April 8, 2013
Many of the Cavaliers are born with sports in their blood. Lelan Bailey, whose father, Randall, ran cross country at Pitt and her mother, Michelle, who was a field hockey player, not only has sports in her blood, she has it in her name.
"My whole family are huge fans of the Steelers and Pittsburgh sports teams," Bailey explains. "I was named after Jim Leyland, the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, when I was born."
While her two younger brothers, Cole and Maxwell, don't have sports monikers, they do also have sports in their blood, specifically lacrosse. Cole is a sophomore playing at Tufts, while Maxwell is a sophomore high school player in Millersville, Md.
"I am really close with my brothers and miss them a lot," Bailey said.
Despite playing lacrosse since the age of eight, Bailey was not sure that she would be playing it in college. As a three-time state champion in field hockey, she at one point thought that would be her sport of choice. However, after switching to defense in lacrosse and winning three state titles in that sport as well, she changed her emphasis.
"I love causing turnovers, getting interceptions, knocking a pass down and stopping the other team from scoring," Bailey gushed. "But what I think I love most about defense is that it is a team thing. When you make a stop, it is because everyone did it together. It is very team oriented."
Bailey is in her second season with the `Hoos after beginning her career as one of 24 freshmen in the inaugural season for Florida lacrosse.
"It was exciting, but we really had to figure everything out and help each other," Bailey recalled of her freshman season. "We had trouble with simple stuff like turning in your loop or attending study hall. There were 24 freshmen that all had mandatory study hall. We were definitely loud and stood out."
Bailey's playing career at Florida didn't go quite as she had planned. She suffered a foot injury one week before reporting to Gainesville and had to miss all of fall training before her freshman season.
"I missed that first fall when everyone was developing, so I didn't have the confidence that I had in high school and the confidence that I have now," Bailey said of her time as a Gator. "When I came to UVa, the coaches definitely helped me build my confidence. I think that was the biggest transformation."
Bailey spent two years at Florida before she came to the realization that despite her love for her team and her teammates, Florida just wasn't the school for her. She made the decision to transfer to Virginia with the goal of working hard and trying to win a spot on the team. After accomplishing that goal, she continued to work hard, trying to earn more playing time. She accomplished that, and even more.
"When the coaches announced I would be starting the Loyola game last year, I was just so happy," Bailey said. "It was the first game I had started in my college career. I was so happy because I had worked really hard and I felt like it had paid off."
Bailey's hard work also translated into something she never thought would be a possibility. At the 2012 Athletics Banquet, she was announced as the recipient of the Ralph Sampson Scholarship, a prestigious honor and scholarship awarded annually to a Virginia third-year student-athlete who demonstrates excellence in academics, leadership and athletics.
"When they announced it at the athletics banquet, I was in shock," Bailey said. "I was totally taken aback and truly honored. When I transferred, my goals for me were get playing time and be a good team member. The fact that I won a scholarship surprised me and made me happy."
In addition to being a strong defensive presence on the field, Bailey is a motivating force in the locker room. Before most games, she writes a poem that is meant to equally entertain and inspire her teammates.
"I talk about what we are going to do in the game and the game plan," Bailey said. I try to make it kind of funny, but it also kind of pumps everyone up. I always try to rhyme UVa or Cavalier."
With just a few weeks left in her playing career, Bailey is already looking toward the future. The Spanish major plans on applying as a post-bac student to finish up the prerequisites for medical school. She would love to combine the two by volunteering as a doctor in South America.
"Helping people is something that I have always wanted to do," Bailey said.
And it is something she does every single day on this team, and away from the field.