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May 23, 2015

Wesley Berg

Ryan LaPlante

Zach Miller

Bill Tierney


Denver - 11
Notre Dame - 10

THE MODERATOR:  We're now joined by Denver head coach Bill Tierney and student‑athletes Ryan LaPlante, Zach Miller and Wesley Berg.
COACH TIERNEY:   As always, start these with just thanks to our Lord and his blessed mother for this wonderful opportunity.
It's a great event, and we are just proud to be a part of it.  I have to start with Notre Dame.  There's nobody that plays defense out there like Notre Dame and they made it really difficult for us.
And just it's always a war.  It's always a one‑goal game.  We thought we were up four with four minutes left, maybe it wouldn't be, but the heart and the courage, especially Ossello and Perkovic showed at the that game was really special.  We feel blessed and thankful to be moving on until Monday.

Q.  Wesley, the winning goal, specifically the mike dropped moment walk us through that a little bit?
WESLEY BERG:   Thankful that the game is over, when you're up by that much, you're watching the clock and you're counting down the seconds.  Once you got into overtime, we just wanted to get that, the game finished as fast as we could, and has a huge release scoring.

Q.  Mike drop, just kind of funny the way you just dropped the stick and looked over.
WESLEY BERG:  The whole play was blurry after that.
ZACH MILLER:  Going into overtime we had our strategy, first possession called timeout, and get our offense going, because pretty confident our six‑on‑six offensive play.  And so we did that, ran a couple different sets, plays, and then finally Wes had a wide open and then scored.
RYAN LAPLANTE:  I didn't see the net.  Just being honest.  I just saw everyone running.  Thankful that it happened.

Q.  Wesley and Ryan, you've been in the program for several years.  What does it mean to get the sort of breakthrough victory and get to Monday?
WESLEY BERG:  It's another step forward.  We haven't been here yet.  But the most important thing is winning the next one and winning it all.  That's what we're here for.
RYAN LAPLANTE:  I mean, it's amazing for the program to get past that step.  We don't want to stop there.  It's been our ultimate goal to win the national championship since we got to school in September.  We just want to work for that on Monday and we have one game to do it.

Q.  Wesley, you might take us through what's now known as the play goal you had in the fourth quarter?
WESLEY BERG:  When we were‑‑ me and Pace were kind of thinking, I could tell he was hesitant for throwing it.  I was a little open.  I was hesitant getting open and didn't throw it, ended up throwing it, and it was kind of a scramble in front and lost my balance there, and I thought just try to get it on net.  And I saw the goalie out of position and just did a reverse backhand between his legs and fortunately it went in.

Q.  Ryan, I know you said the next game, the ultimate goal, to win that.  But scoring and eventually tying it, how are you dealing with that moment, how do you get through that?
RYAN LAPLANTE:  It's tough, letting four goals in as a defense in four minutes.  They had the complete momentum going into overtime.
So it was tough.  But I think what we had to do was just focus on getting the next stop.  And knowing that we were going to get the ball off that first face‑off.  So we knew that Trevor was going to win that ball.  As soon as the offense got the ball, we kind of had that feeling inside that we knew we were going to score.  But if they did get the ball, we just had to dig down deep and get the stop.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions for Coach.

Q.  For your program to finally get to this point, where you're playing for the national championship, what does that mean for you in terms of what you've built?
COACH TIERNEY:  First of all, we feel really good about being able to play on Monday.  But I think a lot was made out of this.  This‑‑ we were a bad program because we didn't make it until Monday.
We are talking about a team that made four of the last Final Fours, a group of young men that nobody recruited except for us.
And we just have something special going.  Now, to move into this, it's certainly a little relieving because‑‑ not because of the thing that you worry about, oh, are they always going to be a semifinalist.
There's nothing wrong with it.  If you're a semifinalist, you're a top 4 team in the country.  We weren't worried about that.  I know what kind of people we've got, what kind of young men we've got.  You've got Jack Pruitt who wins the third in four years the NCAA 89 Award.
Little silly stuff.  We get off the plane the other day and the flight attendant who has been flying for 25 years says it's the finest group of gentlemen he's ever seen.  Those are the things that make, if you lose on Saturday, make you feel like, hey, we're doing something pretty special here.
So we're thrilled to be playing on Monday.  Just like today we'll be scared stiff whoever our opponent is and we'll try to shake it loose.  This is a tough situation.  Try to prepare in one day for a powerful team like Maryland or Hopkins.  But as we always said, it beats the alternative.

Q.  All that said, how happy are you for your players especially your seniors knocking on the doors to have the moment and the opportunity?
COACH TIERNEY:  As you know, Dana, I've been around this block a few times, and I've had some amazing moments in my career that I've been given the credit because of what young men do.
So with this, the day I took the job at Denver, I tried to keep it to be not about me, tried to keep it to be about our players, about our university, about our administrators, about everything that we can be good at, so that the game can still, so that others can believe in the game and can make that, you know, that step that Denver decided to make some years ago and maybe this will influence some people.

Q.  Was it hard not to think, oh, no, here we go again, you guys are going into overtime, what was the message to the team as you guys started that overtime?
COACH TIERNEY:  Sure.  Especially at the end like that when you're giving up four in four minutes after giving up six in 56 minutes, you kind of bewilder a little bit.  I think the guys let the emotion of the moment get a little bit to them.
And Perkovic is an animal.  That's just the way it goes.  So overtime, you've got to handle overtime like you do the beginning of the game.  Just gotta say, look, first goal wins.
And every game all season long we try to get the guys whether we're ahead, whether we're behind like last week down 7‑1 we try to get the guys to say, look, it's 0‑0, the only thing that matters is the next goal.  The only difference is when you're in overtime, that's really the only thing that matters.

Q.  Wesley has obviously done a ton for you guys over the last four years, how certain were you there in overtime?
COACH TIERNEY:  Certain.  The only thing I was certain of is that I was coaching a group of great young men with great assistant coaches and you just‑‑ you can never be certain when a little rubber ball bounces the strange ways it does.
We knew if we got it into Wesley's hands, there was going to be a good chance that it was going to be a good shot.  That's for sure.  Interestingly enough, the play was set up for Zach and it didn't work.
To his credit, he didn't force anything and got the ball around and tied up Pace.  Pace was upset with him for throwing that one pass and we had the three goal lead that turned into Wesley's SportsCenter goal.
But these guys are warriors and great young men, as is Notre Dame.  You don't get here without great young people.  And the ball bounced against us sometimes in this situation like it did a couple of years ago when we played Syracuse.  Today in over time it bounced our way.  We're thankful it did.

Q.  Actually, they had the ball first in overtime and Kavanagh was pressing the cage.  Kevin just said that so often he's finished that, had a kid take the ball away, how big was that?
COACH TIERNEY:  I forgot about that.  I thought we had the ball first in overtime, I'll be honest with you.  They were doing some things on the face‑off and our guys, the thing about Matt Kavanagh is that he's such a winner.
He's scored so many goals in those key moments that it is scary when he gets it.  But we had played great defense, 56 minutes, and Ryan had made some good saves.  And not much you can think about at that point and just hope that the guys will do what they need to do and they get it.

Q.  What was the prevailing attitude after it was all over in the locker room?  Relief?  Joy?
COACH TIERNEY:  It's funny, Dana, this is a business group.  It's funny, they don't‑‑ you saw the elation on the field and that, that's very natural.  You know, you're moving on to a final.
But I think my coaching staff, you know, you're talking about three guys who have been professional players, they've all been All‑Americans in lacrosse; they've been around this block.
And they're the ones who coach these guy, game in, game out, and they quickly, quickly got everybody together and said, look, that's great.  Let's move on.  And we've had that when we lost a couple of games during the year.  We've had that when we won last week after being down 7‑1.
It's just a pretty business‑like group that's we've tried different things coming to the Final Four.  We've had guest speakers.  We've had all sorts of motivational things, and this year was just‑‑ we are who we are.  They don't like that I didn't let them grow playoff beards, but it's the way it goes.  They'd rather win a championship.

Q.  Won in 2001 with Princeton.  So when you look back at that team versus this team, and the way you ran that throughout the course of the season, what are some of the similarities in that time?
COACH TIERNEY:  Similarities, I've got my son Trevor at my side, and in that one he was in the goal.  That's very special.  Each one of these things, that one was a little different.  We had lost, we got beat by Syracuse pretty handily in the regular season at the Dome and came back and beat them in the final.
Look, all these things are, when you get to the Final Four, there's always a little bit of luck.  And that one was an overtime win just like this one, very similar.  We had a lead.  Gave up a lead and scored in overtime.  So, again, it's not about me and Princeton or me and Denver.  It's about this group of young people that are striving to reach to top the peak.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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