When the University of Virginia’s Men’s Lacrosse team capped off its season on May 27 with a 13-9 win over the defending champion Yale Bulldogs in the NCAA final, Cooper Fersen ’14 may not have been on the roster, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a big impact on game day.
After a back injury during his senior year, the defenseman from Dorset, Vermont was given a redshirt to play a fifth year, but continued back pain and NCAA logistics prevented him from playing. Instead, after talks with his coaches about how best to contribute to a successful season, Fersen became an undergraduate assistant coach for the team.
“The attributes of a dependable close defenseman are all found in Cooper,” said Head Coach Lars Tiffany. “He has the strength of an ox, and his skill with the long stick is much more sophisticated than most. Cooper comprehends our defensive schemes quickly and can adeptly explain them to others.”
At Berkshire, Fersen was a four-year member of the varsity lacrosse team and earned three varsity letters in hockey as well. He was named to the All-New England lacrosse team for his final three seasons and added 2012 and 2013 Under Armour All-Star accolades to his list of accomplishments.
"The season was amazing and coaching was a blast," said Fersen of the Cavaliers' 2019 campaign. The team had a tradition that after every practice, a player would make some remarks, sharing the last word of the day. This task was determined by the players' jersey numbers, and as it happened, Fersen's #27 was due up the day after UVA beat Duke—for the first time in nine years—in double overtime to advance to the National Championship. Fate had given Fersen the last word of the day, as well as the final word of the season.
Fersen recalls the team’s struggle during his first two years in the program. They hadn’t won an ACC game or made the playoffs in the previous three years and, in his eyes, did not live up to the standard of UVA Men’s Lacrosse. But 2019 was a transformative season for the Cavaliers who won the ACC regular season and the ACC championship, and were then poised to play for the NCAA crown.
“To be able to give my last speech to the team before the championship was a great honor,” said Fersen, “and it was an amazing feeling to be able to rally the team one last time before the final day.”
Below is an excerpt from the speech Fersen made to his teammates, the night before the biggest game of their lives.
“There is a point where luck doesn’t just keep happening, that luck is just the work and the nonstop grind that we push each other through every day. We aren’t lucky fellas, we earned every single one of those victories. So… One more day. One more game. One more time to show the world what we are made of and what this team is all about. One more time to go out on that field and achieve what we have all been dreaming about. Trust the guy next to you and he will trust you back.”
To read more about the championship game, click here. Photos by Matt Riley, UVA Athletics