Merrimack men’s lacrosse coach Mike Morgan took part in a media teleconference on Tuesday, ahead of Sunday’s national championship game against Saint Leo at Gillette Stadium.
Opening statement …
Morgan: “It’s exciting. It’s an opportunity for us to get back there and we’re looking to have a different result. Saint Leo is a very good team, they’re well coached and they do a lot of things well. They’re just as hungry as us. Our leadership, and being strong on both sides of the ball and our strength in the middle of the field is why we’re here.
“This week will look a lot like last week. Maybe the last couple of days will be different because we’ll be in Boston and at Gillette, but we’re excited and motivated.”
On recruiting more locally …
Morgan: “Early on, we recruited much more regionally. That shifted over the years and now I think we’re back to having two tiers. One tier is our local tier, which is obviously Massachusetts, Western Mass., Southern New Hampshire, and that region has gotten stronger and stronger which has helped us. Those players are just at another level now, and they weren’t there in some of my earlier years. So, we need to be strong in our own backyard and keep the best players home.
“We also have a national recruiting reach. We go to Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Virginia. Our goal here is to find the best players. Our backyard keeps getting better and better, and we’re more recognizable as a program and a school, so our national reach is getting farther and farther.”
On the play of Blake Boudreau on faceoffs, Carlin Joyal and Eric Coburn on defense …
Morgan: “Blake has been great all year and Eric has been great all year. Eric was banged up in the middle half of the year. Joyal is a great LSM, and now that we are getting down the stretch, Eric is healthy again. He had a great game on Sunday night and he’ll help us on Sunday in the middle with ground balls and in transition.
“Blake is on another level right now. I think he’s established himself as the best faceoff guy in the country. Last year, in the national championship game, I think he knows that he can make a big difference for us. Seeing him get back there, and him getting the chance to have the performance I know he wants to have … he wants to carry us to our main goal, it’s really important to him.”
On the possible distractions of this week …
Morgan: “I think you can look at it two ways … we experienced it last year, so we know a little more about the unexpected. We know what the banquet will look like, what the media is going to be like, the practice at Gillette and all the other stuff that goes along with this weekend, we know what to expect.
“I think this year we can enjoy it a little more. I think I will enjoy it a lot more because regardless of whether or not we’re the favorite, whoever we’re playing, there’s so much uncertainty involved in the experience. It’s hard to enjoy it sometimes. Last year I remember I was always thinking about the next thing.
“Our guys will be able to experience everything and we’re just more calm. We’re not on edge, we know the main goal is the game and that won’t change. It’s a different type of week, so teams that don’t handle adversity well might have trouble, but our team has shown al year that we’re fine with adversity. Last week we had our game moved to another field because of graduation, the transition of having guys graduate Sunday morning and then playing Sunday night, different practice times … a few different meetings and some media this week isn’t going to change our guys. It won’t change them for a second. They are who they are and they’re looking forward to this, like I am.”
On what he’s seen from Saint Leo on film …
Morgan: “They’re athletic, they have a good goalie and they’re well coached. They’re good in the transition game. In games like this, you need to be able to handle (the opponent’s) runs. Teams like them will handle that well.
“One of our strengths is that we can play a bunch of different styles. We can play up and down, we can push and transition and we can play a physical game. This team has done a great job of being prepared and they can win in different ways.
“You look at Saint Leo, they didn’t win a lot of faceoffs against Tampa and they still won that game. They play with a lot of emotion and they play together. We need to stick with what we do well. Our guys are aware of that, and we’ve treated every game like a national championship game all year. They have the desire and we stay on teams whistle to whistle.”
On preparing for a new team …
Morgan: “In a good way, the teams we’re playing back-to-back are somewhat similar. Saint Leo and Seton Hill are both good in transition and they’re good off the ball. They play a fast style. For us, we’re already prepared for a team like that because we played a team similar to that last week. It’s hard to go from Le Moyne to Adelphi, because they’re two very different teams, but this week, we trained for a team last week that is very similar to the team we’ll see this week.
“It’s someone new, but we don’t want to change too much about what we do. We haven’t seen them all year, but we still need to do what we do well. It’s about us.”