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Thursday December 8, 20112011 NCAA Volleyball Gainesville Regional Pre-Practice Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

2011 NCAA VOLLEYBALL GAINESVILLE REGIONAL PRE-PRACTICE QUOTES

 

FLORIDA PRESS CONFERENCE LINK: http://www.gatorvision.tv/mediaPortal/player.dbml?catid=10807&id=820415

 

Florida Head Coach Mary Wise
Opening Statement:
“It may sound trite when I say we’re happy to be there, but those words ring pretty true when you enter the tournament unseeded and have to play the likes of a team as good as Missouri and then 24 hours have to play the No. 7 seed Northern Iowa. To win those two matches, it has our confidence high. We’re playing this as a non-seeded team – expectations are low, but our confidence is high. There really is no pressure on this group; they’re just playing to have fun. They’ve been like that in practice and they’ve been like that in the matches. It is really just a fun time for us. We’re just going to ride this momentum as far as it can possibly take us.”

 

On entering the tournament as an unseeded team:

“We like to think that we were underrated. But we said from the get-go with the parity of women’s volleyball – with the way the game is played now – all of the changes in our game over the past several years. To bring parity: the 25 point sets, the libero, the liberal substitutions – all of those rules, are now where we predicted them all to be – it’s parity. Then, you add all the great talent around the country. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the committee. I would not have wanted their job with all the parity of women’s volleyball.”

 

On this year being different from years past:

“For a number of years as a seeded team, and hosting, it was a matter of just survive and move on. Not only did we survive, but also we were battle tested. We survived and we celebrated. The win over Missouri was enough to make for a thrilling season alone, and then to add Northern Iowa. This has really been more of an enjoyment, again because there is no pressure on this team. It has really been a fun couple of weeks.”

 

On making adjustments following the first set:

“I think it’s probably a reflection of the evolution of the team. Especially, I look at the month of November and how much better we got – not only as players, but also as a team playing together. I just think that we’re showing the signs of a team playing its best volleyball. To lose a first set – there was no panic. There was no panic when we did it against Arkansas, and again there was no panic Friday night against Missouri.”

 

On getting out of the first two rounds and moving onto Regionals:

“It’s a quick reminder of how difficult it is to advance in this tournament. Every team in our situation, from the first serve of the first match, it shows how difficult it is to advance. The margin of error is so small, and that will be the case on Friday night. If you want to talk about battle tested, look at the Big 10 season. They did something we couldn’t do – went into Stanford and won. You have a team with a lot of momentum – who have won a lot of matches and who have played in a big arenas. The margin of error for us will be very, very small for us on Friday. We are going to have to play our best volleyball to have any chance against Michigan tomorrow night.”

 

On owning a 90 percent winning percentage at Florida:

“We have been very blessed with the great talent that has come through our program – that’s the bottom line – you win with talent. You try to maintain. Our goal has been to win the matches we should, and then compete in the matches where we may not have as much talent or aren’t as big on paper. Just to compete hard. For the most part, it has been the main stay of this program.”

 

On rebounding after Missouri and Northern Iowa:

“I think it’s impossible to be stale at this point. If you ask any player, everyone knows what this feels like. The challenge right now is that they’re going through finals. We wish we could put a pause button on that so that everyone could really enjoy it, but they’ve learned how to handle this through. You organize your time, you embrace it, you enjoy it and then you realize that there are only 16 teams are still playing – and we’re one of them. Stale is so far from where this group has been. We’re so excited that we’re still playing. The last time we were not seeded, we didn’t get this far.”

 

On the weeks practice heading into Michigan:

“It is the same recipe that we’ve been using in how we structure the video, the practice and the preparation. We are doing our best to emulate the skill set of Michigan – launching balls behind the end line with bazookas. They can rip it. That is prototype Big 10 – they are physical behind the end line and physical at the net.”

 

On facing a team out of the SEC:

“I think there are both advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is obviously that this is the first time we have played this Michigan team. We’re trying to watch as much video as possible, fortunately they were on TV a lot so that helped. We’re just trying to learn everything about them. That would be the disadvantage.

 

“Is there an advantage? I don’t know. Sometimes too much of a familiarity isn’t a good thing. It’s all about matchups – whether you know that team or you don’t’. It’s all about how your team matches up with the team that you’re competing against. I think that’s true about volleyball, but I think you look at the men’s basketball tournament – our sport has evolved that same way. There are certain teams that your team just doesn’t match up against, and that is where your run is going to end whether you’re familiar with them, or not. Tomorrow night we’ll find out how we matchup against Michigan.”

 

On Michigan:

“They can bring it, it is very impressive, but they’re not the only ones. Their ability to point score in every rotation with a great libero – it’s impressive. Can we get them out of system? That’s going to be our biggest challenge. The thing is that you get two physical left sides, so you can get them out of system and they can still point score. The Gators have to bring their defensive shoes tomorrow. That’s for sure.”

 

On preparing for other teams present at Regionals:

“We have really spent so much time, just watching Michigan and trying to figure out that matchup. There is some similarity – and I think that happens in all leagues. We joke about it being inbreeding – that leagues – they become a reflection of each other. In describing the Big 10 it’s talking about very physical point scorers who have the ability to score both the front and back row, and an elite level defense. I think that certainly describes the Big 10 this year.”

 

Senior Right-Side/Setter Kelly Murphy

On playing her last match in the O’Connell Center:

“I’m really happy to be back in the O’Dome. When we played our last match here we didn’t know whether we would just be hosting, or if we would make it back here for Regionals. It really is a great feeling to be back and have our fans back behind us.”

 

On the Florida way:

“I think there is just such a high level of expectation from everybody. You can’t help but just perform, because everybody expects to win. You come in, and it’s a culture in the gym. Everybody comes from a good team, so you just can’t help to get better. You’re prepared when you go into matches against good teams. You’re ready to play hard, and you expect to play hard for every point.”

 

On not being seeded entering the tournament:

“We obviously tried to look at it in a positive way, thinking that some teams may overlook us. However, we knew that we hadn’t played our best volleyball of the season yet. We just held high expectations for ourselves. We expected to play our best matches in the tournament. I think that we have done that so far, we’re just starting to play our best volleyball.”

 

On getting a face-off against Illinois:

“Right now we’re really just trying to focus on Michigan. We know we have to win on Friday, so we’ll see what happens. Right now Friday is really just our focus.”

 

ILLINOIS PRESS CONFERENCE LINK: http://www.gatorvision.tv/mediaPortal/player.dbml?id=820363&db_oem_id=6500

 

Illinois Head Coach Kevin Hambly:

Opening Statement:
“The trip last night – it was along day of travel, but we’re used to that. We’re excited to be in Gainesville and to come in and be in the Regional Semifinal. The team is prepared. We have been working hard and are prepared to play Ohio State tomorrow.”

 

On possessing big hitters to change momentum in the game:
“Hopefully I have five or six big hitters in our program. I think we’re fortunate to have two senior All-Americans on the left side – I don’t think a lot of programs have that. It’s hard to equate volleyball to any other sports. I try, but the outside hitting position, but it’s kind of unique with what they do. They erase a lot of mistakes at times with ball control. We can struggle with passing attempts and set the ball high to our pit attackers. I throw Liz McMahon into that equation now, and as a freshman, she has developed really nicely into our system. If we’re not passing our best, we still have the opportunity to win rallies.  These guys have done it all year, and Liz has done it all year.

 

On a big kill, or shot changing momentum in the game:

“I don’t think anything just happens. There are times when you could call a timeout and it’s 24-23, and the other team knows who it is coming to and it’s time to put the ball away. We want to put ourselves in the best situation. It’s nice to have the ability to do that

 

On the outcome in Austin last year”

“We haven’t talked about that yet. We talked about that in January. We’ve been working the whole time since then, to overcome that. We’ve tried to adjust like we have every year. It’s the same situation as Hawaii, which was a tough matchup for us the year before that. We’re just trying to be better as a staff and make sure that we’re more prepared. I think this year we did a better job of preparing. Most of the time, it’s just dealing with competitive toughness.

 

“We train through the Big 10 more. Last year, we tapered earlier throughout the Big 10 – about the second half of conference play we started to taper. The girls will tell you now that we haven’t tapered at all. Even today, we’re going to get after it; we’re going to work hard. I think we have athletes that are physically capable and able to handle the training that we have – I’m not sure that we’ve had that in year’s past. I look at it as an opportunity to train through the Big 10 and through the NCAA tournament. We’ll taper tomorrow right before the match, and I think we should all be able to handle that.”

 

On reaching Number One:

“It has never been a goal of ours. The tournament is the real poll – where you finish in the tournament tells you where you really stand at the end of the year. If we’re number one at the end of that, then I’ll feel really good about that. Otherwise, it’s just people’s opinions.

 

“When we we’re not playing well we don’t rely on other people’s opinions. When we were 20-0, we didn’t rely on other people’s opinions about ourselves and the program. In fact, when we were at 20-0, if you ask the girls, we weren’t playing very well. We were playing a whole lot better when we lost some matches. We’re judging ourselves on ourselves until the tournament tells us where we stand and figures out who the best team is.

 

“I think I’m pretty mediocre at everything that I do – I’m just trying to be better. I think we’re just working hard to be the best we can be. I’m just trying to be the best I can be right now.”

 

Senior Outside Hitter Michelle Bartsch

On playing against Ohio State in the post-season after facing them in conference play:

“They fight a lot, and they’re a good team. We know not to take them lightly. We know what to expect, but we haven’t scouted them since we played them last. They’re a good team.”

 

On having an intimidation factor on the court:

“I think we’re probably the two least intimidating people, if you know us personally. I like to think that I’m intimidating to the other teams. I think tough hits – it’s expected in volleyball. You take the risk when you play.”

 

Senior Outside Hitter Colleen Ward

Comparing post-season play to the regular season:

“It’s completely different just because it’s a tournament, and everyone is playing different now. If you lose now, you’re done. It’s a completely different feeling.”

 

On leaving Florida:

“I was just looking for a different sort of program, and I was lucky that I found it at Illinois. I still have friends here. They’ll be coming to our game, so I’m excited to see them.”

 

On returning to Gainesville for Regional Semifinals:

“I was excited to come back. I didn’t mind where we played, as long as we made the regional, that’s all that mattered.”

 

OHIO STATE PRESS CONFERENCE LINK: http://www.gatorvision.tv/mediaPortal/player.dbml?id=820507&db_oem_id=6500

 

Ohio State Head Coach Geoff Carlston

Opening Statement:

“We’re obviously excited about being here. The hotel and everyone else that we have met has been extremely welcoming. We’re a young group, so it’s nice. The weather here is a little nicer here since we left Ohio – so that’s a little bonus. It’s very humbling to be here. To have three Big 10 teams in this group of four says a lot about what we have all been through within our conference. It’s also great that Florida is in this group too. It’s always nice to have the host in the region play as well. The more people we have, the more fans we have – the better experience we have and for all the other teams here.  I think it’s a great group of four – any team can win it. Our team will be ready, and I think these guys are just ready to go out there and play.”

 

On having two other Big 10 teams at Regionals:

“There’s no theory to that. Everyone talks how it’s tough to beat a team three times in a row. I think the better team is going to win. I think Illinois has been better than us the past few times that we have played them. Our team has grown a lot in the last two or three weeks. Aside from our last two or three matches when we have built some momentum, we have also become healthier.

 

“We’re a young team. Our group has taken a long time to get to where we are right now, and the girls are starting to see the fruits of that labor that we started over the summer. Illinois is a great team. There is not a bad team left in the tournament when you only have 16 teams left.

 

“For us, it doesn’t matter. Who ever wins moves on, and who ever loses the match is done. That puts a whole different element into this match. To me, and we’ve talked about it with our players, there is no history- they know us, and we know them. It really comes down to the fact that you have very few days to game plan, no matter who you’re playing. We could be playing someone in our conference, outside of our conference or even Florida. It really comes down to the point that regardless of who you’re playing you have very few days to game-plan. Who is playing with that swagger, who is making the least amount of mistakes, who is playing with confidence, who is playing fresh and who is hurt or who is not.

 

“Our team believes that we can win and I’m sure Illinois believes they can win too. The playing field is level when you get to this stage. We’re not at our place and neither are they. It really comes down to two teams battling it out. I’m really excited to play against Illinois, but I think our team is ready. We’re just at a different place than where we were when we played them last time.

 

“We are going to have to play better this time around. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and we made way too many mistakes against them. I told our team that if we make the same amount of mistakes that we made last time we played them, we will lose. That’s pretty simple. We have been straightforward and honest with our team about that. We can’t make 20 hitting errors to their 10 – if we do that we’ll lose. We have worked a lot on improving on those areas that I think have been deficient for us. The plus side is that we have really played well in those areas over the last two matches.

 

“We’re excited, we’re ready. We wish we were playing tonight. We’ll have a nice dinner tonight and let them sleep in tomorrow morning. Our players are just wrapping up finals right now. Once that is all done, it’ll be nice. Our players are stressed, but they’re also very excited, partly because they’re here but also because as of tonight we will have no one who has finals to worry about for the rest of this tournament. As a coach, I’m very excited for that moment because our team is very stressed right now because of academics.”

 

On the team coming together at the end of the season:

“We only have two seniors on our team, so we’re very young. We have also been really close a lot. We have been in almost every match, except for one or two in the Big 10, and there’s a lot to be said about that. We beat Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State – but we also had a lot of matches that we sort of let get away.

 

“Even going to Hawaii and playing tough with UCLA and Hawaii, but not winning, I think if you stick with it that proves a lot too. Sarah, who is one of our captains, has been a great stabilizer in terms of perspective. We knew if we could get into the dance, and we knew if we could get into the final 64 grouping and make the tournament, that our experience was going to pay off. Honestly, we probably had to beat Michigan in the last match of the year to get into this tournament.

 

“This group has had to play with that sense of urgency for a while now. You have to mature when that’s the stage that you’re on. That really helps us tomorrow night, when if you win, you move on and if you lose, you’re done. Our team has been there for the better part of the year, so I think that has helped.”

 

On how the team’s mentality has changed entering the postseason:

“I wouldn’t say we weren’t gelling earlier, it’s just now we have gelled more. This team gets along, and they have since day one. There’s a great vibe and culture on this group – we’re just young. The fact of the matter is The Big 10 – you go 9-11 in the Big 10 and you think ‘Geez, I don’t know if we’re any good.’ Then we get to play Tennessee – playing them at a high level and us at a high level, and then beating them at their place – we start realizing your talent.

 

“The Big 10, sometimes it will toughen you up, but other times you’re not quite sure if you’re any good because you lose a lot of matches. The match against Tennessee was a great match because there were two teams playing at a really high level. I think it also reminded our players that we’re not bad, we’re a pretty good team even though we finished seventh in the Big 10.

 

“We were in the top 25 the whole year until last weekend until we lost to Purdue – somehow that knocked us out of the top 25. I think that we have always been good; we just didn’t have a lot of signature wins, which are very hard to come by in the Big 10. The difference is that Illinois had a lot of signature wins this season. They are also a much more veteran team and they had a fantastic season. They deserve to be here. I think our team finally believes that we deserve to be here and now it’s time to play. I think our players are excited to get on the court and hear that whistle blow.”

 

On the character of volleyball in the Big 10 conference:

“I think conferences think they do. The Big 10 is pretty physical. I think the difference is, that in the Big 10, for the most part, we had nine or 10 teams ranked in the Top 25. You just never have a day off. When you’re in that every weekend, you beat or lost to one team, and you don’t have a beat off, you can’t think ‘thank goodness now we have this team’.  It’s always ‘Holy cow, now we have Penn State, Illinois, Northwestern, and then you have to come back and play Illinois the next day.

 

“A lot of people talk about our conference being pretty big, physical across the board. But to me, volleyball is volleyball. I don’t think there is a ton of different styles. You watch Tennessee, you watch the SEC, and especially the top three teams in any conference. Those top three teams in any conference are physical and athletic as anybody else in any conference. When you’re in the top of the SEC, the Big 10 or the Pac 12 you’re just a physical, athletic and dynamic group of players. If you look at someone like Illinois, they’re tall; they don’t have anyone short on their team. If anything, it would be just size in the Big 10.”

 

Senior Libero Sarah Mignin

On having already faced Illinois in the regular season:

“Obviously, they’re a great, stable team. They fight, and have very strong outside hitters. Both their pins, the left and right side, are very strong hitters. They’re a good defensive team. Through this past week we have just been really focusing on a new way to come in and beat them.”

 

On defeating Tennessee:

“Obviously, Tennessee being ranked, and us not even being seeded, I think it was just a great way to become an underdog – no body expected us to win. You always want to be an underdog – we really have nothing to lose. We went in there battling hard, and hopefully we can take that kind of play and bring it into these next two games.”

 

The difference in the team:

I think it is just confidence of our younger ones. Obviously, what helps a team is getting repetitions, getting competition and getting to play the teams in the Big 10. At the beginning of the year they were kind of shaky just starting to get the experience. As we got through the year, our confidence started building, the thoughts of ‘Hey, we are good’ were coming though our mind.  We faced it one game at a time, really. The Big 10 is one of the best conferences in the nation now. Playing against that hard, elite competition throughout the year really prepared them, and our whole team in general, has prepared us for these upcoming matches.”

 

MICHIGAN PRESS CONFERENCE LINK: http://www.gatorvision.tv/mediaPortal/player.dbml?id=820531&db_oem_id=6500

 

Michigan Head Coach Mark Rosen

Opening Statement:
Obviously we’re excited to be here. Your goal in the NCAA tournament is to advance and continue to advance. I think this is a great regional. They’re all great programs and great teams. The coolest thing about this regional is that any one of these four teams can advance. It will be interesting to see how each team plays and how they handle the opportunity. We’re very excited to be here and get to practice. We’re glad to be in Florida and glad to be warm.


On the matchup versus Stanford:

“It was actually very ironic because we played them two years ago in the Sweet 16 at their place. In the scouting preparation, it was really almost identical. When we saw the tape on them, and we hadn’t really seen them throughout the year, as we started breaking it down a little bit I thought that they were very similar. I thought there were lots of things that we matched up well with, and as I looked at just the matchup of it – the things we do well and the things we don’t do so well, I thought it was a great matchup for us.

 

“I came to the team early on and told them ‘I think this is a team that we could very likely beat. If we play well we should be fine against them’. It wasn’t being over confident, it was just a matter of the fact that I felt well with how we matched up against them. It’s ironic that too, both times we matched up against them, it was in the NCAA tournament, I just had that feeling.

 

“Sometimes you watch a team and think ‘Wow, this is going to be a real challenge for us, it just isn’t a good matchup.’ I felt very confident going into that first and second round. If we played well we could do well. I think when our team watched them against Sacred Heart in the opening round; I could sense that they saw those same things that I felt we could exploit. We met afterwards, and you could see it in the girls faces a little bit – they felt very confident that we could have some success against them.”

 

On the matchup against Florida:

“They’re a very good team. I’m sure they’re watching us and seeing things that they can exploit on us. I think it will be a really good match. Both teams play well, which will make for a great match, which is what you want at this point in the year. There are certainly things that they can do really well, that we’re going to be challenged by. But I also think there are some things that we hopefully can exploit a little bit to help us out.”

 

On the presence of Big 10 at Regionals:

“To be honest, I like our draw better. Not because I think Florida is an easier team, but at this point in the season it’s nice to play someone that you’re not familiar with. I think for our players it’s exciting to play somebody new. You do the scouting report and it’s fresh, versus a team that you already played. Looking at Illinois’ perspective, they have to try and defeat a team for a third time this season, and that’s tough to do. Our situation right now just creates a different kind of challenge that we don’t have, and that I’m thankful we don’t have.

 

“It was interesting though, as we started preparing, going into last weekend we to think about three teams. We had to take care of Baylor first, but in the back of your mind you’re looking at the other two teams knowing that you’re going to hopefully face one of them. Same thing with this weekend, but the good thing is that we’re fairly familiar with both of the other teams – we played Ohio State less than two weeks ago, and Illinois twice this year. We have a pretty good idea of what they’re trying to do.

 

“We don’t have a complete game plan yet, but at least we have a pretty good foundation going into watching them play tomorrow. So, if we’re lucky enough to get past tomorrow night, then we have a pretty good read going into the last night. Of course, they have just as good a read on us.”

 

On the SEC versus the Big 10:

“We’re not playing the whole SEC so I haven’t really watched them. I have watched Florida, and I think that Florida does a lot of things that are similar to a lot of teams in the Big 10. I think that they are a highly regarded team with a lot of tradition and a lot of success, not only this year but in previous years. We very much respect their athleticism and their volleyball skills. We know that we’re going to have to come out and play really well in order to be successful.”

 

On Big 10 volleyball:

“The first year that I was at Michigan, it seems like a long time ago, but we went into the second round and played Pacific who was ranked fourth in the country. We lost 19-17 in the fifth game, and it was a battle – we finished eighth in our conference that year, and they went on to play in the Final Four. I think it’s that way every year – we’re always kind of surprised by it. It’s grueling when you’re in the conference because every weekend you’re preparing for great teams, and you’re playing great teams. We all know in the end though, if you can weather that, it makes you better. I think that some of the adversity we went through this year is one of the things that has allowed us to be playing pretty well right now too. We just had to go through a lot – the Big 10 takes you through the grinder a little bit.”

 

On the biggest challenge the team has faced throughout the year:
“I think in my opinion, it was ourselves. We were battling a lot from the inside. Not because we have bad people on the team or because there are inner problems – it was just a matter of we were kind of getting in our own way a little. We had to learn to get through that, come together as a team and put everything aside and just play volleyball. To me, as a coach, it has been very gratifying to watch this team go through that process and see where they’re at right now versus where they were at a month and a half ago. It was hard at the time, but I’m really proud and excited with how we have come through that.”


Senior Outside Hitter Alex Hunt
On
beating Stanford:

“It was a good win over a ranked team, which we hadn’t had in a while. We kind of really picked our game up a lot going into the tournament. We’re really excited to continue our winning streak.”

 

On missing last year’s NCAA tournament:

“I think that was one of the hardest things I have had to go through in my volleyball career – to sit there at Washington with a boot on and knowing that I couldn’t do anything for my team. I am definitely looking forward into playing in volleyball NCAA’s this year.”

 

On the mood in the locker room:

I think everyone is really loose. We’re having a great time in the locker room – we have some really funny personalities on the team. I think everybody is just really enjoying the opportunity to advance and to continue to play against good teams.”

 

On bringing momentum to Regionals:

“I think that we’re really excited for the opportunity, everyone is just going in knowing that this could possibly be the last time that we play volleyball together, especially for the seniors. It’s something that we don’t want to end. We’re just taking that and running with it for as long as we can.”

 

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