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Thursday December 6, 2007Teams Meet With Media To Kick Off NCAA Gainesville Regional

Gainesville, FL

2007 NCAA Championship

Gainesville Regional

Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007

Stephen C. O’Connell Center



St. John’s University


Head Coach Joanne Persico-Smith:

Opening statement:

“We’d like to thank everyone for being here, and we’re really excited about the Regional. We’re looking forward to a really good weekend.”


On the Red Storm’s sub-regional final win over Delaware:

“It was a great match against a very tough Blue Hen team. We got down by a lot in the second game, but our team showed great resilience and great perseverance, and we were able to pull through when it counted. That’s something we’ve done a lot all year.”


On libero Lena Yee:

“Yee has been outstanding. She’s been one of our most consistent players. She leads quietly in the back row and does everything that it takes to help us get the win.”


On preparing the SJU players for their first Regional appearance:

“Our leaders and our captains are all humble. We don’t have anyone who is cocky or overconfident. We’re just going to take one match at a time. It’s our first Regional and we’re thrilled to be here.”



“They’re a great team, and they are led by a great coach. (Mick Haley) is someone that I’ve looked up to. We know that they’ll certainly be ready for us. They’ll have made some adjustments from the last time they saw us, and they’ll be focused. We’re trying to do the same. We know that the match will be difficult, and we’re going to give it our best shot.”


On different players leading the team in each match:

“A different player rises to the occasion for us each time we take the court. When it comes to winning those tough points, I think this team has done a great job this year. Different people have stepped up at crucial points throughout the year.”


Senior RS/OH Latoya Blunt:

On her expectations for the Regional:

“It’s our first Regional, and we just want to remain focused and do our job. I don’t really have any expectations because we’ve never been here. We just need to come out an play hard. It’s the Regionals, so everyone is going to give you all they have.”


Junior libero Lena Yee:

On having faced USC earlier this season:

“We know their key players, and we’re comfortable playing them. We’ve played them before, and we took a game off of them, so we know what adjustments can be made.”


Senior setter Wioleta Leszczynska:

On how SJU has improved over as a team over the course of the season:

“We’re a lot more experienced now than at the beginning of the season. We’ve also got more confidence now. We’ve taken a big step forward since playing USC (in August), and we look forward to playing them again.”


University of Southern California


Head Coach Mick Haley:

Opening Statement:

“We’re excited to be here. This is obviously a fun time of the year. You work all season to get into the tournament. Now we’ve had a couple of rounds under our belt, and had a good day of travel yesterday. I think we’re here and ready to go.”


On traveling across the country:

“Well it is harder to go west to east. It usually takes about a day per time zone. If you do this with international teams, you really try to go the same number of days before a big tournament starts. In collegiate sports, you just do what you do. With finals and everything going on, we’re just happy to be here. We don’t think the time zones are going to effect us much. We’ll be ready to play when we come out. We’ll be ready to go by tomorrow.”


On being undefeated in five-game matches this year:

“I think our senior leadership helps us a great deal in the five-game matches. Our setter’s not a freshman anymore. We had trouble in those situations last year. You usually do when you have freshmen setters. A lot of times, pressure builds up in those types of situations. I think we’re pretty relaxed and we know what we want to do. Five-game matches are obviously a flip of the coin, but we’ve come out on top this year.”


On how playing in the Pac-10 prepares them for the NCAA Tournament:

“Us particularly, we don’t put a lot of emphasis on trying to win the conference as much as we do to improve throughout the year. There’s just so much winning you can do before you wear yourself out. By playing in the conference, you certainly have to be able to change from one night to the next. The coaches are very good, the players are very good. They throw anything they can at you. The second time through the conference, you see absolutely everything you never wanted to see come at you because everybody looks at the data and tries to max it out. It’s pretty fun to coach in this conference. If you don’t let it wear you out before you get to the tournament, then you can survive.”


Senior OH Diane Copenhagen:

On performing well in late-game situations:

“I think a lot of our demeanor has to do with the fact that we practice it and we’ve been through it. Like Coach Haley said, earlier last year we weren’t that strong in our five-game matches. I think having five seniors who have been through this - that are able to step up and control the match and be key factors - definitely helps us.  In the fifth game, it’s all about going for it and we practice it every day.  Our team has finally become comfortable and confident when we go into five-game matches.”


On sophomore setter Taylor Carico:

Taylor’s done an awesome job this year. She came in last year as a freshman and ran the offense well, but definitely having those spring practices with her and getting her to really understand the system has been huge. She can run it now without the coaches’ help.  She’s done a great job running our offense, knowing which hitters are open and which hitters to go to.  She’s done an exceptional job this year.”


Senior Opp./OH Asia Kaczor:

On battling fatigue during matches:

“I think that everyone gets tired, but we have great athletic trainers. They really help us bounce back.”


University of Florida


Head Coach Mary Wise:

Opening Statement:

“We’ve celebrated the fact that we have the opportunity to host Regionals since we got the call in April. I’d like to extend my thanks to a lot of folks - marketing & promotions, operations, and Gator fans. I’d like to think that last year’s success and how well we drew had something to do with that. We had to earn our way here, and this team earned its way big time with the two wins last weekend. Knowing that there are only sixteen teams left in the tournament, we are thrilled to be here and know that we have a huge challenge ahead of us.”


On preparing for Texas:

Texas, like all four top seeds, has a legitimate chance to win it all because of their talent. There’s a reason why they’ve been beating their competition 3-0 since they’ve been healthy. They just have so many offensive weapons, a great blocking team, a four year starting libero and setter. There are just not a lot of weaknesses in that team. If you weren’t playing them, you’d say they’re a fun team to watch.”


On improving throughout the tournament:

“We’re still a work in progress. We need to be seamless on serve-receive, and that takes both reps and experience. We’re still working through it. The reason we were able to win those two matches last weekend was because everyone played their role.”


On the improved play of sophomore libero Elyse Cusack:

“Our serve-receive is about Elyse taking whatever balls she wants. I don’t think any of the passers would have any problem letting her do that. She has embraced, as have the rest of us, what we are going to do in Marcie Hampton’s absence. We all have to play a bigger role.  There’s more responsibility out there. Elyse has taken her game, which has been pretty good all season, to another level.”


Senior setter Angie McGinnis:

On the development of freshmen Lauren Bledsoe & Callie Rivers:

“Both of them are tremendously talented players, and that they showed it last weekend. I think they have the capability to step up, even against a good blocking team like Texas. They’re fun to set. I like setting them because they get kills.”


On rising to the occasion despite Marcie Hampton’s injury:

“The seniors, Kisya (Killingsworth), Amber (McCray), and I all had to step up and make it easier for the freshmen. They can’t take the role of Marcie because she plays like she’s four players on the court.  We all had to step up, and we did that and I think that just shows the potential of the team and how far we can go.”


Senior opposite hitter Amber McCray:

On playing in the back row versus Oklahoma in the second round:

“It was definitely not something I’m used to. At that point in time, we ran out of subs, so what else could you do?  I just knew that if the ball did come to me, or if I had a chance, I wanted to make the most of it. Luckily, it worked out.”


On Florida’s resiliency:

“If you look at us in the beginning of the season, we weren’t really coming back when we were down. We weren’t putting teams away when we were ahead. Long Beach definitely proved to us in game three that we can battle with teams, come back from a deficit and win close game.”


University of Texas


Head Coach Jerritt Elliott:

Opening Statement:

“We’re excited to be here. It’s been a long season and a really good season for us to get to this point. Again, we’re honored that we know there are four very good volleyball teams here. We’re here to play our best volleyball with these teams and give it a good shot. We have a lot of respect for Florida, and we’ve got a very good balanced team that has continued to get better over a period of time.”


On what sophomore outside hitter Destinee Hooker means to the team:

“She’s a very special talent. Athletically, she’s the best athlete I’ve ever seen on a volleyball court. She has a lot of emotions, an extremely good learning curve and has continued to get better over the season. She adds a lot of energy to this team.”


On Hooker being a two-sport athlete:

“She’s a very loyal young lady. She’s busy with track & field, but she’s done a really good job in terms of separating herself. When it’s volleyball season, she’s fully committed to volleyball season, and then its track’s turn to have her. Luckily, right now we have her and hopefully we can continue to have her for another week and a half.”


On having a height advantage versus Florida:

“It’s definitely one of our strengths. Our blocking has continued to get better, and we’ve done a really good job of running a new system of swing blocking over the course of the year. It’s good for a lot of pressure on opponents. The serve and pass game is a key component. If we can get them in predictable situations, then our height advantage and athleticism is able to do a really nice job.”


Senior setter Michelle Moriarty:

On playing with Hooker:

“It takes a different type of set to set someone like her. She’s such a great athlete and she’ so much fun to be on the court with, not only for her talent but for her emotion as well.”


On being a senior:

“I was actually talking about it with Juliann (Faucette) today. I had to travel to Wisconsin my freshmen year and the emotions are just so different freshmen year because you don’t know what to expect and you don’t know what’s going to happen. Coming here, it’s like, ‘Okay, we’re ready this time.’ I’m ready and I know what to expect, and I’m excited to play tomorrow.”


Sophomore opposite hitter Ashley Engle:

On traveling during the NCAA Championship for the first time in her career:

“I’m excited. It was nice to be able to stay home two weekends in a row last year. I think that traveling is difficult, but I know that we’re ready to play.”


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