2016 LACROSSE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – MAY 30 – North Carolina defeats Maryland 14-13 in OT

2016 LACROSSE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – MAY 30 – North Carolina defeats Maryland 14-13 in OT
May 31 02:02 2016 Print This Article

PHILADELPHIA – Their backs were against the wall. Of course their backs were against the wall. When it came down to it, with a national championship on the line for the Carolina men’s lacrosse team, their backs were against the wall.
COACH BRESCHI: First, my wife, Julie, and my four girls are back there. Sam, Abi, Lucy and Emily. Couldn’t be more thrilled for them to share this moment with all of us. And then these young men and all those guys in the locker room, what a special, special group it is to be a part of. The coaching staff — Coach Metz, Coach Feifs, Coach Holman, director of operations Joe Martin. Just a collective group of guys who committed themselves to the season.

A lot of hard work and belief, trust in one another. It’s been an incredible journey. I’m just thrilled for these young men and all they’ve meant to this program and for the University of North Carolina.

My hat’s off to a terrific Maryland team — two great teams going at it. Coach Tillman and his staff did a wonderful job. It’s not easy to prepare in two days. And it was all about heart, hustle and desire, and these guys have never quit. Their backs were against the wall often, and they kept battling to the end and they believed in each other.

It was just fun to watch.

Q. Brian, what was going through your head through that last minute of regulation and then that first few minutes of overtime?
BRIAN BALKAM: Well, I knew that we had struggled a little bit, man down. And usually that’s one of the strong points of our team. Definitely one of the strong points of our defense. We always get hyped in practice for man down.

So I knew what better time to make a stop on man down than overtime to win the national championship? I knew the defense felt the same way. I knew the offense had faith in myself and the other guys in front of me.

It rotated quick — gave up a shot that I wanted to see. Lucky to make the save, clear the ball. And then my buddy, Clooch, he was able to put it away and gave us the title.

Q. Chris, can you talk about scoring the overtime winner?
CHRIS CLOUTIER: Yeah. So I gotta say I was a little hesitant to take that shot because I was pretty heartbroken from the stuff before that. But on that specific play, that’s a play that Tags and I do quite a bit in practice and throughout the year. And when he threw that ball to me and I was hands-free, I just thought I could take it and luckily it went in. You do what you do.

North Carolina Attackman LUKE GOLDSTOCK (1) celebrates in the stands with fans after North Carolina defeated Maryland 14-13 in overtime during The NCAA Division I NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME between North Carolina and Maryland, Monday, May. 30, 2016 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa

North Carolina Attackman LUKE GOLDSTOCK (1) celebrates in the stands with fans after North Carolina defeated Maryland 14-13 in overtime during The NCAA Division I NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME between North Carolina and Maryland, Monday, May. 30, 2016 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

Q. Chris, I know this is the stuff that, you know, you dream about going to sleep at night. Could you have even fathomed having a tournament like this?
CHRIS CLOUTIER: I was telling my friends earlier in the year that everyone on this team believed that we could absolutely do it this year. And getting here and being able to have the end of the season that we did is truly amazing.

And I couldn’t have any of my success without any of these guys right here. Me not really being the fastest guy on the team, can’t really just set up myself. So I have guys like Luke here and Ponch drawing all the attention and me kind of just getting the dunks.

Q. Luke, when Brian obviously makes the huge save, Chris makes the shot. But you’re in the middle of the stuff I mean that happened at the end of that and in overtime. Talk about what happens between you and McCarney (phonetic), and just the emotions that are obviously all over a moment like that?
LUKE GOLDSTOCK: I mean these two definitely saved my butt. But I mean it’s just a bang-bang play — I wasn’t thinking, and I can’t blame that on anyone else but myself. So it’s definitely my fault. And thank God I had these two to save me from a lot of mental disasters after that.

CHRIS CLOUTIER: Got your back, baby.

LUKE GOLDSTOCK: They had my back.

Q. Luke, to that, how long did that minute feel like in the box?
LUKE GOLDSTOCK: Felt pretty long. But once I saw Balkam make the save, I had a drill of energy, and then we went down there and Chris stuck it home. So it was great.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. Is it fair to say that you found a way to win today and if that’s so, how did you find that way?
COACH BRESCHI: You know, really, I just — if you look at the second half of our season, we found a way throughout. If we don’t come back — I know I’ve talked about this in the past — if we don’t come back down 5 to Notre Dame, score seven straight goals, we may not be in the tournament. Most likely we’re not, if everything else unfolded the same way.

So these just — they were so calm when we were down two with under five to go and I think they still had possession. I called the timeout just to kind of regroup everybody and settled everybody back in. And we got a nice stop. Brian made another save and we were able to clear it. And we were struggling at the faceoff X. I think we were 33 percent or so there.

But we kept battling. And that’s the way we’ve done it all year long and so we never wavered in our faith and trust and belief that we were going to win, throughout.

Q. The program is a very proud program that went through a lot in the wilderness. How did it feel to get this program back on top?

COACH BRESCHI: Did you say in the wilderness?

Q. Yes.
COACH BRESCHI: Fortunate enough to be hired by Dick Baddour and he brought me on board and Bubba Cunningham continues to have faith and trust in the philosophy in the approach that we’re taking with family, academics and lacrosse and doing it the right way. It’s not easy as you’re going through in the pressure and all those sorts of things. But this is for the alumni, friends of the program and all those who didn’t lose faith in what we were doing and how we were doing it. And the coaching staff sometimes you have to make a change and so forth and my staff is off the charts with Coach Metz and Coach Feifs and Brian Holman and my director of ops Joe Martin. And we stuck together. We stuck with what we do even when we were struggling early in the year.

And these young men, we lost a lot. We have five seniors graduating. And these young men, they just believe in what we’re teaching them. And it’s such a relationship-driven team and program.

Just through the academic advisor, Mike Greene, we have 32 out of 45 guys with over a 3.0. And Patrick Kelly I think he scored game tying goal, and he’s going to medical school next year at Maryland and Mike Tagliaferri is taking his fifth year, getting his MBA at UNC next year. Just great students great kids and continued belief that we were going to get out of the woods.

Q. How has Brian developed through the season and what did you see from him today?
COACH BRESCHI: Great heart. I mean, Colin Reder slipped in there in the Duke game, made some big plays. But Brian stuck with it. Didn’t have a great game against Loyola. Didn’t finish well. Played okay in the first half. But luckily we were putting points on the board.

We told him, we said, look, you’ve got to step up your game and play and just like everybody. If the guys aren’t doing their job we’re going to replace them.

But that’s okay. Because they can take a play off or put the next guy in and the next guy’s always ready. So Brian’s done a great job. The clearing game, we make it an adventure sometimes. First goal of the game we’re up 4-0 and we get a stop and try to throw it and they catch, dunk, and that’s us, in a nutshell.

It’s not always pretty. But he’s done a nice job of really commanding respect with the defense and having that voice down there.

North Carolina Head Coach JOE BRESCHI, right, celebrates with UNC Chancellor CAROL FOLT, left, after North Carolina defeated Maryland 14-13 in overtime during The NCAA Division I NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME between North Carolina and Maryland, Monday, May. 30, 2016 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

North Carolina Head Coach JOE BRESCHI, right, celebrates with UNC Chancellor CAROL FOLT, left, after North Carolina defeated Maryland 14-13 in overtime during The NCAA Division I NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME between North Carolina and Maryland, Monday, May. 30, 2016 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

Q. Talk about the overall the players of your team after this year, losing Sankey, Putnam and Bitter, and being picked to finish last in the ACC and now you’re here, you just won the national championship, just talk about the players overall and what they mean to you?
COACH BRESCHI: We just won the national championship. I gotta tell you, you know, pressure is a funny thing. And these guys had zero pressure, as you said. They were picked the lowest we’ve ever been picked in the eight years I’ve been there. And last in the ACC.

And these guys were on a mission. It wasn’t pretty early. But also we had guys playing in different positions early on. So we were trying to find our way.

But they continued to trust in the system and get after it. But you’re right, we lost a lot of talent. But sometimes it’s the chemistry and the leadership of the senior class that brings it all together. And if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be sitting here tonight.

Q. Talking about what you’ve been trying to build, is there something almost poetic about this team winning it? Are they representative of what you’ve been trying to build in some regards, because they aren’t supposed to necessarily be here?
COACH BRESCHI: Yeah, they’re great kids. I talked a little bit about their academic piece, but they’re 18 to 22 years old and they make mistakes. They’re not perfect. But I’ll tell you what, this group came together and the leadership of the group, you know, any team that is successful has great leadership at the top.

And the coaches can say all they want but it’s the players that have to make sure that guys are doing the right thing all the time. And these guys are terrific in the community. They represent the University of North Carolina so well in the community and outside when they’re home. So anytime they have an opportunity to give back, they do it. And they do it with a smile on their face. And all of the guys before were the same way.

It’s just that chemistry piece. It’s that pressure piece that sometimes it’s paralyzing. And I look back to last year and it was a tough, tough pill to swallow that we didn’t get where we wanted to go and it was bad. It was ugly. And I had a lot of time to reflect and talk about the mental piece with one of our sports psychologists Dr. [Bradley] Hack and really talked about the mental piece of the game.

He worked with us all fall and early in the season and really built these guys up that they can do it. And they can stick with it and if you look at our season, I mean, I don’t think anybody’s won a national championship with six losses, and I don’t think anybody unseeded has ever won it.

But again the pressure piece, there’s no pressure on these guys because nobody expected it except for the guys in the locker room.

Q. Did something just click for Chris Cloutier this weekend, in particular? Or has he just been progressing in this direction?
COACH BRESCHI: He does a little bit of that in practice. He works hard in practice. I think part of it, too, is he’s gotten a little bit quicker. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say he’s slimmed down a little bit. (Laughter). But he has. And he gave all the credit to his teammates, which is a fact. Steve Pontrello coming from midfield for three years and learning the attack position and playing it the way he was with great confidence and Luke Goldstock a mainstay there. They all made him better.

And I think, like you said, the other thing, on Saturday, that if it wasn’t for them creating the opportunities for him, you know, he might not have them. But he’s also a load. Once you reverse the ball to the backside, it’s tough for defensemen to — you go left, I think we all noticed that. But he’s a load to try to get out of there.

And with a game like that or games like that, the confidence, he just started building confidence but he was doing it in practice a little bit as well. So proud of him.

Q. You mentioned the Notre Dame win, you were the ACC regular season champs. You lose to Syracuse in the ACC tournament, but you remain positive despite maybe some people thinking you were possibly a bubble team. What made you believe that you could make this run in the NCAA Tournament?
COACH BRESCHI: Well, we met the Monday — we actually met on selection — is it selection Sunday, I think it was selection Sunday, and it was the graduation day. So there’s a graduation party and then we ended up back in our film room. We’re all in the film room and we’re watching it on the big screen and hoping that we’re going to come up there. We feel pretty good but we weren’t sure. We see Navy and Hopkins go up and we’re like, ‘Oh, no, when are we going to be up there.’

Then it popped up we’re at Marquette. And then we made it. And then we just talked about being 0 and 0. It’s a new season, new opportunity. And these guys, again, they just said, ‘Look, man we’re starting from scratch.’ Everybody’s at an even course here and now it’s anybody’s game. And they were able to beat the 6-seed, the 3-seed, the 7-seed and the 1-seed. And that’s a heck of a run.

I told them a little story, being from Baltimore, I’m a huge Ravens fan. And last night I was thinking to myself, do I give them the Knute Rockne speech or Vince Lombardi speech what do I do. I fell asleep woke up at 3:30, boom, is it game time? And I turned on the TV and it was Ray Lewis’s face.

And Ray Lewis is on NFL Network. I looked at him. He gave the 2000 run in 2000 never been to the playoffs, they get to the playoffs and they went to Denver, went to Tennessee, went to Oakland, and they ended up beating the Giants because they kicked the door down in the Super Bowl. And I said that’s going to be you today.

Now, we might have stubbed their toe a few, a little bit along the way to an overtime win, but it was very fitting that I woke up at 3:30 and saw Ray Lewis’s face.

North Carolina Head Coach JOE BRESCHI, left, celebrates with  North Carolina Attackman CHRIS CLOUTIER (45), right,  after North Carolina defeated Maryland 14-13 in overtime during The NCAA Division I NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME between North Carolina and Maryland, Monday, May. 30, 2016 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

North Carolina Head Coach JOE BRESCHI, left, celebrates with North Carolina Attackman CHRIS CLOUTIER (45), right, after North Carolina defeated Maryland 14-13 in overtime during The NCAA Division I NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME between North Carolina and Maryland, Monday, May. 30, 2016 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

Q. You were talking about the chemistry of this team and also when you think about going into next year, you’re going to have a lot more pressure being the defending champion. I know you’d like that, but what do you think is on your hands from a development effort keeping the chemistry going and how do you think about the team?
COACH BRESCHI: You know, we lose five really good leaders and really good players to graduation. I don’t see it as pressure. I think the pressure is off after you win it, right? I’ll take that angle. So we’re just going to go out there and regroup. We have a great freshman class coming in and figure out who we are and hopefully not take as long to figure that out in the regular season, but we’ve got a lot of guys who gained valuable experience, especially that second midfield and Ryan Macri and Joe Kenna and see Charles Kelly come out, take a few faceoffs as well and Brian Balkam was a redshirt sophomore. Just a lot of young talent on the team.

And just we’ll cross that bridge but I like the group coming back. I think they understand what it takes now. So I think you got ’em at that point.