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Thursday December 10, 2009NCAA Gainesville Pre-Tournament Press Conferences

Gainesville, FL

The University of Florida will play host to the NCAA Gainesville Regional Dec. 11-12 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Before each team’s practices, press conferences are held on Thursday. A complete quotes transcript can be found here from each team following its respective press conference.

 

PRESS CONFERENCE 1: CALIFORNIA (VIDEO)

 

CAL HEAD COACH RICH FELLER

 

“We are very happy to be here in the Gainesville Regional, with the great weather and this wonderful facility. We’re really pleased that we are here. I think this whole tournament is exceptionally competitive this year, where really anybody can do anything against anybody. This regional is very strong. I’ve read and seen a lot of good things about our opponent, Baylor, and they look to be a very, very strong team, so we’re looking forward to challenging ourselves and seeing what the outcome will be.”

 

On what Cal will need to do to be successful against Baylor on Friday …

“For us, we are a team that has steadily learned from both our mistakes and our victories. We go back to the gym everyday and try to learn a little bit more about ourselves, like what we could do to eliminate some of our mistakes or errors we made in our previous matches. So for us, we looked at a few areas - one was serve-receive consistency, one was making sure we locate sets to the right hitters. Another one was showing up our blocking a little bit earlier in a match. I think one of our strengths is that we learn during a match as much as we learn from the flat-screen watching a video. When you’re out there, three-dimensional and playing against an opponent, then you really learn to process what you saw in the video. Our team adapts and learns very well, I thought we did that both nights last weekend. We’re just trying to get those things together a little sooner in matches. Each time we advance in this tournament, the competition gets better so we have to learn faster. We have to be a little bit better than we were the week before, and that’s where we focus mostly.”

 

On if the two wins in the NCAA First and Second Rounds help the Cal’s confidence …

“Sure, but each opponent is new, each night is new. Our confidence level is pretty high right now, but I don’t think anyone is very overconfident. We know that the stakes are high and each team that has made it to Regional is going to be good, no matter what. We know very well that Baylor is a very tough team and has earned their way here through a very tough first and second round. We are going to be confident, but be very guarded about being overconfident.”

 

On his thoughts on Baylor …

“They’re disciplined, they’re good defensively, they’re fast offensively. They have an experienced group of seniors and upper-class players that can bring it, that can terminate when they need to terminate. We’re going to have to be fast, we’re going to have to be quick on defense. One of the things that’s underrated about our team is our defense and blocking. Lots of people tend to think of Hana [Cutura] as being the offensive powerhouse and that’s all we have. When they play us, teams find out that we are pretty good defensively and transitionally. We’re a very good blocking team and we get better as the match goes on.”

 

On how exciting it is to be in an NCAA regional with the nation’s top-ranked team …

 “I wouldn’t describe it as exciting. Challenging? Absolutely. But this is the second year that we’ve done this, the second year that we been in the regional with the number one seed. Am I happy that we are in Gainesville as opposed to anywhere else? Yes.”

 

#26 HANA CUTURA, OH, SR.

 

On what Cal did well in last weekend’s NCAA matches …

“I think we had pretty good defense, we had a lot of blocks and we were just disciplined. We concentrated more on our side of the court. We did our job.”

 

On Baylor …                                                                                                          

 “If they are passing, they have a really quick attack. I think that we’re still going to have to stay disciplined and try and concentrate on our side.”

 

#1 CARLI LLOYD, S, JR

 

On Baylor …

“From what we’ve watched before, it seems like they have a really disciplined defensive team back row. They dig a lot of balls so, offensively, we need to be anticipating that stuff. Focusing on our side on the net and making sure we have a solid block up is going to be key, I think, to slowing them down. “

 

On Cal rebounding after losing its last two regular-season matches …

“Our loss to Stanford was a hard loss because it was a big match, but for every match that we have, we have to prepare the same way for the next one, every match is huge. It was easy for us to feel defeated that night and the next day a little bit, but we knew that we had to gather our thoughts and prepare ourselves for the next week because we knew that competition is going to be just as tough on the road in the NCAA Tournament. It was basically us coming together as a team and realizing that we have big matches ahead of us and we can’t dwell on the past.”

 

PRESS CONFERENCE 2: BAYLOR (VIDEO)

 

BAYLOR HEAD COACH JIM BARNES

 

 “We’re just excited to be here. First word that comes to my mind is thankful. I’m thankful for this team, for my coaches and what they brought this year to represent Baylor. We’re excited about our match-up with Cal. We’ve been playing our best here at the end of the season and we’re looking forward to playing another Pac-10 team. We feel like we match up well with them and we’re definitely going to have to play our best ball to beat Cal.”

 

On what Baylor will need to do to be successful against Cal on Friday …

“We talked about how we need to bring the same defensive effort that we brought against UCLA, because that’s what really frustrated them. UCLA is one of the top defensive teams in the Pac-10 and we out dug them by 20. That’s what really frustrates teams, keeping the ball off the floor. Ultimately, it’s a serve and pass game. If we can make them pass off the net, we’ll dig more balls. If we can pass on the net, we’ll put more balls away. I know its cliché, but those are the two things that really dictate a match. We passed and served better than UCLA, so the rest of our game really stepped up and that’s what we need to do against Cal.”

 

On keeping the ball away from Cal’s Hana Cutura …

“She’s going to see a lot of balls; there’s nothing we can do about that. What we would like to see is her getting that set from the setter 10-12 feet off of the net. If she’s hitting balls with the setter off the net, it allows us to set up our defense a little easier. She’s going to get her kills, but the big thing is that we don’t let that get us out of our game. She can get 30 kills and we can still win if we stay within our game and keep the other members of her team down. Like their coach [Rich Feller] said, they’re not a one-woman team. Their other players can really play so it’s important we keep them under control. If we can do that, No. 26 [Cutura] can do whatever she wants and it won’t matter because it’s a team game.”

 

On keeping the momentum rolling …

“We’re working hard and in practices we are preparing the right way. It’s really nice at this time of the year to be healthy. That’s what you aim for as a coach, to be healthy at this time of the year and be playing your best. Tomorrow afternoon, it’ll be about playing our best at that time. Right now, every team can beat each other. I believe every one of them is ready to play and whoever plays their best will end up on top.”

 

On the mental toughness of Baylor …

“It starts from last year. People ask about this surprise run that we’re having, but I thought last year we were in position to do the same thing. We had a great team, we started the year the same way, we were breaking records and then we really got injured, especially our seniors. We just came short of the tournament and that really motivated our mentality and-work ethic for this year. People think we are a surprise this year, but I think we were this good last year. What you’re seeing now is a real determined team that’s been through a lot and is now healthy. The Big 12 has been getting us ready to play. Mental toughness in the Big 12 is required in order to win. I think it is a relief for our teams to see other teams and not see another Big 12 opponent.”

 

On how exciting it is to be in an NCAA regional with the nation’s top-ranked team …

 “They are definitely a dominant team and have made history. Coach Rose has done an amazing job with that program. To me, I just see opportunity. If we have the opportunity to play a number one I’ll be very happy about that because that means we beat Cal. It’s an opportunity to make your program go to another level and add a lot of notoriety to it if you knock off Penn State. Our team relishes this moment because I think they think they’re due. They thought they were due last year but then ran into injuries, so this year we are making up for them.”

 

#9 TAYLOR BARNES, S, SR

 

On what Baylor did well in last weekend’s NCAA matches …

“I think it was the mental aspect that really pushed us over the edge. I think playing-wise, we are capable of playing with anyone in the nation. Last weekend, we just went out there and mentally prepared ourselves for UCLA and how making it to the Sweet 16 was going to be a huge deal for us.”

 

On facing California on Friday …                                                                                

“I think that we are going to have to be on our best game in order to beat Cal. They have a great outside hitter, she’s the Pac-10 player of the year, so that’s one of our main focuses, to shut her down. I think they are a really well-rounded team and have a lot of things going for them so we need to bring that mental aspect to the game and go in there with a lot of confidence.”

 

On Baylor defense …

“I think what helped us beat UCLA is that we were going after every ball. We were being as steady on defense as we were on offense. Our serve-receive was awesome during the UCLA match and I think that our defense will be a big factor this weekend because they have some great hitters.”

 

On getting to the Sweet 16 …

“We started this season off awesome and then the Big 12 really helped prepare us for the NCAA Tournament. We’ve come out here almost like it’s a new season and just playing everybody as hard as we can. We’re so proud to come out here and represent Baylor University and Baylor athletics. Especially since it’s our senior year, to make it to the Sweet 16 for the first time ever is just an awesome time.”

 

#14 ANNA BREYFOGLE, MB, SR

 

On Baylor’s defense …

“Our defense was definitely amazing [last weekend] and that made everything easier for us. Taylor didn’t have to run around and set balls, and we could stay in the system. The hitters had great sets and everything works well when the first ball your team touches is a perfect set.”

 

On getting to the Sweet 16 …

“It’s sometimes a bumpy ride, sometimes smooth, but that’s how I think it is with every team. We started off really strong and I think we’re going to end really strong. That’s a great way to play.”

 

PRESS CONFERENCE 3: FLORIDA (VIDEO)

 

FLORIDA HEAD COACH MARY WISE

 

 “We look at this weekend as there are only 16 teams stills playing, only four teams that are hosting and only one team that gets to play the No. 1 seed and two-time defending champions. We understand that this is a great challenge playing one of, if not the best women’s volleyball teams in history. We hope that the people that are coming out Friday and Saturday get to see some of the premier players in all of women’s volleyball. It’s good stuff and we are proud to be hosting.”

 

On if she believes Penn State is the best volleyball team of all time …

“If not the best, certainly one of them. To make a run in the NCAA Tournament you need to have two things: a player-of-the-year type candidate and you have to be healthy. Penn State has both. They have the two player-of-the-year type candidates. Obviously, Megan Hodge is one. But, Alisha Glass is easily one of the best setters in the country. To have two on the court, plus they are surrounded by First-Team All Big-10 and All-American talent. They are just so deep and talented as a team. They also have one of the best coaches in our game [Russ Rose]. The fact that they have won back-to-back national championships tells you that they don’t get run over easily. The fact that the last time that they lost was September 15, 2007 shows that they obviously have ‘hit their stride’ and kept going. Their success alone makes a strong case that they are the best team in women’s volleyball. No one else has ever been in their position to win three national titles.”

 

On whether she embraces the underdog role …

“If you give me the option to play on the road and be heavily-favored or play at home as the underdog – coaches will tell you that you always take the more talented team.”

 

On the 2003 Florida team that advanced to the NCAA Finals …

“2003 was a very special team. We had the two things up until October 15th. We had a National Player of the Year Candidate in Aury Cruz, but we did not have the health. We lost Benavia Jenkins, who was third in the country in blocks at the time to an ACL injury. The fact that that team got to a National Championship match, despite losing one of the best blockers, that’s why that team goes down as being special. Not just that we got there, but how we got there without Benavia. I think you can look at each year – you got to have a great player and you’ve got to be healthy.”

 

On how she tries to describe the talent of Penn State to her players …

“We try to draw analogies to other great players that we have played previously. A year ago in the regional semifinals we lost to Stanford. Foluke [Akinradewo] made plays that weren’t defendable. We know that [Arielle] Wilson makes plays that are similar. We can draw analogies and say ‘This is like a Foluke play.’ ‘When Wilson does this it’s similar to Foluke.’ Or even more recently Brittnee Cooper – the SEC Player of the Year in terms of contact point and how fast she is on the court. That said, we did not have any success against Brittnee Cooper or Foluke. Again, I go back to the fact that it’s a great player that no team in the country can match up against in Megan. Then they have that quarterback - the senior leader, who makes good decisions, plays so steady and obviously has the confidence from the head coach to run the show. When you get that good of a quarterback (Glass) and that good of a running back [Hodge] on the same team then you have a BCS-caliber team in football terms.”

 

#7 ELYSE CUSACK, L, SR

 

On the week of practice …

“This has been a pretty long week for us, especially since we played Thursday and Friday. We were off Saturday, practiced Sunday and Monday. We have a really tough match coming up tomorrow and we’re going to have to work really hard.”

 

On her thoughts of playing the underdog role …

“The underdog role is kind of new for us because going through the SEC season we’ve been expected to win, so this is exciting for us. The underdog role is something we’re not used to and it’s going to be a challenge to play against the number one team. We haven’t faced the No. 1 team since I’ve been here.”

 

On whether she played against any Penn State players in club volleyball  …

“I played against Megan Hodge when we were 16 or 17 but that’s going way back. She’s a completely different player and I am a different player and we have two completely different games. All there is to know is we grew up playing against each other in club in tournaments. It’ll be fun to play a great team like Penn State.”

 

On whether hosting NCAA Regionals gives the Gators an advantage …

“Since I’ve been here, this is our third time hosting regionals. Unfortunately we’ve lost both of the last times so I guess it doesn’t give us an advantage. But it’s always nice to play in a familiar facility. Last year when we went to Colorado State, it was a lot different playing in the high altitude, so it was different going on the road. I think being in the familiar facility will help us and hopefully we get a great crowd coming out tomorrow to support us.”

 

#12 KELLY MURPHY, S/RS, SO

 

On the differences when playing on a sport court …

“We haven’t played on a sport court in while but, when I was in high school, we played on them all the time and I actually really liked it. The sport court just gives us a little extra cushion. It’s going to be different.

 

On whether she played against any Penn State players in club volleyball  …

Well I played against their freshman hitter [Darcy Dorton] a lot when I was a senior and she was a junior. We’re both definitely completely different players now and I don’t really remember much about the other players.”

 

PRESS CONFERENCE 4: PENN STATE

 

 PENN STATE HEAD COACH RUSS ROSE

 

 “We are excited to be here. We are aware there are 16 teams still playing and are pleased to be one of those. We know that Florida is a great opponent. We have played them before in NCAAs, in season and out of season.  We are very familiar with the fact that Florida has a great program and it’s a match where we will have to play well.”

 

On the playing surface …

“I think most schools are familiar with playing on wood courts. The NCAA has a relationship with Sports Court. We had a few schools in our conference that had Sports Courts, but they have all moved to wood. There is no Sport Court in the Big Ten right now.”

 

On whether there is anything about tomorrow’s match that concerns him …

“I think people struggle with nerves all the time. They are young people and in spite of the fact they have a history or tradition of success you have to worry about nerves. We don’t really have anyone in our gym who can replicate things the same way Kelly Murphy does. Florida may have some struggles with some of the things Megan [Hodge] does. It’s one thing to say she jumps high, it another to say she jumps higher than the practice players.  I can say to our team that we have played against two or three left-handed setters that are active and hit a lot of balls; but they don’t hit the ball with the same velocity or at the same contact point as Kelly Murphy does.”

 

#6 ALISHA GLASS, S, SR

 

On Florida’s team …

 “As a team, they play great defense. They have lot of energy that we are going to have to match. They are a good cohesive unit. I think those are things you have to take into consideration.”

 

On the playing surface …

“I think it’s something you just get used to. We’ll get to practice and adjust to it.  It’s going to be different, but it’s not an advantage or disadvantage.”

 

On staying focused during a 98-match win streak …

“I think it is just match-to-match. We don’t talk about the streak and isn’t something we focus on.  We are just like any other team at this point.”

 

On the possibility of winning a third consecutive national championship …

“This season, this team is completely different. We want this team to be as successful as possible this year, especially considering it’s our senior year. We want to leave an impact on the program. That’s our goal and that’s what we want.”

 

#11 MEGAN HODGE, OH, SR

 

On being the tournament’s No. 1 seed …

“Things are the way they have been. We don’t look at this as a pressure situation. It’s just us playing our game, trying to get through the match and hopefully advance to play on Saturday.”

 

On the playing surface …

“I like wood, but Sport Court is not that bad.  It’s on top of a wood court, so I guess it’s not that different.”

 

On staying focused during a 98-match win streak …

“People talk about it, but it’s not something we talk about. We are just as vulnerable as any other team, especially in the NCAA tournament, when you have a bad match and you’re out just like any other team. It’s important for us to be focused this whole entire tournament so that it doesn’t happen to us.”

 

 

 

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