Shooting from the Hip with Brian McDermott
Fifth-year senior midfielder Brian McDermott is returning for his final season after being the Cavaliers’ most efficient faceoff specialist in 2010. The Cortland, N.Y., native recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to discuss how he impressed in the ACC Tournament, winning 17-of-19 faceoffs, in a semifinal triumph over Duke with a separated shoulder. The effort helped him earn all-tournament honors and ignited UVa on the way to the program’s 17th ACC title.
Question: You are returning for a fifth year after being granted a medical hardship your junior season. What kind of injury led to the decision to take your third year off?
McDermott: I broke my back my senior year of high school lacrosse. I came in here, and I never let it heal properly. I just kind of played through it because the team needed me. My junior year, we got a transfer from Dartmouth. It looked like I was going to be more toward the second guy, and I could still barely run. My body was hurting, so I just went up to the coaches and asked them, ‘If you guys don’t need me that much, please give me a year. Let my body rest and let me come back after that.’ It took a little hesitation from them because I don’t think they saw it coming-but eventually they agreed.
Question: When did you learn that you would be granted an extra year of eligibility?
McDermott: I didn’t know I was going to come back here until maybe two or three weeks before school started. Usually it’s more of a straightforward case. I hadn’t seen doctors in Virginia for a while though, and they had to build a case for me. Typically it’s at the end of that year, but for some reason, it went a whole other year for me before they figured out. It really complicated things with trying to get into grad school and stuff like that, but it eventually worked out – so I have no complaints.
Question: Had you discussed the possibility of returning for a fifth year with the coaching staff before then?
McDermott: It was right before the start of last season that we talked about it. We had a meeting before the spring started, and they basically just said, ‘We like how you’ve been playing lately. If you’d like to come back, we can’t talk about it for sure, but we think we’ll have a spot for you next year if you continue to do this well.’
Question: You obviously did, emerging as the team’s leading faceoff man and compiling a team-leading .583 winning percentage. You also helped the team to a pivotal victory over Duke in the ACC semifinals by winning 17-of-19 faceoffs. Do you attribute anything in particular to your breakout game against Duke?
McDermott: I was just fed up with losing to them. I got embarrassed in the first game. I felt like I had out-faceoffed the guy. I was better with the draw, I could beat him, I was quicker to the whistle, and yet we still came up short. It was a big part of the reason why we lost-because we didn’t have enough possession time. I kind of got together with the other faceoff guys and told them, ‘Listen, we are better than these guys. We know we’re better than this. We need to do something.’ We started being down a lot, and something just kind of snapped in me. I was just unwilling to lose. I actually separated my shoulder in the first quarter, but then I scored, which made me more excited. There was just nothing that day that was stopping me. It was one of those times where I completely got in that zone.
Question: Obviously the faceoff is a very unique aspect of lacrosse. Have you always been a faceoff specialist?
McDermott: Coming in, it was something I could do. I never expected just to do that, but I kind of adapted to it to get on the field.
Question: What do you feel is the most important component to being a successful faceoff man?
McDermott: It’s kind of a mental thing. Many people would argue with me, and there are a lot of people who have a lot of success just being about technique. Alex Smith, for example, is regarded as the best faceoff guy ever. His technique is unbelievable, and he’s quick. But for me, it’s just about being in the right mindset. On days where I just feel like I can’t be beaten, no one’s going to beat me. On days where I’m a little unsure and can’t get into that mindset, anyone can beat me. There are enough people now that are quick enough and strong enough that if you have an off day, they’re going to beat you.
Question: How would you define your mentality going into a faceoff?
McDermott: Literally, I get into a complete mindset of just, ‘This guy’s trying to embarrass me and make me look like an idiot in front of everyone I know and everyone I love and everyone I care about.’ I kind of work myself up into such a frenzy that losing is not an option, and if you do lose, it’s an issue. You kind of beat yourself up a little bit. You’re all in-it’s all or nothing. Any groundball, anything that you can do-you got it, and there’s no one that can stop you, there’s no one who can get in your way. Whatever you have to do to get that, that’s how you have to do it.
Question: Have you always had such a competitive approach to the game, or has it developed over time?
McDermott: I think it’s just how I was when I was a kid. It’s my competitive nature-I just hate to lose. I talked to my brother, Tim, and it’s kind of the same thing with him. Every faceoff’s like the last thing on earth, and you need it. I guess it’s a good way to look at it because if you’re only out there for 15 or 20 seconds, you have to go all out, all the time, or else what are you doing out there?
Question: You mentioned your brother, who was an All-American faceoff specialist at Geneseo College before playing at Loyola. What kind of relationship do you have with him?
McDermott: We definitely have a special bond. He comes to almost every single game. He’ll be the first to criticize me over anyone else-like, ‘What were you thinking? Why did you do this?’ He’ll also be the first one to be like, ‘Let’s go. Let’s have a good game.’ It’s something special we have between each other. We really get each other right away. A lot of people say we’re pretty much the same person a lot of times-we talk in similar ways, we act in similar ways. He lives in Richmond right now, so he’s been able to come up and see me play a lot. He’s helped me a lot off the field, like critiquing what I’m doing and figuring out what I need to do to get back, especially when I was hurt and trying to recoup a starting spot. He’s very helpful. Anytime I need something-any advice-he’s always there for me.
Question: Now that you are back for a fifth year, does that mean you are enrolled in graduate school at UVa?
McDermott: I’m in the Higher Education Administration Program. Since I didn’t know I was coming back, I didn’t apply until this winter to the program and the classes I took in the fall didn’t all transfer. I’m actually going to have to spend more time here next year now to finish up and maybe coach a little bit. I might be living in Richmond with my brother and commuting. But I’m definitely going to try to stay part of the team and help out with the faceoff guys and coach and just do everything I can here.