit the pipe,” head coach Joe Amplo said. “Everything was going our way on that end of the field. They were a little bit off, Cole was great and we got lucky.”

Accolades started piling in this week, as he was named the Defensive Player of the Week by the BIG EAST, and U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association. Amplo named him the starter for this week’s game at St. John’s in his postgame interview.

“It’s been crazy the publicity that it’s gotten,” Blazer said. “It’s crazy, because it was just one game, and then I’m getting all these accolades and recognition. Before, no one knew who the second string goalie was, especially being from Illinois.”

Illinois is a growing lacrosse scene, but Blazer said it was still tough to get noticed by top notch programs. He first heard from Marquette as a junior, when assistant coach Steve Brundage sent him an email asking if he’d like to come up for a visit. The day before he came, he got an email informing him that a goalie ahead of him had committed.

He had a few more schools interested, but nothing came to fruition. He applied to several schools and decided to come to Marquette as a regular student. He called Brundage to see if he could walk on to the team and received good news.

“He said, ‘You know what, Cole, the kid that we had in your grade actually decommited,'” Blazer said. “‘We’ve got a spot open. Let me come down, check out a game and see how you’ve been progressing, and we’ll go from there.’ He came down, liked what he saw and that’s why I’m here.”

Blazer got limited time his freshman season, playing in four games in relief. Amplo liked what he saw from him in practice this fall, but Blazer struggled in the team’s preseason games. Danaher played very well, locking up the starting job.

“I definitely wasn’t doing the mental preparation that I needed to,” Blazer said. “It was really internal, where I was psyching myself out for those games … I just wasn’t ready like I needed to be.”

Blazer watched Marquette’s first seven games and continued to play at a high level in practice. When Danaher struggled in a 9-8 victory against Georgetown, making only three saves, Amplo turned to Blazer for the Villanova game — the team’s first game against a top 10 opponent. Blazer didn’t let him down.

“I can only remember a couple other times in high school where I played at (that) caliber,” Blazer said. “That was the best performance I’ve ever had.”

Now in the spotlight, Blazer keeps reminding himself it’s just one game and that the script can flip again with a poor performance against 1-9 St. John’s. The fear of underperforming is still there, but that won’t necessarily slow him down, which Amplo says could be a benefit.

“There’s a reason he played so well, because he was so nervous and anxious probably going into the game,” Amplo said. “He needs to be a little bit fearful that he’s not going to play as well. Maybe that keeps him sharp mentally.”