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May 25, 2015

Wesley Berg

Connor Cannizzaro

Ryan LaPlante

Bill Tierney


Denver – 10
Maryland - 5

THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by Denver head coach Bill Tierney, student‑athletes Wes Berg, Ryan LaPlante, and Connor Cannizzaro.  Coach, an opening statement.
COACH TIERNEY:   As always, I want to thank our Lord and his blessed mother for this wonderful, wonderful opportunity.  People don't realize how hard and how rare this is to work with a group of young people like I had the blessing to do, and wake up each day to work at the university like I had the blessing to do, and all the sacrifices my family's made and these guys have made to go through a journey like this.  We wouldn't have admitted it beforehand, but just like Wesley carried us, the team, on his back for a few games here, I feel like we were carrying a burden around and now it's off, and now we move on.
But congratulations to the University of Maryland for their coaching staff and their players, for what they did to get to this game, to beat all the wonderful teams they did, and they're just really tough, especially at the defensive end team to handle.  And we're just blessed and thankful to be here.  Thank you.

Q.  Players comment on how great it feels to get this after being close so many times.  Wes?
WESLEY BERG:  It's been a long journey.  We were one goal away from Loyola our first year and they ended up winning it.  We had a really good team then.  And the same with losing to Syracuse in that close game.  And just like this year, we were one goal away from losing again, and we stuck to it and things went our way this time.  And it's probably because of all the perseverance we had and all the confidence we had in our team and the depth we had this year.
RYAN LAPLANTE:  Yeah, it's been unbelievable to see the growth of this program since Coach T moved out to Denver.  Just unbelievable to see where things have went and how we've made it to the playoffs every year, me and Wesley's four years here.  This just took it to the next level and it just shows how good of a coaching staff we have and just the support that we have from the university.
CONNOR CANNIZZARO:  I haven't been here as long as these guys have been.  And I mean I've been watching them since my brother's been here, and it's just special to come in my first year and share this moment with the seniors and all the players and the coaching staff, just shows the growth of the game and I mean, we're really excited that we brought home a national championship to the University of Denver.

Q.  Can you talk about how Coach Tierney has helped you develop as lacrosse players.  Connor?
CONNOR CANNIZZARO:  He's definitely made me a smarter player.  He lets me know when I make a bad play and a play that I shouldn't have made and I know that.  And it makes me better every time.  Just listen to him.  He's one of the best coaches ever to coach this game of lacrosse.  And I'm just glad I have the opportunity to play under him.
RYAN LAPLANTE:  I'm just glad that I've had the great opportunity to play for one of the greatest coaches, if not the greatest coach in the sport of lacrosse since I decided to come to this school.  It's been an interesting journey splitting halves and stuff.  But learning everything I have to Coach Tierney and Trevor Tierney, it's just been unbelievable and I'm so thankful for that.
WESLEY BERG:  I could say what he's done for me as a player, but more so as a person.  That's the guy he is.  It's not just about lacrosse with us and that's why this program has been so strong, and we bring in the right people and the right team dynamic and that starts with him.  And he's obviously helped me as a player but he's made me a better person.

Q.  Ryan, comment on Maryland shot selection and the saves you made at the end of the quarters?
RYAN LAPLANTE:  The defense gave me the shots I that wanted to see.  They weren't in‑tight saves that I was having to make.  All credit to my defense.  They were, like, 13‑yard shots, and that's where I want to see them.  I was really excited to see those shots instead of in‑tight shots.

Q.  (Question off microphone)?
RYAN LAPLANTE:  That was kind of the thing we struggled with earlier in the year and in my time at Denver.  Splitting up, we would always talk about valuable minutes, and I think today we won those valuable minutes in the tight minutes over the stretch of the game.  And later on it was just huge to get those defensive stops.  And it definitely deflates their offense and their confidence, and it brings our momentum going into the next quarter.

Q.  Wesley comment on your success early on in the game?
WESLEY BERG:  No, nothing specific.  Just another good job of our team.  We played, credit to my teammates coming out, we played with a lot of speed and confidence off the beginning.  When you do that, I just slipped into the right area and I was open backside and I was fortunate to score the first couple and get us rolling.

Q.  When did it start to sink in you would be national champions, Wesley?
WESLEY BERG:  It takes a while to sink in.  Obviously we knew we had it with about 30seconds left with Trevor winning the face‑off and us being up that many.  When you win something like this it can take a couple of weeks to really set in and really sink in that you won it.
RYAN LAPLANTE:  Yeah, it really hasn't sunk in yet.  Me and Coach Tierney were talking about this before we were walking in, it was a little bit different of a game.  So it really hasn't set in yet, the effect of it.  But I think it will be pretty soon.
CONNOR CANNIZZARO:  We're definitely excited right now.  But feels like another win, and it's going to have to take a couple of weeks to really realize how big it was.

Q.  (Question off mic)?
CONNOR CANNIZZARO:  I've been trying to do this my entire life, ever since I started playing lacrosse.  It doesn't matter who it's against or who we played.  It's just another opponent that we had to beat on our way to a national championship.

Q.  Wes, talk about the extreme relaxation?
WESLEY BERG:  I slept better than I did on Friday night.  I think we knew that if it got into a close game like it did last time that we had the confidence to pull it off.  Fortunately it wasn't as much as a nail‑biter.  But I woke up a few times in the middle of the night and it's not easy.  Pretty exciting day and you want to get up for and play for a national championship.

Q.  (Question off mic)?
RYAN LAPLANTE:  Going against our offense during the week it's just impossible.  I hate going against our offense.  They can score‑‑ you know exactly where they're going and they'll still score on you.  It's very, very frustrating.
So it's definitely a pleasure to see what they're doing to other teams.  I feel for the other goalies.  I know what they're going through.  So all credit to their kid.  He played fantastic today.  Stood on his head.  Yeah, I really appreciate what our offense does.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions for Coach.

Q.  Can you go back to your decision to come to Denver?
COACH TIERNEY:  If you know me at all it's not about thinking I'm crazy, it's knowing I'm crazy.  So that part of the question is out.  Look, I've said this often, it was a selfish decision.  It was a university that's run by wonderful people.  My boss, Peg Bradley‑Doppes, we were out on her patio and showed me over the beautiful campus, and it was time for something different in a selfish way.
At the time, my wife and I were married 33 years.  And now it's 38, I think.  And she made that move with me.  And my son, Trevor, was out there.  My son, Brendan, lives in Oregon.  It was just really selfish, honestly.  It was really a selfish move.  But with that move came a challenge.
And I think if you live life facing challenges, just like I've asked these guys to do, I've asked our guys to be a little different.  I've asked our guys to be more disciplined.  I've asked our guys to dress well, look well, act well, and maybe micromanage a little bit.  But I think when it all comes to the end, I've said this often, young people need and want discipline.  And even through the rough spots they know I love them, and that's the most important part of this whole thing.

Q.  Comment on how important it was to broaden your recruiting base?
COACH TIERNEY:  One of the bricks of the patio, so to speak, was every year we bring in at least three Colorado kids.  Next year we've got seven California kids coming in.  A lot of people may look at where we are as a detriment.  We just want young men that want to be at the University of Denver.  So if people don't want to look in Tennessee and people don't want to look in Texas and people don't want to look in Washington and Oregon and California, good, we'll keep looking there.
And I think after today we may get a few eastern kids as well.

Q.  Talk about the play of Mike?
COACH TIERNEY:  It's funny.  I told Mike after the game today I thought he played the best game of his career today and what a way to go out, he and Ryan both.  Last game he did a great job until the end where, we count on Mike to shut down the other team's best midfielder, and Perkovic got a few at the end of the last one.  I'll take blame for that.  We should have changed the defense and pushed out a little bit.
But Mike's been phenomenal.  He's a little bit of a loose cannon, which every team needs, and I'm really proud that he bought into us enough and we brought into him enough as kind of a meeting of the ways and kind of we stuck with each other, and I thank God that we did and he did.

Q.  How does winning the championship show the growth of this sport?
COACH TIERNEY:  I think what it does, if I can take my DU hat off for a second and put my old man lacrosse hat on for a second, I hope what it does is I hope it gives some athletic directors some courage and some school presidents some courage, instead of hiding behind cost and hiding behind Title IX, saying that this is a sport that's here to say; this is a sport that means something in our country.
We play this championship game on Memorial Day.  There's no greater day to do something for your country than on Memorial Day.
So instead of hiding behind all that stuff, I think what we did was we showed that with the great people at a university, the support‑‑ we have a great university, by the way, where kids get great degrees and are called to be students.  I'm hoping with that other hat on that people finally say, you know what, let's do this thing.  It's pretty cool.

Q.  Can you comment on the carrying the burden comment?
COACH TIERNEY:  Yeah.  It's easy for a coach no matter what the topic is to say that doesn't matter, that doesn't matter, that doesn't matter.
We lost two games this year, and when we got back from Carolina, after 20 hours on the road, everybody wanted to make the excuse for us.  We didn't.  We didn't.  We lost to a better team that day.  When we lost to Ohio State, we had 26 final exams that day.
We didn't allow the kids to talk about that to the press.  We lost a lacrosse game.  And those things, when you face those challenges, that makes you stronger.
If everything just flows, then it's still meaningful.  It's still wonderful, but without a little challenge and some setbacks, it makes it‑‑ or with some it makes it more meaningful.
But I think you constantly hear that, three out of four Final Fours, four out of five Final Fours, are they going to blow another one.  I kept looking at it saying:  You know what, hold on here, fellows, 68 teams and four out of five Final Fours.  That's pretty good.  And not one person at our university said you're a failure if you don't win a national championship.
But it still kind of gets to you, and it's still there.  Just like I said Wesley, carrying our team‑‑ you know, the staff that I've had at DU, as a guy not here today, Dylan Sheridan, who was with me for the last four years, he recruited most of these guys.  Dylan is now the first assistant at Princeton.  Talk about some weird turns of events.
And he recruited these guys.  And Kevin Unterstein and Frank Abruzzini, the guys who were here with us, they helped us build this program, along with Matt Brown and John Orsen and Trevor Tierney‑‑ I couldn't do it without them.  So all in all, it's a wonderful day, and we'll think about those bigger topics soon, but gotta get our guys back to class on Tuesday.

Q.  What's the win mean for Denver, the school?
COACH TIERNEY:  One of the things I was really stunned at when I went out to Denver, is that‑‑ and no discredit to anybody here, please‑‑ but it's an ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN out there, they're interviewing our kids on a Tuesday afternoon in 30 degrees and snowing.
To their credit, they're the ones who took us in.  It's a great professional sports town, but when you have room for a lacrosse team and kind of adopted us and followed our path, that's very special when our guys see that they're out there.  We've overcome the jitters of those things and we've had some great stories this year with Matt Brown filming games from overhead and all that stuff that we do; it's been just really cool.
But I think for the city, I hope that the city continues to realize what a great game lacrosse is and that we can continue to do pretty well.

Q.  Talk about how the early penetration of the defense helped you get the momentum.
COACH TIERNEY:  It's interesting.  I think it's a great point that we did that.  We needed those first few goals to get our confidence, when you only have one day to prepare and it's hot and everybody's just a little tired and lethargic, it's like you're waiting for something to happen.  When you don't wait for something to happen, like you're getting those first couple of goals, it gives you a jolt.
To be honest with you, though, getting those first couple, and I say this very respectfully, pretty easily, I think it caused us problems because then Maryland buckled down.  Then Maryland said they're not doing anything special to us here; let's buckle down.
I thought our guys in that late first quarter, through most of the second quarter, then thought it was going to be a little easy and it wasn't.  That's one heck of a defense and a phenomenal goalie.
So it was great, but it also might have been a little bit of fool's gold, too.

Q.  How big was the stop at the end of that and the steadiness of the defense?
COACH TIERNEY:  When Ryan makes a save like that with no time left, or whatever it was, a couple of seconds left, it carries‑‑ you've got to remember when that is.  It carries you right into the locker room.  Our guys were running on air into that locker room because of that save.
And I think it just put a jolt into our defense that as long as Ryan is playing the way Ryan's playing, we can slide a little faster, we can play a little tighter, if they want to shoot outside shots, and he's going to be there for us.  That was huge.  That was huge momentum, because we had kind of gone flat there offensively for a while.

Q.  Comment on being the first coach to win a national championship with two Division I programs.
COACH TIERNEY:  We talked about this the other day.  It's not about me.  It's about being in a situation like I was at Princeton, we did pretty well, and it was time to move.  It was time to go on to a new challenge, something very exciting and very special, and now being at a place with a group of young men that refused to lose.
And I don't mean‑‑ I'm not downplaying that.  But some day when I go to my grave I don't want them putting on my headstone how many national championships I had, I want them to put on my headstone that my players loved me.

Q.  Talk about how your experience helped make the quick transition between games this weekend.
COACH TIERNEY:  I think, first of all, number one, it's out of a little bit of fear.  You just won a game that got pretty crazy at the end there.
And so John Orsen and Matt Brown, first thing they said to me after the game is where do we scout.  Kind of said to me, wow, as you're probably one of the few that know, when they were scouting, I was eating up there.
But I think most importantly with that scout came our players.  We met with them that night, went out to dinner that night, and by that time Brownie and John were talking to them about specifics.  We needed them to sleep in on Sunday.  We needed them to get rest.  We needed them to get hydrated.
We have a young woman Josie White, who has been our trainer since I've been there.  And these guys have taken ice baths.  She's got them ready to go.  She has all these different modalities, if that's the word, in a room for their legs to get their legs back and all that stuff.
So everybody who is a part of the program, Sue Kelly, our director of operations, is setting up meals.  We're doing all this stuff because we're moving on.  And so I think the next morning was just, when we had breakfast, interestingly enough we had a lot of meals over at the market.  The kids like it a lot better than sitting around in a hotel.
So we just told them:  Have confidence in us.  We'll give you the information you need.  The difference on Sunday, we came over for the autograph session.  We went right to Drexel and met with them.
And that meeting, that half‑hour, 45‑minute scout meeting, as we explained to them, is this isn't going to be a day of practice with your legs.  Your legs are tired.  This is going to be a day of practice where the scout guys, the second string guys, they pitch in.  They demonstrated everything that Maryland did or at least that we thought that Maryland was going to do.  That was their role.  I think that's one of the important roles on our team.
And I always make a point of making a lot out of our last player.  And so when we heightened that and told them their role on Sunday and the other guys stood around and watched, but then last night after dinner, when we do our scouting report, you know, Brownie and John had a 12‑page scouting report ready in one day for our team.
It's not hard then for a group of guys to say wow, these guys are into it, we're going to be into it.  And they were.  And they came out today, and it was just amazing how they played.  Ryan in the goal, our defense.  We've been an offensive juggernaut for months and years, but our defense won the day today.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.

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