Wednesday May 23, 2012DIWLAX Head Coaches Media Teleconference Transcript
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to Division I Women’s Lacrosse Media teleconference. During today’s conference all participants will be in a listen-only mode. We will conduct a question and answer session. Instructions will be given at that time. (Operator instructions.) As a reminder today’s conference is being recorded.
I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Rick Nixon. Please go ahead.
R. Nixon Thanks, Shannon, and good afternoon everyone. As Shannon mentioned, I’m Rick Nixon, Associate Director with the NCAA, and I’ll be your moderator for today’s teleconference. First I’d like to congratulate the coaches, the student athletes, support staffs of the teams participating in this week’s NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse championship as Florida, Maryland, Northwestern and Syracuse have all had great seasons to advance to the championship round of play.
Note that the 2012 Championship will be played at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on the campus of Stony Brook University on May 25th and 27th. There will be two national semi-final games this Friday, May 25th with number one seed Florida playing number four seed Syracuse at 5:30 p.m., followed by number two Northwestern playing number three Maryland at 8:00 p.m. with both games on ESPN3. The national championship will be decided on Sunday, May 27th at 8 p.m. with the game on ESPNU and ESPN3.
Today’s teleconference we’ll open up with a few remarks from NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Committee Chair Candice Lee, who is Senior Associate Athletic Director at Vanderbilt University, and then we’ll follow that with opening statements from each of our head coaches of our teams participating in this year’s national championship. At that point we’ll open the floor for questions from the media directed to our head coaches, and we’ll get to some of the details on that with Shannon here in just a moment.
But with that I’d like to invite in Candice Lee for a few opening remarks.
C. Lee Okay, thank you, Rick. I’d just like to briefly say that on behalf of the Division I Women’s Lacrosse Committee, we are so excited for this championship. It is always an outstanding just opportunity to watch great women’s lacrosse. The young women and their coaches are outstanding. We’re excited to go back to Stony Brook. They did a fantastic job last year, and I would just say on behalf of our committee, we’re really proud to be able to service the sport in this way. We are excited for the weekend, so congratulations to the four institutions and we look forward to a great championship.
R. Nixon Thank you, Candice. With that, we’ll go to each of our head coaches, ask for some opening remarks, and then we’ll go to our question and answer session. We’ll start out first with the remarks from Florida Head Coach, Amanda O’Leary.
A. O’Leary Yes, it’s a tremendous honor for our program to be part of the final four. Certainly congratulations to Syracuse, Northwestern and Maryland for also advancing and certainly wish them the best of luck this weekend.
We’re excited to have the opportunity to meet Syracuse on Friday evening. Obviously they’re an extremely athletic and incredibly skilled team and their successful season certainly speaks for itself. With such an excellent coaching staff and players, and we’re just thrilled with the opportunity to play Syracuse again.
While we’re proud of how far we’ve come, we know that there’s still work to be done. Since the beginning of our program, we’ve worked towards the goal of making the final four and here we are. That wouldn’t be possible, however, without the support our administration, specifically our athletic director, Jeremy Foley, our support staff and the entire Gator Nation. Our players have worked hard as well as the other student athletes participating this weekend. We just look forward to competing against an exceptional Syracuse team.
R. Nixon Thanks, Coach O’Leary, much appreciated. We’ll get to some questions in just a moment. With that, I’d like to move on to Maryland Head Coach Cathy Reese for some opening remarks.
C. Reese Sure, well, thank you. Obviously we’re thrilled to be here, too, and really looking forward to having a great weekend and it being an exciting weekend for lacrosse in general. It’s for us this has been a really fun season. We were a young team, four freshman starters. It’s been a growing season for us. We’ve come a long way from we started and are again honored to be in this position. Congratulations to all the other final four teams, as well. I think we were fortunate to be in the final four last season, and Stony Brook did do a tremendous job hosting this championship. We’re looking forward to being up there and competing again on Friday.
R. Nixon Thank you, Cathy, and next we’ll have Northwestern Head Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller.
K. Hiller Yes, hello, how are you guys? We could not be more excited to have the opportunity to compete in the final four. We’ve had that opportunity for the past, this will be our eighth straight and it never gets old. The competition is incredible. Congratulations to Maryland, Syracuse and Florida to making it to this point.
I think this opportunity is so special. There’s so much effort that goes into it from the players to administrators, coaching staff, and we really appreciate everything that Stony Brook and the NCAA Committee and everyone is doing to make this a special opportunity for each student athlete. We just really feel blessed to have this opportunity.
R. Nixon Thanks, Kelly. Finally, let’s move to Syracuse Head Coach Gary Gait.
G. Gait Yes, first of all, I’d like to congratulate the other teams, Maryland, Northwestern and Florida. Certainly to be in that group and with that class of coaches and the talented teams that they have, we’re pretty excited about the opportunity. I know we’re facing Florida first, who has done an incredible job with all things, a new program. I think they’re the model that all universities that add lacrosse should really look towards, the way they developed it and things they’ve done, it really what women’s lacrosse needs. I recognize that and I look forward to competing against them.
I’d like to thank our university, our chancellor Nancy Cantor, AD Dr. Gross, who truly want to have success in women’s athletics and the Olympic sports, and I think it’s nice to have the support and the environment where we count and we matter and it isn’t just about big time football and basketball. So I recognize that and thank them for that. Our team is excited to play on Friday.
R. Nixon Thanks, Gary, and thanks to each of our coaches for the opening remarks. At this time we’d like to open it up for questions from the media. Our operator Shannon will come back on to give some quick details about how to get into queue to ask your questions.
I’d just like to remind the media, make sure you identify which of the head coaches that you’d like to answer your question when doing so. Sometimes it could be all four coaches, but if it is a specific coach that you’d like the question answered from, please make that known as well. So I’ll turn it back over to Shannon for some details.
Moderator (Operator instructions.) Our first question is from the line of Phillip Hersh with the Chicago Tribune. Please go ahead with your question.
P. Hersh Yes, I have two questions, one for Cathy Reese and one for Candice. Cathy, can you just talk a little bit about Taylor Thornton and her ability as a two-way player? Can you remember somebody who essentially started as a defensive player turning into that much of a double threat?
C. Reese She’s an incredible player. Obviously we don’t face Northwestern in the regular season, but have been able to watch her play throughout the season occasionally. She’s someone that’s super-fun to watch. Kelly has done a great job with players playing defense and moving to the mid-field and just contributing on both ends of the field there. She’s just an outstanding athlete, and I think that’s really what sets her apart from everybody else is she’s a true competitor, gets it done on both ends of the field and is obviously somebody that make a huge difference in a game.
P. Hersh This is for Candice, are you still on the phone?
C. Lee Yes.
P. Hersh Last year there wound up being a bit of a controversy about a conflict of interest involving one official, it was actually a couple of years ago. I wonder if efforts have been over the time to avoid anything like that occurring again.
C. Lee What I will say is that we do have some very rigid conflict of interest policies, and when there are things that come up, it’s certainly the responsibility of our committee to review the policies and adjust accordingly. I would say that I’ve been on the committee for this is my fourth year and each year I think we’ve taken some great strides in those areas. I do not think that we’ll have those issues again, but I think they were handled appropriately.
P. Hersh Thank you.
Moderator Our next question comes from the line of James Crepea with Newsday. Please go ahead with your question.
J. Crepea My question is for Coach O’Leary. Coach, going back almost a year ago, where were you when you heard that Shannon Gilroy was hurt at the New York State championship game, and how did you find out that it was an ACL injury?
A. O’Leary I actually was sitting at the All American banquet and I received a text message that she had injured her knee from somebody who was in the stands, actually.
J. Crepea What did you think when you had heard that news and then later found out it was an ACL tear?
A. O’Leary Well, I was saddened for Shannon, she obviously had worked so hard. She had that U19 opportunity in front of her as well and was just sort of really just sad for her in the sense of not being able to participate in that U19, but also the fact that I knew she was going to work hard and she was going to rehab back. So we just were really fortunate to be able to get her back this season.
J. Crepea So often ACL injuries in all sports are a year-long process. Did you think she’d be able to play this season, or did you feel she was probably going to be a red shirt?
A. O’Leary No, anybody that knows Shannon knows what an incredible work ethic she has. She doesn’t like to hear the word no, so we knew just when she came in here with the incredible support staff that we have medically that we knew that we were going to try everything we could to get her back; and with her hard work and our doctors and our physical therapists and our trainers, we were able to achieve that.
J. Crepea Lastly, coach, what has she meant to your team already having such an impact, obviously it draws, but also top scorer for you along with Nora’s two top freshmen for you doing very well?
A. O’Leary She’s an incredible piece to the puzzle. Without her, I don’t think we would be able to achieve the successes that we’ve had. She’s an integral part of our draw on the offensive end through the mid-field, so she plays a huge part in that game.
J. Crepea Thank you very much, coach.
A. O’Leary Thank you.
Moderator Our next question is from the line of Danielle Bernstein with Inside Lacrosse. Please go ahead with your question.
D. Bernstein Thanks, hello, Mandy, this question is for you. Just with being in the third year of program and having never been to this stage, getting to the final four, how do you prepare the team for this kind of a situation with just the magnitude of the game, the emotions that can come into play and that sort of a thing?
M. O’Leary I think our team, they’re very, very excited obviously for the opportunity to get to Stony Brook. It’s been a goal of ours since the inception of the program. Now that it finally came to fruition, I think our team is excited. I think that’s a good thing. I think our coaching staff, Caitlyn and Erica have been there before as players. So they sort of have helped the team along in keeping them grounded and focused and that’s basically what we’re working on.
D. Bernstein Thank you.
Moderator The next question is from the line of Mike Dirocco with ESPN.com. Please go ahead with your question.
M. Dirocco Coach O’Leary, is there any way really to, or have you had the chance to pause and step back and say just three short years and here we are and sort of the meteoric rise of the program from really nothing?
A. O’Leary Yes, I think we think about it a lot, and we are truly blessed to have such support and to have the student athletes that can go out and execute game plans and incredible coaching staff with Caitlyn and Erica. It is, at times, very surreal and we look back and say this is wonderful and I think we reflect upon that. But we still have, as I said, we still have work some work to do. It’s fantastic making it to this point, but no, we certainly would like to make it further, so that’s what we are focusing on.
M. Dirocco Was the hardest part convincing the kids to take a chance and to be part of the foundation, because generally when you’re building a program, the general thought in any sport is that it’s going to be rough for a while?
A. O’Leary Yes, absolutely, we had nothing to show them. They would come on the recruiting visits and we had no stadium. We had no tradition. We had nothing to show them and so these young women were trailblazers. They basically bought into something that’s a dream, and they truly went away to college and with that dream of accomplishing the goals. I think our athletic director Jeremy Foley laid in front of them his goals and his hopes and they believed in that. I think with all their hard work, like I said, they’ve been able to achieve those goals.
M. Dirocco I have another question for any of the other coaches who feel they can chime in here, but what is the level of amazement on how fast Florida has risen from nothing to among the elite programs in the country? Can you put into perspective for you, just any of you, what the level of amazement is in that accomplishment?
K. Hiller This is Northwestern. I can just say Mandy has just done a fantastic job. Their program top to bottom is just an amazing program. We’re really lucky to have them in our conference and be able to compete against them once a year and sometimes more. So I just have all the admiration for what she has done and just knowing what it’s like to start a new program. She’s really just been able to accomplish an amazing thing, and their players have just done a great job at being confident and in very short time period.
Moderator The next question will be from the line of Bruce Posner with ESPN Radio Baltimore. Please go ahead with your question.
B. Posner My question is for Kelly and for Cathy. The past couple of years Maryland and Northwestern have had two just incredible battles, both times for the national championship. How would each of you assess the other team that you’re playing and maybe what’s changed with the other team this year?
K. Hiller This is Kelly. I think that Maryland is just a fantastic team top to bottom. If you look at their roster, there’s … six. Every single player on their team is a threat offensively and they play great team lacrosse offensively and defensively. I think that just being in the situation where we lost to them in 2010, you have that incredible motivation to get back to that point and have the opportunity to compete for another championship.
I think that their motivation you can see it on the field. They have just played unbelievably throughout the season and definitely down the stretch just to see players like Alex Aust come in and just how much she’s improved is a real testament to their coaching staff and how they really develop players. We’re expecting an incredible Maryland team on Friday night. It’s going to be an exciting game.
C. Reese Hello, Bruce, this is Cathy. You could just take Kelly’s words and put them for me, too, about Northwestern. It’s one of those games that I know for our athletes being that we have competed for the national championship for the past couple of years with them, it’s a game that I think both teams will get super-excited for because we don’t play in the regular season. We’re not in the same conference. We don’t see each other really a lot, so it gets to this point and now our focus is changing where we can learn more about Northwestern.
We’ve sat here for years and we talk about Mandy building a program and Kelly did the same thing. It’s super-successfully, they’ve just had a tremendous success with what she’s done, too, and that’s been really neat to watch and neat for the sport and for both of them to have done that with their programs. Now Kelly is, we’re playing again in the final four. I think both of our teams are excited being that the games we had the past year or two years were super-competitive, super-exciting on this stage.
So I know it will be a great game. Hopefully it will be a great weekend.
Moderator The next question comes from the line of Rachel George with the Orlando Sentinel. Please go ahead with your question.
R. George Hello, Kelly, the first one is for you. Of the coaches on the call, you faced Florida the most and it’s been essentially the same group of core players throughout their three years. I’m wondering if you could tell me just from a development standpoint what you see the biggest improvement that they’re made that has allowed this kind of success here in year three.
K. Hiller I think that their coaching staff does a tremendous job at working with the players that they have. Each player I think is extremely familiar with each other and they have great team chemistry, so when they step out on the field, they’ve been doing things for several years together. Then to add in players like Nora Barry and Shannon Gilroy into the mix, I just think that they really maximize every single player that they have on the field. They play great team offense and defense, and that’s really what they were able to do against us both times. They just played great as a team, and they had a lot of confidence in themselves, and it’s exciting to watch.
R. George You saw them a couple times already this year. What impact is having Shannon and especially her ability on the draw control, what impact did that have for them?
K. Hiller It’s huge. I know the previous year, and just talking to Mandy, our hit on the draw really was able to help us win the ALC championship game. I think it was the same for them this year. Shannon really was just fantastic in that game and has been in the two NCAA games, too. So I think that you can’t underestimate the power of possession and how much it can really give your team a boost.
R. George Then one last one for Gary, you’ve seen them already this year, a very close game earlier this season. What do you take from that game that you need to be more prepared for to try to beat them a second time?
G. Gait I just think you have to revisit everything talked about. That game was really in season and we’re viewing everything from match ups to DOD strategies and we’ll prep and do for a much more experienced and confident Florida team, so their balance top to bottom is defense, mini attacks, so they’re a solid team and that’s why they’ve gone in number one.
R. George Thanks.
Moderator The next question comes from the line of Blake Schierer with WomensLax.com.
B. Schierer Hello, my question is for Kelly. Kelly, with the frequency with which you’ve been down this road to the final four and national championship over the last few years, I wanted to ask how your message has changed over the years and what your message is to the players this year.
K. Hiller I think that towards the beginning of our program when we were in this situation, it was pretty similar to where Mandy is at and it’s just really making the kids feel comfortable. I think that probably every team would say that. You don’t have to get the kids excited for the final four. This is the pinnacle of where everyone wants to be.
I think for us it’s just remembering the things that got us to this point and really just trying to go out there and compete as hard as we can. I don’t think it’s any different than the beginning of our program. It’s just making sure you take advantage of the opportunity that you do have.
B. Schierer Thank you.
Moderator The next question is from the line of Clare Lochary with Lacrosse Magazine. Please go ahead.
C. Lochary Hello, I have a question for a couple of the coaches. I’ll start with Mandy O’Leary. Mandy, when you guys played Syracuse in the regular season looking at the stats, you won almost every stat accept for the final score. Since then you guys haven’t lost a game. What do you think it was in that game that made the Syracuse match-up tough, and was the anything that you changed after that game that got you to where you are now?
M. O’Leary I think Syracuse just came out with an excellent game plan. They kept us on our heels defensively. They had across the board just a fantastic game. It doesn’t matter whether you win all the categories. The only one that matters is the final score. They certainly beat us.
We had to make some adjustments offensively after that game. We made some adjustments defensively as well. They certainly tested us at both ends of the field. I think it really it was if you can have good loss, it was a good loss for us because we had recently lost as well to North Carolina. I think we had to change the mindset and I felt we were able to accomplish that.
C. Lochary So was it mainly an execution issue of what you were doing rather than something that you changed after those losses to advance to the number one seed in the tournament?
M. O’Leary Yes, it was execution and then we saw things and Gary and his staff did a great job of preparing his program, and we weren’t able to react to them. It’s a credit to him and his staff and his players. We didn’t execute what we needed to do.
C. Lochary For Gary, in that game against Florida, Alyssa Cosentino had a terrific game, but she and Kelsey Richardson have been platooning throughout the year and Kelsey came in in the big win over Carolina in the semi-finals. Can you tell me how this pretty unusual two goalie option that you’ve been using has worked for you? Do you know who will get to start against Florida?
G. Gaits Up until last game, it’s been working great. We had the number one two goalie in the country in Alyssa Cosentino. She’s done a great job and she was our premier goalie and then having a solid backup was great. We felt real comfortable with it, and obviously if you looked at the stats from last game, our goalies did not play well. I don’t think if you had told me that if we had one save, you were going to beat North Carolina with one save, I would have called you crazy.
But I think that that’s just how well the rest of our team played. They played unbelievable and stepped up and covered for our goalies. Hopefully our goalies will rebound from that and have a much better game. I’m pretty positive they will. They’ve played well all year and the pressure of North Carolina and then their style of shooting is a little different than most of the teams we’ve played.
C. Lochary No playoff bid this year.
G. Gaits No playoff bid.
C. Lochary I have one more for Cathy Reese. Cathy, how is your defense going to try and stop Shannon Smith? She was a big factor in the championship last year and you had Katie Gallagher on her who is obviously graduated. How do you stop a marquee player like that?
C. Reese We’ve got a lot to figure out in the next couple of days. Their offense isn’t just one player, and that’s what makes them so dangerous, too, is they have a lot of weapons for Northwestern’s offense. We’ve got to come up with a way to play really good team defense.
I think our goal is really just going to be to work together well and try to help each other out in different situations and go from there. But obviously when you play a team that has as many threats as they do, we’re going to have to all be on the same pages as much as we can be moving forward and be ready to play.
C. Lochary Thank you.
Moderator The next question is from the line of Jason Leisure with Palm Beach Post. Please go ahead with your question.
J. Leisure A question for Amanda, how much do you talk to your team about the opportunity to make history? Is that still a motivation for you guys at this point or is it more just about getting through this game?
A. O’Leary It’s just about this game. Whatever happens is going to happen, but we need to stay focused. We still are a very young and obviously very inexperienced. It’s our first time heading to the final four, so at this point we need to focus on our players and what we need to do to be successful.
Moderator The next question comes from the line of Bill Spaulding with WJPZ Radio. Please go ahead with your question.
B. Spaulding Hello, these questions are for Coach O’Leary. First off, Coach, when you look back to the film of the Syracuse game, it’s been two months, so can you gain that much out of it, or at this point has the team changed so much that you don’t learn a ton out of it?
A. O’Leary I think the teams have changed incredibly. I was able to have the opportunity to watch their game against North Carolina and they refused to lose. They find a way to win and I watched Michelle’s incredible goal with five seconds left. But you want to talk about an offensive powerhouse and an incredibly fast to midfield and defenders who are aggressive and communicate well, add to that a tremendous goalie—that’s a team to be reckoned with.
B. Spaulding And then especially on the draw controls, you’ve had a lot of success this year with Shannon, but in the first meeting Syracuse was missing …, so what did she add to the Syracuse draw that gave you a challenge there?
A. O’Leary I think she has incredible talent and they’re just really aggressive and scrappy, and they’re going to fight for every ground ball, and we just need to match up their intensity, because I’ve watched them dominate game in and game out on the draw. They just find a way to get the ball in their stick and then give them one step, and they’re off for fast breaks. So we just need to really prepare for that.
B. Spaulding Then finally, Coach, in that first meeting, Kitty Cohen was held to just one goal on ten shots. What was the match-up that gave her problems? Have you been able to see a way to maybe get them more involved this meeting?
A. O’Leary I think you have to credit their defense. They’re again, like I said, they’re aggressive. They’re smart. They’re good on double teams. They slide early. They make adjustments quickly and on the fly, so we certainly have our work cut out for us and, again, you just really hope that we don’t have to rely on one player offensively, but it would certainly be nice to have Kitty a little more involved.
B. Spaulding Thanks a lot.
Moderator The next question is from the line of John Nolan with WJPZ Radio. Please go ahead with your question.
J. Nolan Hello, this question is for Coach O’Leary. As great as it is for your program in just the third year to make the final four, what does it mean to you individually after all the years you put in at Yale to make your own first final four?
A. O’Leary It’s certainly exciting, but you have to credit the student athletes. They’re the ones that get you to this point, and you credit your assistant coaches with all the hard work of recruiting and putting together game plans. So as much as a wonderful accomplishment as a head coach, I think anybody on this call will tell you that it’s far more than you individually. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that need to come together.
J. Nolan Now for either Coach Reese or Coach Amonte, your program is back here again. How do you see how this sport has grown? There’s obviously quite a bit of media interest here on this teleconference alone, expecting probably a good crowd this week on the Long Island. How do you see how the women’s game has continued to grow over the years?
C. Reese This is Cathy. I’ll start. Kelly and I actually played together for two years. I remember our national championship games when they were held at like Lehigh, there was maybe 100 people in the stands. You can even pick out your parents when you turned around in there. Now you look up and we’re drawing about 10,000 plus fans for this championship weekend.
It’s been tremendous to see that kind of growth, and it’s been amazing to see programs like a Northwestern, like a Florida that has started from scratch and now look they’re both final four programs here. So it’s been really neat to see, we’re seeing the growth at all levels, and I think it shows by our fan base now and the people that are coming out to support the women’s lacrosse championship.
K. Hiller I would just reiterate that. I think in terms of just the teams that have added teams, schools like Northwestern and Florida to be able to compete in this type of championship is amazing. My freshman and sophomore year in college we would make it into a NCAA tournament and get a buy-in the first round to put us into the final four. I think that the work that the NCAA committee does and the crowds that we’re seeing, the TV coverage that we’re getting, I think it’s really exciting for our sport, and we just hope it keeps continuing to grow.
B. Spaulding Thanks, Coaches, good luck.
Moderator The next question is from the line of Kevin Brockway with Gainesville Sun. Please go ahead with your question.
K. Brockway Mandy, you’ve obviously been around the sport a long period of time and even though it’s your first final four, I’m sure you’ve been to them before. As you talked about this being new for your team, any concerns about how they’ll handle this stage, and I guess they’re talking about crowds of 10,000 people.
A. O’Leary The crowds aren’t a concern. I think we have a great fan base here in Florida. We certainly have been on the road and have been able to play in front of crowds at Northwestern. They draw a tremendous fan base there as well. The excitement, as Cathy said or Kelly, they both had mentioned that you don’t have to get your team excited to play in a final four. That certainly is there, and they’re certainly excited to have the opportunity to compete on this stage.
I think that the challenge is the fact that we’ve never been there. These players have never had the opportunity to compete at that level, so it’s how they handle. We need to minimize the distractions and try to keep them as focused as possible.
Moderator The next question is from the line of Josh Jurnovoy with Independent Florida Alligator. Please go ahead with your question.
J. Jurnovoy Hello, Mandy, just first of all can you talk a little bit about the first time the first Northwestern match-up here, you held Alyssa Murray to just two points. But they had obviously hurt you in plenty of other ways. Can you talk about how your two teams mirror each other and that you really do have a lot of offensive options this season?
A. O’Leary Syracuse has, Michelle Tumolo to work on the finalist and won an honor well deserved, so she alone is a huge threat and combined with Alyssa Murray and Katie Webster and Taylor, …, you can go down the line and it’s the who’s who of women’s lacrosse. So offensively they have tremendous talent, they’re so well skilled, but add in a strong defensive unit, they’ve improved tremendously since our first outing; and so we hope that we, too, have improved, but again, I just really envision a great game out there.
J. Jurnovoy Can you talk a little bit about the shot flection in general. Katie is one for ten, first thing that was mentioned, just how viable can you really be patient on offense and get good … against the defense that you just talked about is so good?
M. O’Leary You’ve got to credit the defense in there with having to make her change up her shots or the goalie coming up with some fantastic saves, which she did. So again, it’s taking responsibility and shooting to score and not just shooting to shoot the ball. That’s what we’re hoping we’ll be able to do.
J. Jurnovoy For Gary, you mentioned how this Florida team is a little different than the one you saw earlier in the season, even since last season. Can you talk about how they’re a different looking team this season as it compares to last season and then at this point in the season now with the emergence of Shannon Gilroy, just the challenges they present?
G. Gait I just think that they’re incredibly deep in every position. They’ve developed that chemistry from having the majority of them together for three years. I think I look at my own team and I see incredibly … mixture of freshmen, sophomores, juniors. If I could have all my, all my players be mostly juniors, I think that would be where that chemistry would come from. I think that that’s what makes them so strong is they have talent everywhere, throw in a couple of freshmen which are top players in the country and you know they just become stronger than they were last year.
The thing that they’ve got now is in women’s sports is once you believe you can win, now it becomes very powerful. I think probably a credit to all four teams that are here, the reason they’re here is that their athletes think they can win a national championship. I think that’s a key piece to having success and getting to the final four is that ability to believe in that.
I think Florida has got it and they figured it out, and they’ve had the big wins against Northwestern that propelled them into that mental state of mind that preps them to play.
J. Jurnovoy Thank you.
Moderator The next question comes from the line of Katherine Dunn with the Baltimore Sun. Please go ahead with your question.
K. Dunn Hello, this is for Cathy and Kelly, but Cathy first. Can you talk a little bit about just meeting Northwestern for the third straight time? Is this getting to be a little rivalry with you guys going against each other?
C. Reese You get to this point in the season and I think first and foremost you’re just really excited to get here, and I think each of us goes through the rounds of this tournament. All of the games are super competitive. There were a lot of really good first and second round games this year. I think you finally get to this point and, at least I know for us, we were just super excited to be heading into the final four. Now to have the opportunity to compete against Northwestern, it’s a game that it’s exciting.
I know the athletes are excited about it because the history that Northwestern has and the number of national championships that their program has won, they’re just a dominant and top program out there. We’re looking forward to having the opportunity to compete. Just looking right now to get better from where we were on Saturday, and that’s been a goal and just trying to get better as a team and hopefully, we’ll have a better game Friday than we did our last game.
K. Dunn Kelly, how about from your perspective?
K. Hiller I think any time you play a team, I think Maryland is a type of program that doesn’t lose many games all season. All four teams in the final four are that type of program. When you do lose a game or you trade wins and losses more than other teams, it becomes a rivalry.
I would say that we have a rivalry with every team in this final four. They’re all unbelievable top programs, but obviously Maryland with the history that they have, the job that Cathy has done since she’s gotten there has just been tremendous. They’re a fantastic team, and we’re really looking forward to the opportunity to play against them.
K. Dunn One more question for Mandy, for the local angle for the Baltimore players, could you just talk a little bit about in general what those players have brought to this team and your quick rise?
A. O’Leary They provide the bulk of that program. When I hit the road recruiting it was one of the first places I went to because it had such a strong tradition to having great lacrosse players in that Baltimore area, so it was pretty easy to decide where I wanted to start. I think it’s for our players, they’ve developed. They’ve worked hard. It’s a testament to their high school coaches, but also their high school programs. I guess it’s fun to have the opportunity to watch them come down here and develop and mature.
K. Dunn Thank you.
Moderator The next question comes from the line of Matt DaSilva with Lacrosse Magazine. Please go ahead with your question.
M. DaSilva Hello, Kelly and Cathy, actually just a follow-up on Catherine’s question, with just how this rivalry has played out in the NCAA tournament. Has there been any consideration of starting up a regular season series?
C. Reese Not really, I don’t think. I don’t know. We haven’t really talked about it. I guess it’s something right now that we all look forward to the end of the year. It’s only been two years, but they’ve definitely been two great games. That’s probably where we are at this point.
Moderator The next question comes from the line of Joe Beninati with ESPN. Please go ahead with your question.
J. Beninati Good afternoon, guys. Thanks in advance to all the coaches for your cooperation this week. I’m sure we’re bending your ear, just a big picture question. Whenever I do the men’s game and study rosters I’m often reminded by all the different states that I’m starting to see and the growth of the game. Has that carried over to the women’s side with respect to your recruiting?
K. Hiller This is Kelly Amonte Hiller. I think obviously one of our top players is Taylor Thornton, she’s from Texas. I think it’s really cool that kids outside of the normal lacrosse areas is being recognized as a four time finalist. I think that really shows the spread of our game. I think you’ll see that across the country, across rosters, people having kids from all over, and I think that’s really exciting for our sport.
Moderator The next question comes from the line of Tina Akouris with the Chicago Sun Times. Please go ahead with your question.
T. Akouris Hello, Kelly, how are you doing, it’s Tina.
K. Hiller I’m good, how are you?
T. Akouris Good, I just wanted to ask you when the regular season ended, can you compare how the team has changed and improved since that last game up until you guys had played … on Saturday night?
K. Hiller Sure, I mean I think for us we had the loss to Florida late in the regular season and then also another loss to Florida in the ALC championship game. I just think any time you have a loss like that, you really reevaluate yourself, try to make changes, try to see how you can fix things, improve things to be able to put the best effort out there.
I think our players have really taken things very seriously and have been working extremely hard in the time that we’ve had. In the NCAA tournament you have a lot of time to really focus in on your players. It’s one game per week in the first two rounds, so I think we’ve really been able to utilize that time to find some new chemistry and mix of players on the field. I think our performance on Saturday night was a good one and we’re only getting better, so I’m excited about that.
Moderator The next question is from the line of James Crepea with Newsday. Please go ahead.
J. Crepea I have a question for Kelly and for Cathy, some of the questions for each, starting with Kelly. Comment a little bit on the impact of Long Island players on your roster. Obviously with Shannon Smith and Erin Fitzgerald, they’re among eight of the Long Island players with you. You have another All American and one of Long Island’s top scorers in Christina Esposito coming to you next year. What is the impact of Long Island talent for Northwestern?
K. Hiller I think it’s a huge impact. We have been able to draw a lot of kids from that area. Obviously the talent pool is so wide, and you’ll see kids’ top players on each of the teams in the tournament from that area. It just speaks to how strong the area is and how they really produce incredible talent each year going to all different universities.
J. Crepea Cathy, similar question for you, your three Long Island players are all freshmen and Kelly and Shannon Brady had starred for you and Erin Collins plays a lot for you. You’ve got an All American in Haley … coming to you next year and a junior here on Long Island. I know you can’t really talk about it too much. But what is the impact of Long Island talent for you and what has it been that’s allowed you to get it more recently as opposed to the past few years?
C. Reese We’ve had some tremendous athletes graduate from our program that were from Long Island in years past. Then we have gone through a few years where we didn’t really have many players on our roster. But like you said, this year we have three athletes that are freshmen all getting significant playing time from the area. It’s been a fun area to recruit. There are so many talented athletes around there. Like Kelly said, there are great athletes on all four of our teams competing that are from that area. They’ve all made a tremendous impact on our programs, especially from coming in as freshmen starting for us and contributing significantly and hopefully, they’ll continue to have a good weekend this weekend as well.
J. Crepea Cathy, can you comment, and also Amanda comment on when you are recruiting the Long Island area, the importance of the connection you each have to Carol Rose and Joe Fanning? Cathy first and then to Amanda.
C. Reese There’s a lot of great club programs out there. We as coaches are constantly watching everybody and anybody that we can see through the summer tournaments or through the season plays. It’s just getting out and seeing as many athletes as you can play and they’re playing for all different clubs. That’s pretty much I think the extent of it.
A. O’Leary Just to reiterate what Cathy said there’s just such strong talent in the coaching ranks on Long Island. I think it shows in the athletes that they’re producing. When you look at their high school programs, the club programs that are on Long Island, and they’re just tremendous, and they’re talented coaches, and I think it’s just spreads down to that talent and it just spreads down to their players.
J. Crepea And lastly, Amanda, starting with you and if I can get each of the coaches to comment on this, Amanda, starting with you, though, since you’re the one going through this process of this meteoric rise so quickly, who is the next one who can do this? Is the next program who can achieve this level of success at this speed USC given their recruiting right now?
A. O’Leary I think absolutely, I think USC, I think Michigan, they’re all putting the time and the effort and they’ve hired tremendous coaches. They have some great talent coming in. They have the full support of their administration, so I think there are quite a few programs on the rise that we’re going to see make an immediate impact for sure.
R. Nixon Shannon, we have time for just one more question.
Moderator Okay, the final question comes from the line of Blake Schierer with WomensLax.com. Please go ahead.
B. Schierer Hello, this question is for Coach Gait. This week we named Michelle Tumolo our women’s Lax.com player of the week, very deservedly so. I wanted you to just take us through that last moment of the game when she scored that goal and what it was like for you to advance in a fashion such as that.
G. Gait Michelle that’s … game we tied the game up with 38 seconds left and about the draws control to … and then we got possession and Michelle took the ball. She looked like she was going to just run out the clock. She looked pretty casual and I think we’d cleared the side. We’d set up the play earlier in the time-out with about three minutes left. It’s just how we were going to finish. This was the opportunity.
This is what we want and she finally, she looked up at the clock and then realized she had to go now and with about 12 seconds left, decided to start dodging and rolled dodge into a quick dodge into a roll dodge, falling down high bouncer into top left corner. As she said, she didn’t really remember. She just kind of did it. It happened and we were very excited.
For me it was just to see Michelle believe in herself and have that ability to step up when we needed it was tremendous. It’s something that we work on with all our players building confidence and belief in your abilities that you can make a play when the opportunity arises and she stepped up and did that and I’m very proud of her and certainly one of the reasons why she’s one of our top finalists.
B. Schierer Thank you so much, Coach.
R. Nixon Thanks so much to all joining us today, our head coaches, an outstanding session, almost a full hour of questions and answers. We do appreciate your time today. I appreciate all the media members for joining us as well. A reminder that there will be an audio replay of today’s teleconference, if interested, you can go to 1-800-475-6701. The access code is the same access code you used to join this call, 249192.
Again, thanks to all and have a great afternoon.
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive TeleConference. You may now disconnect.