May 24, 2014

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Postgame Quotes: Notre Dame 11, Maryland 6 (NCAA Semifinals)

Quotes transcribed courtesy the NCAA via ASAPSports

Notre Dame's defense stifled the Maryland offense, particularly in the second half, where the Terps scored just two goals. (Bill Danielewski)

Following is the official transcription of the press conferences following Notre Dame's 11-6 victory over Maryland in the second NCAA semifinal on Saturday afternoon at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. Notre Dame will face Duke, a winner over Denver in the first semifinal, in Monday's NCAA final at 1 p.m.

Notre Dame Comments (from coach Kevin Corrigan and players Matt Kavanagh and Conor Kelly)

KEVIN CORRIGAN: Really pretty happy with the way our guys played today. I mean, for a third time seeing a team, you hope that you play some of their actions and the challenges that they bring to you, you hope that you play those things well, being that you're playing in your ninth and 12th quarters against that same stuff, and for us it's been all in the course of about three weeks. I thought we did a good job of doing that. It also helps when Conor is back there making some great saves today.

Offensively really feel like we're getting really close. We're finding a lot of different ways to score still, but our 6‑on‑6 is getting better, and that's really important, as well. We did some really good things offensively today. I think we can show our guys those things and they can recognize how important they are, then maybe we can continue getting better through Monday.

Q. How did you feel in the net today? Did you feel a little different today than when you played Maryland the last time?

CONOR KELLY: Yeah, I felt like I was seeing the ball well. I thought I saw the ball well against them the last time. Playing a team three times is tough but you also get to see their shooters three times so I thought I got a good read on their releases, and yeah, seeing the ball well.

Q. Conor, what have the last five or six weeks been like, having gone from having lost your job a ways back to having this six‑game winning streak now?

CONOR KELLY: Yeah, it's been great. Just whatever my team needs me to do. Today we needed 14. Last week just like five or so. Yeah, I mean, it's been exciting. Yeah.

Q. Given how the season had gone, how different a season has it been for you just having had not played there for a month and a half or so.

CONOR KELLY: Yeah, I mean, it's not what I had anticipated going into the year, but you've got to take what you're given and kind of roll the punches and just try to keep my head in it so I can kind of find my stride here at the end.

Q. Matt, for you, you had seven points today, five goals, two assisted. You've been on a hot streak for God knows how long, since the season started basically. What was the key to success today?

MATT KAVANAGH: I thought we were playing great team offense. I wasn't really doing anything different from a game‑to‑game standpoint, but the sets that we ran this week in practice, I think we executed them perfectly. We only had a handful of possessions where they resulted in turnovers. I was just on the better end of great team offense.

Q. Defense seems to have played really well in the playoffs, especially five goals in the first round, six today, Albany, pretty good effort. What have you seen in terms of the overall unit effectiveness so far?

CONOR KELLY: Yeah, we're really coming together here at the end, and I think our game plans have been great going into ‑‑ finding our match‑ups, and yeah, really just kind of been able to lock down here at the end.

Q. Matt, Coach was talking about working in the 6‑on‑6 sets. How has that kind of developed here recently for you guys?

MATT KAVANAGH: I think we've been executing the two‑nine game with the short sticks and the long poles, trying to get some mismatches, but the flow of our offense is just really working right now. We see it in practice, and just happy it's working out there in the game.

Q. I know you're feeling pretty chipper right now. How did this team lose five games this year the way you looked today?

KEVIN CORRIGAN: Coaching. (Laughter.)

I mean, every team is different, every season is different. We wouldn't be who we are right now without all the games that we played. I mean, we had some great success early with the Virginia win, a Carolina comeback win, but we took a couple on the nose, from a Penn State team that slowed us down, from a Denver team that kept the ball away from us just with good, efficient offense, not as much as trying to stall but just being very efficient and not giving us a lot of possessions. We had to learn how to play that game.

We worked very hard this year to become a 110‑yard field team, whether it's riding, whether it's transition offense to defense or defense to offense. I think that hurt us a little bit early in the year being able to play some of those games. There are a lot of people that would probably laugh at that because five, six years ago that's who we were. We were that team that was slowing people down and taking the ball away. But that's what ‑‑ you coach to the talent that you have, and it's clear that when you watch us play, we've got some pretty good athletes. So we wanted to use the field and be better at that, but it hurt us early in the year, no question, and then, I mean, a tough loss at Syracuse. But I think each one of those games, quite honestly, has been really important for us to learn from. We learned from the Syracuse game and beat them the second time. We learned from the Maryland game and beat them the second time. We learned from that slow‑down game with Penn State to be able to play a six‑five game with Maryland but we also learned from the Virginia game and some of those to be able to play an 18‑17 game with Army and find a way to win that one. So I think the whole trip kind of makes us who we are today.

Q. You've done a great job building this program. You're going to have your second chance at a National Championship. Just tell me what it would mean for the program to win a National Championship, and then secondly, can you talk a little bit about Kavanagh's performance, creating for himself and others?

KEVIN CORRIGAN: You'll be lucky if I can hold the second question in my head until I get through the first one. Let's go one at a time.

It's not a time for me for perspective. The perspective is this is the 2014 team's only chance to win a National Championship, and I'm not focused on anything else, and I don't even care to be focused on anything else. It's great for these guys. It's great for the 49 kids in that locker room, and I'm not going to take my eye off the ball here on Saturday afternoon. Our deal is to try to finish this on Monday, and that's all about those 49 guys.

As far as Matt Kavanagh, I think somebody said he's had a really good hot streak. I think it started his sophomore year in high school, okay, and I don't ‑‑ I haven't seen it abate since then, so I'm not sure. He's a terrific player. You know what, I don't know if he's gotten better at this or maybe we've just gotten a little bit smarter. He's a hard guy to ever could, but he's a hard guy to cover off ball, he's a hard guy to cover inside, he's a hard guy to cover with the ball on his stick in two‑man game, he's a hard guy to cover in space. There are a lot of different things you can do with him. Again, as part of the trip of this year, we've had to learn ‑‑ people have schemed against him, and we've had to learn how to keep him relevant in different games, and I think it's helped us to give us some variety to our offense and to allow him to be effective no matter what people are doing, no matter how they're playing him.

Q. You draw Maryland in Baltimore. Was there a special message or mentality that you talked with your guys about taking on basically a home team?

KEVIN CORRIGAN: You know what, we were up at Hofstra last week and I think there were 37 people cheering for us in a sellout crowd of 13,000. I wanted to come to the press conference afterwards and say I apologize to all those people who wanted to see Albany here right now because it was clear that there weren't a lot of people rooting for us. We kind of just kept that mentality this week. We said, hey, quite honestly, it's kind of funny, I read the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun today, and neither one of them, I think they talked more about the Duke‑Maryland match‑up than they did the Maryland‑Notre Dame match‑up, and I said, okay, that's fine with us. We like being those guys.

Q. Coach, on defense this was a pretty strong performance, especially compared to a year where you've had some trouble on defense. What adjustments did you make coming in?

KEVIN CORRIGAN: I don't know that we've made any huge adjustments as much as we've just gotten better over the course of the year. Garrett Epple has made a huge difference. He is a freshman who's come in and gotten better over the course of the year. Nick Koshansky, is a freshman who is playing as a short‑stick D‑middie, playing a lot for us. Tyler Brenneman is a kid, as a senior, he's played more as a senior than he played for three years combined before that. So you have to grow into those roles. Matt Landis was playing long pole last year and he's playing close this year. So I think we've evolved defensively and just gotten better, and it's nice to see, yeah, we've played really well. But listen, two, three weeks ago we played 18‑17 with Army, so let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Maryland Comments (from coach John Tillman and player Niko Amato)

JOHN TILLMAN: Just like to first congratulate Notre Dame. I thought they played a great game today, executed very, very well in just about every facet of the game, and I felt like outplayed us in almost every facet. Certainly I need to do a better job of getting our guys prepared and get them organized. But I thought they played well. At times I thought we played pretty well but just not consistently enough.

But I think it had more to do with their execution and our inability to do so. I'd like to thank our seniors for all that they've done. We're certainly going to miss the guy next to me and all the seniors and appreciate how much they've sacrificed and what they've done for this program and this team, just having the characteristics that you want for young people in your organization and representing our state and our school and our alums so well all year, and I'm very proud of them for that.

Q. Looking at the stat sheet, I see that Notre Dame had eight assists on their 11 goals. How much more difficult does it make your job as a goalie when a team is clearly moving the ball that well?

NIKO AMATO: I mean, Notre Dame has a really talented offense, but you know, we always have faith in our defense. We went into the game believing in our game plan, and they played a little bit faster than us today, so give them the credit. But you know, I still think Maryland is always going to be a great defensive team, and I'm glad to have played with the guys that I did today.

Q. 19 turnovers today for the team. Was it difficult dealing with that number of turnovers and the amount of time of possession that created for Notre Dame?

NIKO AMATO: I mean, I wasn't really thinking about anything like that. We were just trying to win each possession and play one play at a time. We obviously tried to make some adjustments at halftime, but Notre Dame executed a good game plan, and they played well today.

Q. Unfortunately your career ends kind of almost ‑‑ in 2011 you guys made it to the Final Four, same thing in 2012. Talk about a great career, three All‑American nominations, talk about everything that it's been for Maryland.

NIKO AMATO: Yeah, coach kind of hit the nail on the head in the locker room. Pretty much you risk getting your heart broken to go on a great journey with this team, and the guys and I wouldn't have traded anything in the world for these past five years.

Q. Coach, six goals, 38 shots, strikes me as very similar to the final stat line in the ACC Championship. Is there something in Notre Dame's defensive scheme that is forcing you to take shots that make easy saves for Kelly and are off‑line?

JOHN TILLMAN: Well, they certainly play great defense. They certainly always have. We felt like we got some decent looks, you know, 14 saves is pretty good. I still think we're a little bit stubborn with our shooting. We really talked about all week shooting the ball high, and that was one of the things we felt like we didn't do a good job of last time. I don't think we could have emphasized it more, and when we came out early and we just kind of got back to doing that, we talked about it, we practiced it, and funny things sometimes happen when you go into a game. Even though it's been part of the emphasis, you get in there and you just kind of go back to maybe some of the habits that you have, and obviously that's something that we're going to have to address and focus on.

But we really feel like he was a better guy high than he was low, and again, we got some opportunities, and we still just didn't want to budge there.

Q. Kind of talk about Charlie. It seemed on Wednesday that he was pretty fine. Did he aggravate an injury during the game?

JOHN TILLMAN: Yeah, it sounded like it got reaggravated right before halftime. Charlie was a warrior. He wanted to go back in, felt like he could do it, but after consulting with the trainers, I wasn't comfortable and the trainers weren't comfortable with kind of what we were seeing, and we have to look at the young guy's long‑term health and what's in his best interest, and sometimes we have to save these guys from themselves. I'm not going to risk one guy's future for a lacrosse game, and I know our training staff wouldn't, either. All things being said, I thought Jon Garino did a really nice job for us, came in, won some face‑offs. Actually I think if his wings would have protected him a little bit more, we would have been fine there.

Q. The four losses this year, and that's a credit to a great season being 13‑4, were all very similar, with offensive problems. The past couple weeks you've exploded the offense. What went wrong today?

JOHN TILLMAN: Well, I think first quarter, I think a lot of that is just self‑inflicted. We turned the ball over I think eight times in the first quarter, and it was a little different turnover each time. It was maybe just a different situation with a different player. I think our guys were really amped up, and it's hard when you have ‑‑ you have to have a defensive mentality and then you have to have an offensive mentality, so defensively you can have that fiery speech, but offensively you've got to make sure that you get into a flow and you play and you play, as John Wooden would say, you play fast but not in a hurry. Sometimes today we got away from some of the things that we wanted to do and some of the things that we practiced, and again, it was just one thing here or one thing there, but collectively when you add all those things up, it really kills your time of possession, it kills your flow, and I thought we put ourselves behind the 8‑ball. I'm proud of our guys. They kept fighting and fighting, and we kind of got it back to 2‑2, and the end of the first period was tough. We came out, we tried to mix in some zone, we got caught with some guys that I thought were tired defensively, so I called a time‑out. We went zone, they made a really good play, and then obviously Charlie went early on that face‑off and they pushed it and got another goal. So really that last half part of the first quarter I think gave them a lot of confidence, gave them some momentum coming out of the first quarter, so that's on me for calling that time out.

Q. Kavanagh had 5‑2 today, just talk about what was he doing that was so effective in their offense?

JOHN TILLMAN: I think he did a great job of just picking his spots. When he got his opportunities he made the most of them, but then I thought when he got himself ‑‑ we had it a little bit too long or he didn't have anything, I thought he was just heady enough and poised enough to move the ball on and let somebody else take their opportunity. I thought the other guys obviously did a nice job of looking for him, and he's a terrific player. He's gotten better every game we've seen him, and he's gotten more confident. That's the type of performance you want out of a guy that's first, second‑team All‑American.

Q. The game just ended 30 minutes ago, but when you say I have to do a better job to prepare my team moving forward, I know the game just ended, but what does that really mean to you? Is it something you'll take some time to consider, or is it something you've already considered?

JOHN TILLMAN: You know, the way I was always brought up, and obviously with the coaches I've been with, when you win, it's the players that should get all the credit. When you lose, you've got to look at the top and the leadership and figure out where did we go wrong. With this group, they've done a great job, they've made a lot of sacrifices. We know candidly, our strength was going to be on our back end, and obviously at the face‑off X. So there were a lot of moving parts that we had all year, yet we weren't going to use that as an excuse. We were going to find a way to make it work. I feel like regardless of the people that you have, you can find a way. You just have to have the right scheme, develop confidence in them, give them the reps they need, and I think if you have guys that have that desire and they're good athletes and they care, you can find a way as a coach. You just need to build them up, put them in good spots and really just stay with them. And this group has been fantastic. They've been so unselfish. They've just ‑‑ I feel like they've represented our school so well on and off the field. They've fought even to the end today, and I'm proud of them for that. And like I said, I'm not going to put the blame on them. I just have to do a better job of making sure that we're settled down coming obviously into the first half, and then when things aren't going well, making sure I can give them a plan to get them back on the right track.


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