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May 27, 2018

Eric Meyreles

John Raba

Andres Rodriguez

Harry Stanton

Boston, Massachusetts

THE MODERATOR: We have Wesleyan coach John Raba, and student-athletes. We'll start with an opening statement from Coach, followed by questions for the student-athletes.

JOHN RABA: Yeah, an incredible moment for our program. Our senior group, we worked so hard, this particular group for years now. So it's not just, you know, today's day. This is the culmination of what we've been doing and guys believing that we had the team to get to a National Championship and win it.

So, again, as a coach, you couldn't be more proud of a group. We've asked them to do a lot. We've dealt with a lot of adversity throughout the year. I think our guys handled it very well. I think we did a great job of dealing with back-to-back, like with our NESCAC stuff, Saturday, Sunday, and then it was a grind, right in a row, murderer's row, Cortland, Cabrini, Tufts, RIT, some great teams. So the thing is we had a lot of confidence with our conference play, and being battle tested on the road through the NCAAs.

So it showed today when we came out. It wasn't too big of a stage, and I think that was the biggest concern for a lot of people. We came out and we played Wesleyan lacrosse. That's what we talked about. The intensity was there, the focus was there, and as a coach, you hope you get to this moment and you can handle it. I think our veteran group is really what led us to this moment.

Q. Coach kind of touched on it, that you guys had to go through a gauntlet to get here. RIT, Tufts, Cabrini just in tournament alone. So how much do those games prepare you for today's game?
ERIC MEYRELES: Yeah, like Coach said, we did go down a gauntlet, I guess. But one thing Coach always says is we're battle tested. We've seen good opponents, but one thing like we like to remember is just like they're very good teams, we are too. And we hold true with that. We know what it is we want to do. Play Wesleyan lacrosse, and I think that showed today being able to handle a very good Salisbury team and come out on top.

ANDRES RODRIGUEZ: I think also we love playing out-of-conference teams, and a lot of our season was taken up by NESCAC. We played all NESCAC teams up until the semifinals. Then this year we finally had the chance to play some different teams and show the south as well as the north that we had what it takes. So we were pretty excited to just be out there and play against these guys.

Q. I'm sorry. I'm used to seeing you guys with helmets on. I'm wondering who Harry is.
HARRY STANTON: Right here.

Q. How you doing, Harry?

Q. Just wondering if you could take me through your thoughts preseason coming off such a great season last year? How much a moment like this is talked about as you build up towards it, or do you try to avoid that? Kind of what expectations did you have for this team, and what potential did you think it had going back a couple months?
HARRY STANTON: Yeah, I'll go back a couple years. You know, we talked about our sophomore year, you know, we lost a bunch of games, got one goal. We felt like we were right there and we had what it took to win those games. And we walked away our sophomore year. Then junior year is one of those years where we broke through and we went on that incredible 20-game win streak.

Just to be honest, I think the moment was a little too big up in RIT last year in 2017. We were down 9. We actually got through the first quarter, and it just felt like we were just happy to be there, and we were. But this year there was a different mentality.

Coach talks about it all the time. After last season we started our season with the legitimate goal of winning a National Championship. Maybe freshman year we would say that, but, you know, wouldn't believe it as much as we probably could. And last year coming into preseason that was the goal. When we talk about ups and downs, in the Coast Guard game, everyone wants to talk about that.

But when we talk about ups and downs, a lot of people say it but don't mean it. We actually went through it. We lost to Tufts twice, lost in the championship, we could have folded, but we decided we had bigger goals this year.

It's an incredible moment, an incredible feeling. We have this game circled. I think our parents were confident that we'd be here, and we made the most of it.

Q. Harry, when we talked the other day, you were still plotting how you might graduate. Did you guys actually walk? Could you tell me about that? Also, could all three of you talk about this is the first time with a championship with Wesleyan, the other guys have more. Could you talk about the historical significance for the school?
HARRY STANTON: Yeah, we had a small ceremony for all the seniors on Wednesday night. It was a very intimate, very personal ceremony, so that was really cool. Our President came and spoke to us, gave us a really nice speech. Sent us off ready to go this weekend.

And the second part of the question?

Right. Yeah, we say it all the time, we're living the dream right now. It's really cool to be able to capture the dream. I said it to the team the other day, how cool would it be to be one of one team to never show up here in Wesleyan history and the one team to never walk away with the championship trophy in our hands.

It's an unbelievable experience, and we're so glad we were able to get this done for all the people that came before us and kind of set the precedent for all the players to come next.

ERIC MEYRELES: I think by looking at the stands tonight, you could tell the difference in the amount of fans that could come out and support us. There were a lot of people that had our backs throughout the entire ride. They were pumped for us to get here. It means a lot not just to our team, but the people that came before us. It was awesome.

THE MODERATOR: Harry, anything to add to that?

HARRY STANTON: Yeah, we talk about it all the time. Everyone talks about it's just a game, and it is. In terms of the big picture. We had a guy at our dinner who gave a speech, a war veteran and he gave an incredible speech. So we got that part. He also said it's beyond the game. You can touch a lot of people with this game.

We've had a tough year. We've faced some real-life adversity. It's just you see how many parents were there for us, you know? Even a tailgate up in Colby or something, you just realize it's so much bigger than us and how much joy you can bring to your friends and families. It's funny that it really is the difference between winning and losing, but I think our parents and our families are really proud of us.

Win or lose, they're going to be proud of us, but we just have something big to celebrate.

Q. To start the second quarter Salisbury goes on a run, and Harry scores and stops the bleeding and keeps you guys composed. Having someone like him, one of your lead guys for years now, you know he's going to show up in moments like this. So was that kind of prototypical of him to show up when you need him the most?
JOHN RABA: Yeah, the thing with Harry is, and this is why we love him so much, he doesn't get deterred. If things aren't going super smooth, if you miss five shots, it's not going to slow him down shooting another one. Ronan Jacoby has great qualities like that too in a younger player. But you need play makers. That's what it comes down to. In these situations, if you try to play it safe a lot of times, you don't really go for it. It's tough to win these types of games.

So, again, it wasn't a high-scoring game today, but we were certainly aggressive. I love the way we came out as a group. It was exactly the way we wanted to come out. We were able to run by somebody, Taylor ran by somebody. Christian was able to run by some people.

So it was some great things. Some other guys stepped up, Corey Aviles had his second goal of the year. He's got a lot of speed. Again, it was just one of those games that I give Salisbury a lot of credit. They make you play a little different style. They press out on you. They lock people off. It's not kind of our normal game where you can move the ball around and set some things up. They kind of force you to be a little more one-on-one, and we knew that coming into it.

Our guys stepped up, and Harry's a perfect guy to do that. Having a big goal early gave him some confidence, and he softened up a little bit so he can kind of hit some other areas as well.

Q. I have a feeling you're going to want to give a lot of credit to your players, but this is 22 years now building up to this moment. For you personally and maybe for this program as a whole, what is the meaning of today?
JOHN RABA: Again, the meaning of today, and we talked about this, remembering the past, remember what we gave. We talked about my first season here, we won one NESCAC game. And we talked about the losses we had, and lose 7-3, and Amherst 16-3 and Williams 18 -- and if someone asked me or told me you're going to win a National Championship, I would have said to them in what sport, because it's not going to be lacrosse the way it's going right now.

So in that moment, again, it took us a long time to kind of get the right guys we wanted, and it wasn't an easy road. We didn't take shortcuts academically. We did it the right way. All these kids are great student-athletes. They come here for a great education, and then the lacrosse piece, we want to make sure they understand like your education is coming first. When we practice every day, it's not going to cut into any academic time. It's happening later in the day at 4:30.

It's not the most optimal time, and as I get older, I'm tired and I'm starting to figure that out too. I wish it was earlier in the day, but that's the way it goes because it's the best for our student-athletes.

But in terms of the path we took for all our coaches, and we've got a long time searching Coach Parker who runs our D for 20 years. Coach McCarthy has been with me over 15 years. Lot of continuity on the staff. These guys are part-time guys. They're not full-time guys like a lot of other staffs have. But they're loyal guys and they work really hard like they are full-time guys.

So, again, the appreciation I have for them and we talked about that with the team, and the effort we make to give the best we can, and we just ask them to do the same for us, it's really special. I felt it today, this morning I was just feeling like what they've done all year has just been remarkable. We've been close. We've had some other great years, but we were never able to get over the hump.

We've been to a few Final Fours and we were very close a couple times. But to finally get to the championship was great. But we also told them it's still going to hurt as much if we lose the game. If it was a semi final game or any game, let's win it. Our guys did a great job of stepping up today and taking it.

So it was a really great dominant performance today.

Q. We talked earlier in the season about your defense, and it's actually been your offense that's helped carry you to this point. But it's the defense that came up big once again to deliver in the moment. What can you say about your style and the zone defense that you guys run?
JOHN RABA: Right. And Kyle's a great -- I appreciate it, because Kyle did a piece on us earlier about our backer zone defense. I give a lot of credit to Coach Kelly from New York Tech. I'm not the one who invented it. He invented it and won National Championships at Division II.

One thing I'll say is we've run this for a long time. So guys who have been through the program, when you hear everybody yelling Tech in the stands, that means they know our defense. That's the name of it.

You could tell we were all in sync today, and how difficult, if everyone's on the same page, how difficult it is to score goals. They might get a couple outside shots and might catch it once in a while inside, but today was the perfect example of when our defense is really flowing, it's tough to beat. We have a lot of faith in each other, and we know exactly where we need to be.

We couldn't hear anything. The coaches couldn't hear one word we were saying. It was 100% them with the right pressure and the right people, the right leverage on the right people on doing what we need to do.

I've had questions in the past. Can you win a National Championship with a zone defense? We've talked about that. Again, I know we've gone deep and won NESCAC championships and we've been in some big games, but we, you know, we didn't win it. So for the guys to have the faith in what we're doing system-wise, I feel great. We take pride in that.

Again, if teams are going to beat us, they're going to have to really work to beat us. But it's not the typical zone where people sit back like we are, as you could see, an aggressive defense. We play on people. There is pressure everywhere. So, again, I'm proud of the guys and the way they executed.

Again, when you get a senior group like you saw today who is really playing at a high level and moving their feet and the goalie is stepping up and making some good saves early, some good things can happen for them.

So, again, that piece, a defensive piece, we're so proud that they believe in our system, and we take pride in that system.

Q. What's it like looking behind you, and two-thirds of the stands are red, and every defensive stand the whole crowd was just kind of making noise and cheering on the defense there?
JOHN RABA: It was a tremendous feeling. What a turnout, so proud of the alums. That's the one benefit of coaching here for 22 years. You're going to have a big alumni group who are ready to come back. I wish we had another week, we'd probably double it, I think.

Again, I'm just so happy, and I can't wait to be with them. We'll be out there celebrating today. There are so many guys in the past. To get us to this moment, there are so many sacrifices, so many things, so many failures that have happened for us as a group, the heartbreakers. For them, this is kind of like the release. This is it. We'll be able to get over the hump.

So, again, to see the sea of red today, we had great administrative support. Our athletic director was fantastic. Our president was able to do a ceremony during the week. We had everyone working on this thing from the beginning of the week. As soon as we beat RIT, we had a full complement of athletic department people helping us get organized so I could focus on the important piece, coaching lacrosse. Because I think it's easy -- I've utilized Mike Daley as a real crutch to kind of talk about all the things and his experiences. I've got Andy Shay I'm really close with.

So there were a lot of great people I was able to reach to to get their visas well. But if you don't have that team behind you, it would be very difficult to get to this moment. Then obviously, it just takes a lot of effort. We had tremendous support and it paid off today. We were ready to go for Salisbury.

Q. Last week against RIT you had a pretty big comeback that you had to hold off in the last couple of minutes. Did having that in recent memory pay off when you had to kill off those last two minutes and a lot of the shots really started firing off, when they had been a lot more patient for most of the game?
JOHN RABA: Right. Certainly you need your goalie to step up and make some saves. You also need some defensive plays. Ben Shively made a tremendous play at the end. He picked a ball off when we needed it. Just gives us next possession to kind of slow it down. The momentum is starting to shift a little bit here. I give Ben a lot of credit.

It's one of the things we talked about with some of the adversity. We played Tufts in the middle of the year, and people don't know this, his father passed away the day before the Tufts game or two days before the Tufts game, and our entire team was down with Ben on Friday. We drove down to New York, came back, and got on the bus with no practice. We got on the bus and played Tufts the next day.

Again, there was no question that's what we needed to do as a team, as a program. So for him to make a big play at the end and some of our guys to make big stops, are you know, again, we've been there. We've been in those tight situations before. I think people who are following NESCAC, they know everything's like a one-goal differential between a lot of these games. So it's a comfort level.

Salisbury, we have a ton of respect for them. So we knew they were going to make a push there. I'm glad of the way we responded to kind of get some distance there in that third quarter and early on in the fourth.

Q. You mentioned a few thoughts that you shared with your players leading up to the game. What was going on in your mind last night and today? Nerves, excitement? Did you sleep well last night? Was there anything you did to try to calm the kids and calm yourself down?
JOHN RABA: You know, it was kind of a low-key night. My assistant coaches were phenomenal trying to get us organized with a good team meal, kind of keeping us busy. We watched a little bit of that game yesterday after we came back. We were up early yesterday at 5:45 because we had an early practice. Came back.

Again, we had the autograph session, a little lunch and watched the first half of that game. Came back, took a nap, ate dinner. Then my family started coming in last night. My son had a game last night, so actually at 10:30, quarter to 11:00 I'm running around with my mom trying to get her in the hotel room. We woke up our athletic director because they gave us the wrong room and all kinds of chaos was happening last night.

To be honest, it was a good distraction. It was keeping me busy, but nothing special. We tried to stay on our same routine. Again, I relied a lot on our coaches to help us with the organizational piece and everybody. Just from all the nuts and bolts to making it smooth and comfortable as us.

We've been road warriors this year. We've been on the road a lot. We're getting used to hotels and we're fine with it.

Just nothing crazy. Again, by the time I got home it was 11 o'clock, and just collapsed. Before you know it, the alarm clock was going off for breakfast this morning. So, it was just, again, kind of same as normal. Try to keep it as normal for the kids and take as much off their plate. Don't overdo it. Don't try to recreate what we're doing. All those things were really, really key for us to feel comfortable in this moment, you know.

So, again, a great email from Bill Belichick just talking about these types of -- this experience being in these big games, just some good pointers that we were on track with the same mentality. But, again, little things that I think really helped understanding where we were at, what we need to do and how to approach this thing.

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