This interview fits follows up the John Ortolani interview and Team USA Spring Premiere vs Denver. One of the story lines many fans were anticipating was the clash of Greg Gurenlian versus his Face Off Academy protégé Trevor Baptiste. I admit I fell into that category, but there was another match up that had me intrigued.
Brendan Fowler was also on Team USA as a face off specialist.
Brendan, like Greg has the ability to take over a game and dictate possession (remember 2013 Championship Game where he went 20-28, including 13 consecutive wins?). Brendan (11-14) and Greg (13-16) both dominated the X similarly against Denver going a combined 24-30 including going 10-10 in the 2nd quarter. Brendan, thank you for taking time to answer some questions for In Lacrosse We Trust.
Q: You played football, lacrosse and wrestled at Duke. Did you have any idea or plan to participate in all three sports when you enrolled? Did you have a favorite sport?
A: I had no idea I was going to play all three when I first decided to go to Duke, I thought I was only going to play football. To be honest football was always my first love as long as I can remember. My Dad played at Villanova and coached me all growing up which was awesome. Once I got to Duke I really began to love playing lacrosse more because of the coaching staff and my teammates, there are so many great people involved in the Duke Lacrosse program. I was very lucky to be a part of it.
Q: Teamwork and sports are very important you. Can you talk a little about that?
A: Team sports have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I love being a part of a team and the relationships I have formed with my teammates from all levels mean so much more to me than any win or award ever could.
Q: What does it take to balance the requirements of Duke’s academics as well as three very demanding sports? You must have had the time of your life?
A: It was a lot of work but it really came down to being disciplined and managing my time well. I would make a schedule at the beginning of every week to make sure everything would get done on time.
Q: You ran defensive midfield shifts at Duke as well as took face-offs. Do you have a preference or is it whatever the team needs you to do?
A: I did? Haha I’ve always tried to be a team first guy, whatever is going to help us be successful I am willing to do.
Q: How did it feel when you were named 2013 Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament?
A: It was an awesome feeling for sure and it is always cool to be recognized, but winning a Championship with my best friends was so much more important to me than that.
Q: After graduation you were drafted by the Charlotte Hounds and were named an All Star in 2015 and joined The Face Off Academy as a coach. Can you talk about that accomplishment and how the Face Off Academy selection occurred?
A: Being named an all star last year was really cool especially after struggling my rookie year. Joining the Faceoff Academy played a huge part in me making the all-star game. As I mentioned I struggled my rookie year in the MLL and wasn’t sure what to change to improve the next season. I reached out to some of the top MLL guys and some faceoff legends and Greg (Gurenlian) got back to me right away. I took the train into NYC and worked with him when I was back from Grad School over Thanksgiving break. He made some changes in my style that have helped me a ton. It says a lot about his character that he was willing to help out a younger guy that he still competes against and we have been great friends since.
Q: What is it like being part of the Face Off Academy? Are you the “new guy,” or is a partnership?
A: I was definitely the new guy for a while because I joined last and am the youngest of the group but the FOA guys have been awesome and take great care of me. Working with them has been a blast.
Q: What were the biggest changes you faced going from college to the MLL?
A: The rules are different and the level of competition is so much higher than it is in college. I don’t think a lot of people recognize it but the size, speed, strength, and skill of the guys in the MLL is a whole different level from college.
Q: Where do you see the MLL in 5 years?
A: To be honest I am not really sure, I am just happy I get to play with and against the best lacrosse players in the world every weekend in the summer. I can tell you that a lot of people are making a lot of moves to grow the league and I think there are a lot of good things in the future.
Q: How does it feel to be reunited with Coach Danowski and several former Blue Devils?
A: No better feeling than being able to play for Coach D again and run around with a bunch of my old teammates.
Q: Team USA does not get many opportunities to play together, yet looked very comfortable rotating face offs. Most face off specialists like getting into a rhythm and do not like rotating, but the box score indicates otherwise. Is that a reflection of playing the MLL where there is not much time to practice together as well?
A: I will always be comfortable rotating with Greg, I think because we work together and are good friends it made it really easy to rotate on and off during the game.
Q: Did you or any of your teammates have any idea how dominating Team USA would perform at the Spring Premiere?
A: I wasn’t sure what to expect but I think it went as good as possible for that groups first time playing together. I think the coaching staff did an awesome job in a short weekend of putting guys in places to be successful.
Q: You are a New York guy now living in California. How is the transition? What is it like being the coach as opposed to the player now?
A: California is a lot different than New York, some parts of it I love and some parts of it I wish were more like New York. But I am definitely getting used to it. Being a coach has been a lot different but is a fun challenge, I try to mimic my favorite coaches that I have played for as much as possible and take a little something from all of them.