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May 27, 2019

Michael Kraus

Matt Moore

Alex Rode

Lars Tiffany

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Virginia - 13, Yale - 9

THE MODERATOR: Now we are joined by Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany, student-athletes, Matt Moore, Michael Kraus and Alex Rode. As before, we will have an opening statement by Coach Tiffany, followed by questions for the student-athletes and then questions for Coach. Coach Tiffany.

LARS TIFFANY: First of all, I'm very grateful to Dom Starsia, the men that I have coached in my first three years for the most part were recruited by Dom. The reason I'm a coach is because of Dom Starsia, having played for him at Brown University in the late '80s. When you go to Brown University, you graduate not thinking the world needs another lacrosse coach. Most of my fellow alums, we go off and try to save the world, whether it's Peace Corp, Americorps, nonprofits, other focused organizations.

I was a teacher for four years, but it was always in the back of my mind the impact that Dom Starsia made on me and many of my teammates at Brown: Rich Chewy, Tom Dwyer. What he did is he showed us that a coach can make a profound impact on being a better man. So to fast forward, as I decide all right I'm going to give this profession a chance, I would follow him. I would listen to him. He's been my mentor throughout this. So to follow him in his position and see him as a head coach University of Virginia men's lacrosse was daunting because of how I credible I think of Dom as a man, as a coach.

Today as we sit here, national champions, I continue to owe so much to him because I'm coaching for the most part men he recruited, and Dom knows how to find talent but he also knows how to find people with the right hearts and people who are going to do the right things, and we've made a lot of good decisions here in year three off the field and certainly on the field, as you saw today. I'm humbled and incredibly grateful for Dom Starsia in my life.

I'm also grateful for having a father and mother who bought a ranch in LaFayette, New York, in Upstate New York. The LaFayette people and the Onondaga people of the Iroquois attend the same school. So I was fortunate to grow up in a setting where lacrosse is very important, and more than just a sport to the Onondaga people. Their cultural values, family values, come through the sport with Onondaga people. How fortunate I am in third and fourth grade as I start becoming aware of more meaning than just the sports themselves of this one sport played at LaFayette that's different. We played baseball, basketball, football, there was something really, really spiritual and different as we got into the middle school and high school level, so very, very fortunate there.

Let's go to the game now. Fantastic, fantastic performance by Alex Rode. Early on Yale found some openings, and our defense was still getting settled in, trying to figure out who Yale is. With one day to prepare for a team and not a lot of film to watch, it's a difficult scout for both teams. Alex made big saves early, when we made mistakes, when there were openings. That allowed our defense to grow more comfortable. Logan Greco, Cade Saustad, Kyle Kology, what they did in the close defense and the decision making as the game rolled on, as we attacked, some of the roll backs, when Yale would roll back and we got to put the ball on the ground, the defense grew more and more comfortable being the aggressor -- I love that song (Laughter.)

We talked to our men about, this is what we prepare for. In our training, we lift heavy on Sundays. It's the college football model, and the pro model with Mondays training hard, and lately we've been practicing on Mondays, as well, and taking Tuesday off to get ready for this moment, and you could see that training, that difference. Brandon Hummer, our strength and conditioning coach, you saw him make an impact today as we had better legs. We were fresher today, and it made a big difference, so we could be the aggressor on the defensive end of the field.

Offensively, Shawn Kirwan called a great game, but obviously it's the men and some of them next to me who executed it. Yale was making adjustments; Shawn was ready to make adjustments to counter that. It was a heck of a chess match going on out there, and our men executed it very well.

We played smart in terms of posing the ball. When we got here to Virginia three years ago we were playing at a phrenetic fast pace, and while it was fun it wasn't successful. We were able to manage the shot clock well throughout the season and the pinnacle of it is how we did it today.

We're not usually winning -- as most of you know, we're more comfortable losing at halftime, not that we want to but we're more comfortable there. So we talked about it as a staff, what do we do? We don't want to stall, you can't do that in the shot clock era, but the men made us look smart. They understood shot clock awareness, Matt Moore and Michael Kraus, especially; Dox Aitken and Ryan Conrad, especially.

Loose balls flying around out there, TD Ierlan, one of the best face-off men in the country, he certainly earned his ground balls, but I just felt like the UVA man was going to be courageous and take the check and take the slash and make the great play. So I'm grateful to have these men.

Q. Matt, could you just talk about your performance. You set a school record in winning here really in your bank yard at Lincoln Financial Field.
MATT MOORE: Coach Kirwan does a great job of -- we had one or two days to prepare for Yale, and he called us in for a meeting right away. He had watched the film, the whole coaching staff had, and he does a great job of simple game plans, and our game plan today was to possess the ball, because they were so strong in the face-off part.

I feel like we did a good job possessing, and I feel like that's a big part of why we won the game, and especially those ground balls, those 50/50 ground balls, I feel like we wanted it more today. I feel like that's the main reason why we won the game.

Q. (No microphone.)
MATT BRANDAU: It's been a dream of mine for a while now. I came to a bunch of Eagles games. I've dreamed of this since I was a kid, and I can't believe it, it's just awesome, being here with my teammates and celebrating.

Q. Michael, the difference between having a lead or a significant lead in the third and fourth quarter versus having that mind-set of coming back, how difficult was it to balance the idea of you want to stay aggressive and score goals but also make sure you're getting the best shot and not giving them a chance right back?
MICHAEL KRAUS: Honestly I think that's something that teams struggle with all the time, but Coach Kirwan did a good job of whenever we come into a huddle, timeout, end of quarter, whatever it may be, we're always just harping on that next goal. I can remember him saying, get that second one. We score that, we come back to the huddle, get that third one, get that fourth one, so it was adding up.

So we were never thinking about we got five minutes left, we gotta keep the ball. It was about that next play, that next possession, and if you have that mind-set it's going to be able to tick away at the clock, and we were able to do that keep the ball on our end, give our "D" some rest, allow them to be ready when they have the ball, and you saw that he were it all over the Yale offensive men, always in their hands. They weren't able to get a free pass; they were always getting checked.

So it a big part of that was us possessing and taking advantage of those opportunities when they came.

Q. Alex, what were you seeing in front of you in terms of the defense and managing a team that can score in bunches and entered the weekend as the second highest scoring team nationally?
ALEX RODE: Yale is a very good offense. I thought the whole defense just played amazing. They were flying around, D middies and the close defense, just very fortunate to be able to play with that group of guys.

Q. Alex, can you talk a little bit about just about being in sync with the defense today and sort of what you guys -- that communication and things like that?
ALEX RODE: It's just a great group of guys and they played so well, and they were just flying all over, and that was a very good offense. It was just a treat to be able to be with them.

Q. Michael, Coach Tiffany mentioned the transition in coaches. I assume you were one of the guys who was recruited by Coach Starsia. How important was it to have a good transition of coaches and how would you describe it?
MICHAEL KRAUS: Yeah, it's been almost a flawless transition for Coach Tiffany and his other assistants to be able to come in here in year three, have a championship is unreal. It's a testament to them buying into us, not just taking this first three years to settle in. They attacked it from the start. They gave us free reign the first year. Second year we started to settle down a little bit, and this year you can see how much we've matured, and that's all a testament to them, what they have instilled in us, the confidence, mentality, it's been a big change from my first year to now.

You can just see the heart, the grittiness and toughness that we were playing with today out on that field. It just felt like we wanted it so bad, and every ground ball, whatever it may be, we were able to get it, second chances we were picking them up, moving them up into the offensive end. So the transition has been unreal. Especially the coaches buying into us and us buying into their schemes.

Q. Matt, when we talked the other day you mentioned that the scoring record wasn't the most important thing for you but to get it today on this stage and have a national championship on top of that, what's that mean to you?
MATT MOORE: National championship over everything. This is an amazing experience. We really came out today, and I feel like we played all four quarters, and that's something we really struggled with in the playoffs.

I feel like our final game, us executing our game plan and just putting in a full four quarters and just playing as a team and our defense flying around getting ground balls, it's just a perfect ending to a great story.

Q. Alex, Coach mentioned this entire weekend the goalie competition between yourself, Patrick Burkinshaw and Griffin Thompson who kind of had a great week last week. Could you just describe your relationship between those goalies and the level of competition you have in practice and how it's made you a better player?
ALEX RODE: Griff Thompson, Will Hudson and Patrick Burkinshaw are like three of my best friends on the team. It's a community, and it's just amazing to get to hang out with them every day.

Q. Obviously Ierlan won most of the draws, but when Petey did win the draws, what does it mean to you when you see him run down there and score the two goals off the draws?
LARS TIFFANY: It's so dramatic because when you go against a TD Ierlan team, you know you're up against it in terms of winning possessions.

So you're assuming you're going to be playing a lot of defense but to actually score against them is such a huge emotional boost. When we recruited Petey, we saw him not allowed to leave the field at Rocky Point high school, so he was a face-off guy who had to play offense, so he had offensive skills, so we were excited about bringing him to Charlottesville and fortunately he said yes, because he can create offense.

We're going to expand his role over the next three years, and we're going to and keep him on the field longer, if he has the opposing offensive face-off man trapped down there. We know he can score that goal; we just didn't know he would be able to earn as many possessions as he did. There weren't too many but to do it against TD Ierlan was a big deal for us.

Q. Coach, for a defense that had struggles early, obviously going from the Loyola game to open the season to holding Yale to just 9 today in the national championship game, and to be so dominant, what has been the biggest key for the defense and what have you liked out of their growth over the course of the season?
LARS TIFFANY: We've grown cerebrally. The first year together, 2017 spring, we were doing our meetings in the bunker. The bunker is no longer around, because U-Haul went down Saturday at 10 a.m. We were sorta watching on our way here for our semifinal against Duke to see, all right it's gone.

But we would meet in there, and that's where we planted seeds. It was a struggle to understand different slide packages and the communication. Year two, we saw some growth there, but there wasn't enough consistency. What I have enjoyed year three, when our defense gets together and we talk for the 20, 25-minute meetings there is feedback, back and forth, Coach, why don't we do this.

Sometimes they have watched their own film coming to the meetings with ideas and relating it to other games. There is a system that we can make fine tweaks to and they're a part of it. So they have ownership of it and that engagement, that's what I have really enjoyed.

I can remember telling them about halfway through the season, the growth is there cerebrally, it's be not showing up on the scoreboard, we're giving up too many goals but we're right there. Interestingly enough, we gave up 12 goals in the last two playoff games, and that's usually too many but in this day and age where you can give up 15 and still win, we saw progress there.

I think I've really enjoyed being around a group of men, this defensive group, and the two that are most cerebral are Logan Greco and John Fox and Kyle Kology. He's very good at this, too. Having guys who really care about the schemes and think about it and come to the meetings with ideas -- so we were coming up with a better plan because it's a democracy, really, it's not just one person. So they're willing to speak truth to power, in my position, and it's made us all better as we have grown and learned from each other. I enjoyed that question because that's been dramatically different than our first year.

Q. You haven't shied away from talking about Dom. Was he here? Have you talked to him?
LARS TIFFANY: He was not here, but communicated with him yesterday morning. Said, all right, Dom --

Q. (No microphone.)
LARS TIFFANY: He and I texted. It was a form of communication, maybe the worst form of human communication. I reached out to him from the locker room before the game and then thanked him for all these wonderful men that I get to coach. I talked to him yesterday morning. We talked at 7 a.m. I said, Dom, what is Sunday -- I've never been here on a Sunday what should we do?

Dom had wonderful words of wisdom. One of them was: You guys don't need to practice today. You don't need to go out there. You may think you need to go out there, and you can go out there and make yourself feel better, but your men don't need to go out there. It was great words of advise and tempering how much we practiced over at Drexel and I've leaned on him for so much, and so much advise, and for him to continue to provide that for me, despite me sitting in his old seat, it's just a testament to -- he's above the fray, he's a great man, and that's why he continued to be my role model and mentor.

Q. Lars, when you take over a program that has not only won but won national championships, is there self-imposed pressure or a heightened sense of urgency to get the program back to this level as quickly as possible?
LARS TIFFANY: Yeah, if you sit in my desk, physically sit at my desk, there is five championship trophies on top of it, hanging over me. You feel that. At the University of Virginia the support there from the athletic department, starting from the Athletic Director Carla Williams and my sports supervisor Jane Miller, and then you get all the different branches, sports medicine, sports psychology, the athletic training room, nutrition, the media, it's first rate. It's first class.

So we saw Tony Bennett do it this year. You're provided what you need to win. Achieving this is a realistic objective. It's not a fantasy. So I'm just very fortunate to be in a position in an athletic department that really cares about its athletic teams. Also I'm surrounded by great coaches. It's one of the reasons I left Brown, a school I was passionate about, and I love that place, I love those men and I love the alums. But there was an opportunity to grow personally as well. To be surrounded by coaches like Bronco Mendenhall and Tony Bennett and the soccer coaches, it's growth, you know, and hopefully we all can have an open mind-set in our growth mind-set as Karol Durek would say.

Q. Lars, you've been bringing that stick around with you all season. On a day like today where do your thoughts for your father go and after a day like today do you retire it, put it up with the trophy? Where does that mentality fall with the stick?
LARS TIFFANY: I missed the second part.

Q. Where are you going to do with the stick after today?
LARS TIFFANY: We're going to keep playing with it. When Joe Solomon one of my friends from LaFayette that I grew up with, when he handed me that stick, like February 3rd at my father's funeral service, he said I have a gift from your father. Meanwhile my father had just passed away, but he had been working on getting that stick from Alfie Jacques, the Onondaga stick maker. And as he handed it to me, some of my family members said, oh we've got to put that on the wall, put it in a case, and Joe said, no, no, no, this stick is meant to be played with.

And it was a wonderful reminder for me and my family, oh yeah. So as we brought it back to Charlottesville we incorporated it into the team fold. We practice with it, I run around with it. Every game the award winner of who played the toughest defense, maybe a big, physical play, they get the stick next to their locker. It will continue to be part of the Virginia lacrosse program, and I'm just really, really fortunate that -- the day I told the team that my father passed away, every one of them hugged me. Everyone came up and embraced me, and again it's important for me as we develop men and develop leaders here at Virginia, part of that is can we grow emotionally, can men share emotions with other men?

We're not built that way. It's not natural for us. Some, yes, and the expression of love and saying it and doing it is part of that cultural development that I've been really fortunate to witness.

Q. Coach, very early on in this game it was clear that it was going to be physical to put a singular word to it. What did you see with that grit and intangibles that not don't show up in a box score but seemed to tilt the game in your team's direction today.
LARS TIFFANY: Sure, I'm appreciative that the officials allowed it to be an aggressive game and they allowed big, physical contact to happen.

Our men are -- if they're allowed to do it, they're going to -- if they get a chance to put a body on the ground, they're going to do it. We saw some big hits there and Yale, too, a big, physical, strong team, we felt their body contact as well.

We appreciate a game where there are fewer flags thrown. You could probably see me on the sidelines asking for a few calls, but as I sit back and watched the game and now assess it from -- when it's over, I thought the officiating -- they did a really nice job, and I enjoyed the fact that the game was allowed to flow, and you could be physical.

Again, this game was given to us by Native Americans. The creator -- they played to appease the creator, but they played it to train their young men to be grown men, to be warriors in certain tribes, and it's meant to be played physically and aggressively. So I appreciated that we were allowed to play the game today the way it's meant to be played.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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