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May 27, 2018

James Bassett

Mike Morgan

Hunter Schmell

Boston, Massachusetts

THE MODERATOR: We have Merrimack head coach Mike Morgan and student-athletes. Coach, an opening statement?

MIKE MORGAN: Yeah, it's certainly different than the last time I was in here. These guys from the second that Limestone game ended last year, I could see it in their eyes first day of September. They were coming back here to win it. You know, these two guys next to me, the rest of the seniors, the fifth-years, I said it in the locker room, they matched and exceeded, I think, the desire of the coaching staff, the alums, everybody who wanted it. These guys were going to carry us to a National Championship, and they did.

Coming out here against a great St. Leo's team, and Brad had a great season with those guys. I just felt like it's our time. Our guys played as well as you could play, and fought as hard as you could fight. I told them in the locker room, I couldn't imagine a group that I'd want to have a National Championship more than these guys.

Q. Hunter, you had a couple points today. It seemed like everyone except Mike had a couple points today. What was clicking so well on the offense, and what were you guys finding on their defense that you were able to exploit?
HUNTER SCHMELL: Yeah, a huge emphasis on the game plan was win in the middle of the field. They're a team that loves to play in transition. We think our transition game is pretty good for itself. If we could win in the middle of the field, win the face-off, and gain tempo through that portion of the field, then momentum just swings to us.

It's happened throughout the entire playoffs. It happened in the Tech game. It happened at the Seton hill game. We go on runs and win in the middle of the field. It was no different today.

James had a point today, I had a couple of points, and Jack-Henry in the middle of the field clearing the ball, Paul Spinney, Jake obviously relentless at the face-off, so that's a huge emphasis for us.

Q. For both of you guys, coming off last year, can you describe what was going through your heads the final seconds there as the clock ticked down.
JAMES BASSETT: Yeah, last year was obviously a big disappointment. We came so far in the season and ended up losing by two goals. So, this year, just coming out, we knew what we had to do. We had a game plan, and we stuck to it the entire game. We did it for four quarters. We played 60 minutes, full 60. The results were a lot different this time.

HUNTER SCHMELL: Yeah, I mean, walking off the field last year was probably the biggest disappointment that we could have had as a team. That senior group last year was so incredible. They had so much impact on what we did this year, that I think that goes under the radar and a lot of people don't pay attention to that.

I know personally, it's kind of corny, but my background on my phone has been the picture of Limestone with the trophy ever since that game ended. It's them holding the trophy up. So the whole goal is for me to look at that the entire year, and know that that needs to be us this year. I think the entire senior class and the fifth-years and everyone else underneath us bought into that. Just feels great, better than I could have imagined.

Q. For both of you guys, playing in it last year, first time ever, anything different this time around? Guys were used to the whole weekend, playing at Gillette as well?
JAMES BASSETT: Yeah, it was a lot different this year. We had the experience. We knew what the crowd was going to be like. We actually practiced with crowd noise on our last practice at home.

Just the whole process of this weekend, it's different when it's your first time, and it will be a little too much, overwhelming a little bit. But knowing that this time around you could be a little bit calmer and know what's coming towards you?

Q. Can you guys kind of speak to the work ethic that it takes to get to the championship weekend and get back and win it?
HUNTER SCHMELL: Yeah, it's relentless, and it's long practices, and it's grinding from 6 a.m. practices, 6 a.m. lifts, two hours a day, it's film, it's everything like that.

I think we got a decent taste of it last year, but when you leave the field without a trophy and your heads are down, you just realize how much harder you have to work this year. I think, like I said, the seniors and the fifth-years took their part, and the freshmen played like seniors the entire year.

I think when you have seniors do that and you have freshmen that play like they're 22-year-olds, it's pretty incredible and you can see the result out there?

Q. You guys jumped on them 6-0 quick. Still this is a team that can score a lot. What was the mindset defensively? Because you guys didn't have to work a lot of minutes, but you had to work important minutes. How were you able to keep that edge and not let them back in?
JAMES BASSETT: Yeah, going into it we knew they were a pretty good offense and they had a lot of guys that could finish inside. We've just got to stay focused and stay on the pedal the entire game. Like I said before, we played a full 60 today, and I think that's really showed. Every single time we got a goal, we refocused and knew that they had to come down, and we'd get another stop of the offense and get them the ball.

Q. Hunter, you talked about some of the seniors from last year, and I saw a couple of them at least on the field after the game, Tom and Max. What did it mean for you guys to see them enjoy this moment at the same time? Also, was there anything that they had talked to you guys about, either coming into this weekend or any point in the season?
HUNTER SCHMELL: Yeah, a few group texts from all of them, but Tim, Max, Tommy are the captains from last year, and then Danny and Brennan, and -- who else -- that's about it. I'm sorry for that. But, yeah, they laid the foundation for us, and they took us all the way here last year, and they kind of drove the ship and handed it down to us.

Their inspiration to us was just work hard and be relentless. Don't let this slip away. Don't regret when you leave the field that you didn't work as hard as you possibly could. Not that we didn't last year, but we just knew that this year's work ethic had to take it to another level, through the roof.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for coach.

Q. Coach, obviously being an alumnus of Merrimack and being there for over ten years, it means a lot to you. But what does it mean to the school to win this?
MIKE MORGAN: Oh, Geez that's a great question. We've been trending so upward, and I believe all of our sports, ours in the last year has been, obviously, the one that's been focused on in national contention. I think it shows in our recruiting with kids all over the country.

Jack's from Colorado, Jack-Henry's from Virginia, all these guys. We get the best local kids. I think what it does to the school, it showcases a great institution academically, and a great campus. If we could be an avenue of our school, and people know Merrimack College because of the lacrosse program, I've got no problem with that. It helps us in recruiting, helps the school, and I think our upward ascent has been at the same time Merrimack has grown and so has the college. Academics have gone up.

It's good. It's great for everybody. I'm sure the alumni people and admissions, I'm sure it's good for everyone.

Q. Everyone was talking coming in about the team coming back. But going forward your entire tack line is back, your goalie is back. Key pieces on the wings are back. What comes next?
MIKE MORGAN: Take a deep breath for a couple weeks until recruiting starts. Then realistically, yeah. The biggest thing we've always try to restock with talent and have those guys contend with each other on a daily basis in practice. I think we've done a good job with that with our staff. Those three guys are incredible, Chris and Brian and Kyle, we wouldn't be here without those guys. Our evaluation of the kids that fit our program well is what's kind of made us, I think, stay consistent from year to year.

Next year, yeah, we lose those two guys on defense, and hopefully the recruiting has gone. The guys that have been sitting behind can come in and inject themselves the same way Sean, and CT, and Pete did, but, yeah, it's nice to know you have 200 something points coming back at attack as a sophomore and two freshmen. It's a good problem to have and we'll piece everything around them.

Q. Your team winning 24-6, held by 7, I think, and 23-6 today. How were the guys able to reach that next level and make it look so easy when the games mattered the most?
MIKE MORGAN: Yeah, I've never seen anything like that. Those are three good teams that these guys just dominated. I thought it was their mindset, and you heard Hunter use the term a lot, relentless. That's one thing we talked about, like we're going to be on you from the first whistle to the last. They had that mentality. I think if you can get to the next level, whether it's playoffs or whatever, you can have that mentality, you put something great together if you have a great squad.

The biggest thing we'll miss going into next year will be there will be new leadership shoes, you have those two leaving, obviously, Jack and Coburn and Blake. We'll lose some key pieces, but you also lose that leadership that put this thing in motion, because I've never seen three dominating performances in a row like that. I think they were just so ready for every opponent.

We put three great ones together. They're three great teams, well-coached teams. I think it was our year. Like Hunter said, we were just not going to have it any other way.

Q. It's a National Championship game, so I'm sure the focus is not an issue. But when you get in halftime and off a little bit and works even more, you're up by 13, 14 goals. Is it hard to manage the emotion of the moment and keep guys in check, like, hey, there's still 25 minutes of this game left? Or did you feel like what the seniors had, it wasn't that much of an issue?
MIKE MORGAN: It's the latter. We went into that locker room, and you get 15 minutes in the NCAA tournament. So there's definitely more time than you need. So we stood out there as a staff and talked about that. First thing we said was we wouldn't be here and have a 13-goal lead if we had guys who would change the way they were playing because they have a lead. They were going to stay on it.

So we talked about it. Third quarter, we're going to empty the tank and throw everything we have at them. Then the fourth quarter, if we get there and we still have this lead, we're in good shape to win this thing.

I knew coming out, Leo's got the second goal, we got the first one. I knew they were going to stay on until the end of the game, because that's their identity. They've been that all year. They don't take plays off, they don't take games off. That's all that leadership from those guys has trickled down.

Like Hunter said, those freshmen, you look at them today, and you don't come into a National Championship game and put up nine points or eight points like they did.

It's a residual fact when you have great leadership, I believe. I think those young guys fed off it. They were focused in. We got to the locker room and they were ready to go. I was concerned Leo could make a come back, but I wasn't concerned our guys were going to give it to them.

Q. This was asked to Brad during their press conference. Seeing a team from Florida here in the championship game, what's that say for the sport of lacrosse and the growth of the sport overall?
MIKE MORGAN: Yeah, it's great. You look around with a team like Limestone not even making the tournament this year, and you have a great squad in Belmont Abbey that probably should have gotten in. We have a couple teams that are non-traditional, like Howard Mesa, Seton Hill, and you look at Lenoir-Rhyne. So I think it's great for the sport.

So I think at the end of the day you look around, and it's good for everybody. You see growth in those areas, which means more kids are playing, which means lacrosse is more in a national spotlight.

Thens us too. Obviously, playing a team from Florida, a lot of those kids are watching St. Leo's, and hopefully get to see how good we are as well, and start to look. If they're looking at Massachusetts, look at our school. It's great for the sport. We try as coaches to do our best for that. Make sure we do our best to look out for the big picture.

Q. I know it's still pretty new, so maybe this hasn't happened yet. But have you had that moment where you kind of just have been able to take it in, reflect, and be like, okay, this is where this program was X-amount of years ago, and here we are now? Have you had that moment yet or is it still too new?
MIKE MORGAN: I met with our old coach from 2000. We were at dinner the other night, and I was just trying to get away from everybody a little bit. He kind of said something that the guys ran with. He just said, hey, it's been a long journey. We've all done our part. He said, go out there -- and I'll keep it PC for you guys -- and he said, "Go out there and dunk this S." It's a great analogy. We've just got to emphatically win this thing and put the journey to bed.

I felt like the alums that have come even before me as a player, it's been a long road, and I think Coach Brazill who has been with me for, God, eight or nine years now, and he was alum as well. I looked at him with 3:00 minutes left, and it was like we're going to be national champions. It didn't hit me. Even when we're up to 13 with 8 minutes left, like we're still coaching. We're still coaching.

Then it got to the point where I thought it was in hand, and then you see your family come on the field. It's overwhelming. It's a weird group our guys have that they just -- they want it as bad for the alums and families as they do for themselves. That tells you they respect the tradition that is our program. It's been great. We've had some really good teams here and there. This one just solidified themselves as really something special.

Q. At the beginning of the season you guys scrimmaged Yale, and showed out pretty well against them. I think it was like 12-8?
MIKE MORGAN: It was 13-8, I believe.

Q. 13-8. Did you talk to Coach Shay with Yale going to the championship tomorrow against Duke? Did you talk to him or any of the other coaches you worked with?
MIKE MORGAN: Yeah, I was texting Andy last night and I congratulated him. He texted back and said take care of business tomorrow. We both kind of knew if we could find a way to win, and all of a sudden Yale finds a way to win, that's three New England National Championships.

So, yeah, I talked to Ryan as well. He sent me good luck today. We talked a little bit, and he helped us with our game plan for Seton Hill. We had some questions about how they do some things.

Coach Raba, I haven't seen him yet, I'll text him when I get out of here. But we had a great relationship for a while. We used to scrimmage those guys too. It's good to see him win. A guy that works really hard. That program's been on a steady incline. But, yeah, I'm sure I'll catch up on my text messages around 2:00 tonight, maybe. But those are guys that I'll make sure I reach out to, and I'll be excited to see. Hopefully Andy can put one together against those guys tomorrow. They're a monster.

We talked about it in your article. We played Yale for four quarters with our starters against each other, and you lose 13-8, and this team's maybe best team in the country in D-I, we kind of knew then we were something special. Then these guys' work ethic went through the roof. You combine that with some good talent and good players, and we kind of are where we are today.

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