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Thursday August 16, 2012Florida Volleyball Media Day Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida Head Coach Mary Wise

Opening Statement

“We start this year with a lot of new faces. We joked on day one that we would just be passing out nametags but that’s the beauty of college athletics. Every team changes year-to-year, even if you’re just replacing one player let alone two all-Americans, five starters and the like. There are a lot of unknowns about this group but the knowns are that all 16 of them were all here at the end of June during Summer B and that health-wise, we are in really good shape. We have a lot of good talent, just not a lot of returning college experience and the only way we get that is playing. If it were up to them, we’d open up tonight.”

 

On Taylor Brauneis…

“Taylor joined us in January after having a really successful two years at Louisville. I had an opportunity to see her at a USA Tryout so we were familiar with her. It just so happened that things fell into place and I think early on, like any new player, she was adjusting to terminology and learning a new system. I think she has hit her stride. There is a confidence level and she plays with so much game. We talk about the greatest players and so many of them have a high IQ of the game and that’s what Taylor has. As you watch her play, there are going to be taller setters and there will be setters with other physical attributes that she doesn’t have but as far as having game, she has that and a lot of it. In the role of the setter, you expect that they are in a decision-making role and they have to. She is taking more of that responsibility on the court. But the leader of this team, and there is no question, is Betsy Smith. In a fifth-year senior, the grandmother of the team and we’ve had some great leaders but I don’t know if we’ve ever had a  player who was just so naturally gifted in that area the way Betsy is. So if I had to handpick a senior to lead a team with so many new players, it would be Betsy.”

 

On the bulk of the returning starters being middle blockers…

“We can rely on the middles for their point production if we get them the ball. Where we’re better now is in our ball handling and both our setters, Taylor and Dana, play with no fear. They love getting the ball to the middle. If they were quarterbacks, they would be throwing deep often. The analogy is that it’s in the middle. We are fortunate with Betsy, Chloe and Simone Antwi coming off the redshirt that’s going to be a really huge part of our point production.”

 

On running a 5-1 vs. 6-2…

“We have been practicing mainly a 5-1, and it’s been fun to have it back in the gym. The talent right now is lending itself to run a 5-1 but we wouldn’t hesitate (to run a 6-2). The rules have changed this year where you can have 15 subs (instead of 12). When we first came to Florida, you were playing side-out scoring, so 12 subs left us very limited. You played with a roster of only 12 because you just couldn’t fit everyone in. But now with 15 substitutions I can see what basketball is like (laughs) and because of that we might be able to run a 6-2.”

 

On Chloe Mann and Betsy Smith…

“I think that the experience she (Chloe) gained from playing with the USA A2 program with other college players and she just physically looked like an older player because she is just so physically fit and strong. We rely on her experience both offensively and defensively as we do Betsy.  The defense we run is very complicated and is something Dave Boos put in two years ago and now for Betsy and Chloe now that they’ve been in the system for two years, they’re like coaches on the floor. Both of those middles are a huge part of the decision making and communication on the floor.”

 

On good defense in the preseason…

“I think it will be one of the things the fans will notice as a difference in terms of how we are quick handed. Balls are being covered. A stuff block is no longer a stuff block, the rallies are longer, we are quick handed, quick footed and if you look at our defensive specialists, their ability to keep the ball in play is making it a lot tougher for our offense to score a point. The rallies have been applauded by our staff just in practice.”

 

On the sophomore class…

“There is no curve as steep as the freshman curve and I think that’s true in all of college athletics. Everything they’re doing is for the first time and so the experience they gained whether it was playing Northern Iowa or playing SEC matches on the road and a Regional Final, there is nothing we can do in practice to simulate that. So you hope they can draw on those experiences. Those two (Madison Monserez and Holly Pole) when they came here were maybe not as highly recruited as some of the other players but are emerging as an integral part of our program and our success last year.”

 

On what they’re telling the freshmen…

“Well we are telling them a lot (laughs) and we hope that they can show up to practice on time and know what rotation we are in. But the freshmen are going to play. There was a drill we did this week in practice where there were six freshman on the court and that’s just the way the rotations worked out. They’re going to have to play and what we hope they understand is that they work hard and be patient until their time comes. And when your time comes, take advantage of it, a la Betsy Smith. She was part of that heralded recruiting class and had to redshirt her freshman year. She had to wait very patiently for her turn but boy has she taken advantage of it.”

 

On being a sleeper in the SEC…

“Well we’re certainly not the favorite. But that was an easy call with Tennessee winning a year ago and every one of their point scorers returning. I look at Kentucky, Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M and Missouri and knowing their rosters and who they return and the experience they return, you could make an argument for every one of those teams because of who they have coming back. They could all challenge for an SEC title. We are still playing 20 matches, which is a whole lot of volleyball. We are still the only sport playing that many matches in the league and so to win with 20 matches, you will be battle tested. Because of our inexperience, we will have the chance to be much better later in the season rather than early…but you can’t push a pause button because we have to be ready a week from Friday.”

 

On the no excuses motto…

“Its all about toughness and that it would be real easy to excuse away what we don’t have in the number of returning starters or maybe we don’t have enough experience in this position. But at the end of the day, those are just excuses and we can develop a team mantra being a team of toughness, then we’ve got a chance to battle any team whether it’s at the O’Connell Center or on the road. That’s what the really tough teams do. It’s one thing to play well at home but it’s another thing to take that act on the road.”

 

On who will play back row defense…

“Taylor (Unroe) has been at an elite level in her serve receive but even ahead of her has been Nikki O’Rourke just this early in two-a-days. Nikki, Maddy, Holly, Taylor and even Jackie Swalchick and Sundai Weston, we can intermix in any combination and feel that they have ability to not only receive serve but play defense and be a chance to be instant more often this year. And we will need to because we won’t have as many big bangers. There won’t be all just throwing the ball to Kristy Jaeckel and Kelly Murphy. We’re going to have to keep the rallies going and eventually you could wear a team down but you can only do that with great ball control. Taylor being one of them, but we have a whole group to add in there.”

 

On being ready for the season opener…

“You always wish you had more time but we will be ready come Friday night. It will be at home before the football season opens but we’re hoping to cash in on some of those fans who can’t wait for Gator sports to start back and that they come to soccer this weekend and volleyball next weekend.”

 

#1 Berkley Whaley, Fr., OH

On feeling like if she’s gotten a step ahead of other freshmen as an early enrollee in terms of team bonding, working in the weight room and adjusting to college life...

“Absolutely. It’s not a huge step ahead, but, obviously, in the weight room you get almost six extra months of training and it helps to have a whole semester under my belt. In terms of the program, I think I know the way it works more and I am more adjusted to it.”

 

On her mindset going into this season and fighting for a starting spot…

“There’s a lot of talent on the outside, so every day in practice is a fight. We’ll just have to see what happens in the fall.”

 

On growing up in Florida and going to the home state school...

“It’s awesome. It’s always been my dream to come to school here since I was in the third grade and feels amazing to be representing my home state.”

 

On new energy and new faces coming in and meshing with the returning players...

“It’s definitely a motivation. We’re all about motivation here. We don’t want excuses like losing a lot of seniors or a rebuilding year. It’s all about what we’re going to do this year and living in the present. We’re all really excited about what we can do.”

 

On building on Elite Eight run momentum from last year...

“We’re definitely going to keep moving forward. We’re going to keep our goals in the same place. We’re not going to backtrack. Just because we have a lot of incoming freshmen, that means nothing to us. We’re just going to keep fighting to the Final Four and hopefully the championship.”

 

On newcomers coming to campus early and getting a head start on the season...

“I think the summertime is a really pivotal time for us to be together so we can grow those bonds.”

 

On the biggest thing she’s learned so far in her time here...

“It’s a big adjustment from high school volleyball and club volleyball. The effort is a lot different, so you have to not only give more effort, but also be more mature. Responsibilities are just a lot higher than they were when you were back at home.”

 

On head coach Mary Wise...

“We all respect Mary and she respects us. We all have a really good bond and don’t really have any issues on the team. It’s been great to be part of a team like that.”

 

#2 Dana Backlund, Fr., S/OH

On possibly getting playing time as a freshman…

“Taylor, the other setter, and I have been working really hard on consistency, learning the system because both of us are new. I think that’s the main thing is learning the new tempos.”

 

On being here for Summer B…

“It helped a lot. During Summer B we could come in a get extra reps and having open gyms and starting these two-a-days helps a lot.”

 

On the biggest difference from high school…

“The pace. The pace is much faster, even with my club team we ran a pretty fast offense but it is nowhere near as fast as this. I think for both of us it’s pretty fast.”

 

On what she’s looking forward to the most…

“Just being in this competitive environment with all of these girls is really fun. It is going to be a lot of fun and I love every single one of these girls.”

 

On coming to Florida from California…

“The main thing was the coaching staff because they know volleyball really well. I really liked the competitive environment that was here and we have been Florida fans since I was little. Also just playing in the SEC, which has some of the best volleyball in the country.”

 

#4 Tangerine Wiggs, Sr., RS

On excitement of getting season started…

“It is really exciting being a fifth-year senior. We have a really great team. We have some great freshman coming in. It is just exciting to finally all be together playing. They are learning the system really well and they are so advanced that they are picking it up at a really fast pace.”

 

On Florida’s freshmen…

“They all have such a high learning curve and can retain information really easily so we don’t have to start back at square one every day. It has really helped us to advance at a faster pace than we expected.”

 

On how the vibe has changed…

“It is a lot different because they are so eager to learn. They want to do their best so it is really exciting to have that fresh sense of eagerness. They all are great and come from different backgrounds. All of them came for Summer B so they were here learning with us so it really helped starting off. When you come in with so many new faces you are prepared to start with the basics but they have done such a great job of coming in with an open mind and can retain information so fast that we are in such a better place than we ever expected to be.”

 

On stepping up with loss of seniors…

“Everyone is doing a great job of understanding the roles as hitters and some of the responsibilities that we have. I only play three rotations but some of the new people are playing six and learning the passing rotations and serving rotations. They are all stepping up and understanding that we have different roles to fill. Any way that I can help I am more than willing.”

 

On Taylor Brauneis coming in…

“It is so great to have Taylor coming from a successful program and the experience she has. She has run a 5-1 offense, and we have only run a 6-2 in the past couple of years so having someone come with the experience of running a 5-1 it is so different. That is something that she is really able to command with her role as a setter and Dana has done a great job with that also. Having Taylor is huge. It is something that puts us a step ahead.”

 

On the Florida middles…

“We are so blessed to have middles with such experience in all three of them, Simone, Betsy and Chloe. They have gotten so fast in the offseason. I firmly believe we have some of the hardest working middles out there. They have worked really hard to be available and all three of them are going to play huge roles for us this season. That is going to help a lot with some of the young people coming in, our three middles are definitely going to take away some of the load so it won’t be as overwhelming for the pin hitters.”

 

#5 Taylor Unroe, So., L

On taking a leadership role…

“Having a leadership role is fun when you have a great group. The freshman class is awesome and everybody is very even keel and fun to be with, so who wouldn’t want to lead a team like that? I’m pretty young compared to some of the seniors we have now so I’m still trying to learn from them and how they do it.”

 

On playing last season after an injury…

“It gives me confidence because now I have a season of college experience under my belt. This year hopefully I’ll perform even better than I did last year and I’m really excited to play. I’m always excited to play and be in the gym.”

 

On team dynamic…

“We have a really talented freshman class. Really great pin hitters, really great hitters, and a really good setter in Dana Backlund.  We have great middles are always awesome but it’s a lot quicker team and we play great defense. We have really great hands and it will be a lot of fun to watch us.”

 

#6 Jackie Swalchick, Fr., OH

On transitioning from club/high school competition to college…

“It is a completely different world the whole set up of everything. Workouts in the morning, getting up at six, practice later in the day, classes in between and all while trying to get used to this whole new environment. The best part about it is that you are in it with four or five other freshman and they all have your back and all the other older players were helping us through it so just the transition from club and high school hasn’t been that rough but it’s new. The classes are new for sure but all the older players have done it before so they just help you through it all.”

 

On being from nearby Melbourne, Fla. and why she wanted to be a Gator…

“My mom went here, so she was always for the Gators and she was like ‘Jackie you should go there’ and after meeting the coaches and all the other girls it was definitely something I’ve always wanted to do.”

 

Favorite part of being a Gator…

“Getting to hang out with the team is great because we all have our own personalities but we all mesh super well. You see the ones that are super out going and those that are quiet but they have that secret side to them but everything is really great and I really like it here.”

 

#8 Taylor Brauneis, Jr., S

On transferring to Florida

“The transition has been easy. It’s a new dynamic and there have been changes and Dave (Boos) has pushed me a lot but it’s been smooth.”

 

On having the whole team together during the Summer B session

“As a setter it’s really good for me to know my hitters. Especially since we have four hitters that are freshman I needed to get to know them and what kind of set they liked and kind of offense they are used to. It was really good to get to know them over the Summer B session.”

 

On strength coach Matt DeLancey…

“Matt definitely knows what he’s talking about. He put me into great shape and he knows what we need to achieve to be a good volleyball team and physically he’s done that for us. I’ve seen changes in myself and any issue I’m dealing with, he knows how to treat that.”

 

#9 Živa Recek, Fr., OH

Why she came to Florida

“I always wanted to come to USA to play college volleyball and I had a few offers but I chose the Florida Gators because I think it’s a great destination, it’s a nice campus, and they have a great volleyball team and coaches and the school is perfect.”

 

On the biggest difference between living Slovenia and Florida

“I think the biggest difference is that it’s always summer. Back in Slovenia we had a lot of snow in the winter and I always wanted to live in a warm environment. The food is also different. We always cook at home and I’m not used to eating in restaurants or eating a lot of fast food.  Almost every family in Slovenia has a garden behind their home.”

 

On her family’s thoughts about her coming to Florida

“They are very supportive and I have two older sisters who played back at home but I think they are all happy about my decision to come and play. We all played in the same club team.  I can say that my sister and me, who is two years older, started together because my oldest sister was already playing so we were always in the gym watching matches. I always wanted to be like them.”

 

On the biggest difference in style of play between Slovenia and at Florida

“I think here in the USA, they play faster and all the players are louder and talk a lot when they are playing. I was very quiet on the court the first day I came here but I am getting better at that.”

 

#10 Chloe Mann, Jr., MB

On playing with the USA A2 program...

“It was a really exciting experience. It was my first time being selected for the program, so I felt honored. I got to work with a lot of amazing and elite-level coaches and some of the best players across the country.”

 

On the expectations going into this season...

We are definitely hoping to continue to have success with this season. We have a lot of fresh, new talent so it will be exciting to see where we go.”

 

On her expectations for herself after being named Preseason All-SEC...

“That was definitely exciting to be named Preseason All-SEC, but we are more focused on where we are going to end up at the end of the SEC matches. We are working very hard in practice and hopefully at the end we will have an SEC Championship.”

 

On how she plans to build off last season...

“We are all working hard in practice and getting comfortable with the system and schemes we run in practice every day. Over the years, you build that confidence. As a junior, it has given me a lot of experience with the setters and passers and taking that onto the court.”

 

#11 Madison Monserez, So., DS

On playing time as freshman preparing for upcoming season…

“I am so grateful I got to play. The team was so encouraging, along with the coaches, and it just gave me a taste of what it is like to play for Gator volleyball which is amazing. It just drove me and the team to really push for this season and fight for every game and every practice to prepare for that.”

 

On lower expectations this year for the team…

“No I don’t think we take that into consideration. Last year felt like the same vibe as this year and we have the same game plan as we have always had. I don’t think what people think of us has anything to do with how we are going to go out and perform. “

 

On what the youth bring…

“I think the youth gives it a whole other perspective, more energy actually. They do a great job of bringing something that this program maybe didn’t have last year. A go get it attitude and a fearless look that we didn’t have last year. It has its pros and its cons but we are going to run with it. We are really excited.”

 

On where Mary’s expectations are on the defensive specialists…

“I just go out there every day and practice and play hard. My teammates encourage me. I am just trying to bring as much to this team as possible and the coaches have been great with pushing us because they know what we are capable of. All of the defensive specialists have been working as a unit and just trying to get better and change our identity of the team as a more defensive ball controlled team.”

 

On ready to get the season started…

“We are ready. We have been training all summer. The freshmen came in and we wasted no time getting them ready. They had to learn the system and how we do things so they have put in a ton of work. We have done a great job of getting the whole team together and we are ready to roll.”

 

#13 Sundai Weston, Sr., DS

On what type of mark she plans to leave on Florida Volleyball as she enters her final year...

“I want to be remembered as a good teammate and that I came to practice ready to work every day. I want it to be known that I gave it everything I had. It’s such a great opportunity to work with the team and I’ve had a great time so far. I definitely want my last year to be my best year.”

 

On giving advice to freshmen to help them adjust to life at Florida...

“We’re a very close team and the freshmen we have coming in are not only great athletes, but they are phenomenal people, so they have integrated into the team atmosphere very well. The only advice I could ever give a freshman is to be yourself because that’s ultimately what helps you leave your legacy on the program.”

 

On the importance of the intangibles outside of the court and in the classroom and weight room...

“I think Florida is just one of those top-tier programs where it’s the intangibles that really set you apart. Those are the things if you don’t work on them and continue to do them throughout the year, it will limit you in what you are capable of. To win national titles is something we all strive for every time we come to the gym. Intangibles are the difference makers and give you that extra push.”

 

On what excites her most about playing in the expanded SEC...

“We’re really just excited about the new opportunities to play great competition and also challenge ourselves. It’s a different schedule, but I’m excited for that and I know our team is excited for it also. Having new teams to play against and also seeing new schemes. See girls that we haven’t played against will make for a good opportunity for us.”

 

On having a different mentality coming in with this season being her last year…

“For me, the mentality really hasn’t changed. It’s all about this team doing as well as they can. I understand what the seniors that have left were saying. You can slowly see the light at the end of the tunnel. During these last couple of two-a-days, it’s mind blowing to think that I’ve been here for four years. The mentality of what we want to accomplish has not changed whatsoever. You can really feel the time crunch setting in.”

 

#14 Betsy Smith, Sr., MB

On excitement of the upcoming season…

“It is really exciting. There is a lot going on with our freshmen class, there are so many of them. It is really exciting to training with them they bring a lot of energy. It has been less focused on the older players and more focused on the younger players so it is kind of cool to see that change.”

 

On playing with so many young players…

“They are all full of energy and ready to go all the time. It is nice to be able to feed off of that because we have been here a while, so we kind of know the routine and have our things that make us successful but it is also learning from them and their energy and enthusiasm for the sport.”

 

On sharing energy with young group…

“I have been a high energy player on the team and that is something we work on, being high energy for all of us. It is a lot of fun playing with a really energized team.”

 

On being team captain…

“It is definitely a different role. It has been a lot of growing the little ones and it is just me, it is all of the upperclassmen and seniors. It is all of us putting it into a different perspective. Instead of just worrying about ourselves we have to worry about all of the young ones as well.”

 

On Chloe Mann…

“It is awesome. Chloe and I train really hard together so we have gotten to see both of each other grow in the sport in the past year. It is something we hold each other accountable to and it is a really fun training relationship and environment to be able to do that.”

 

On adjustments making this season…

“I think just being a lot more other oriented. Last year I could kind of fly under the radar with the great seniors that we had. I know a lot of us upperclassmen are really going to have to step up and can’t be under the radar anymore.”

 

On rankings…

“I think it is something that we are using to motivate us. We are working hard and the rankings don’t matter. A few years ago we were number one and got knocked out in the Sweet 16 so we have learned over the years that the rankings don’t matter, that is why you play every match.”

 

#16 Simone Antwi, R-Fr., MB

On how redshirting helped her prepare for this year...

“I learned a lot of the team defenses. From the seniors and all of the players from last year, I saw the energy and how they played on the court. I learned how to play like them, being able to watch as a redshirt.”

 

On the team being together since Summer B…

“It has been really good. We have all gotten to know each other like a month ahead. We know each other’s tendencies. We try to help each other out.”

 

On her expectations for herself this year...

“Hopefully, I get on the court and make an impact.”

 

#17 Noami Santos-Lamb, So., OH

On her mindset going into the year, fighting for a starting position…

“It is just like any other time. You come in with the mindset of working hard of working hard and trying to earn the spot to start. You just have to go out there and give it your all. You get out of it what you put into it.”

 

On what it means to represent Puerto Rico…

“I feel like anywhere you go Puerto Ricans are everywhere. Everywhere you go, I just want to put Puerto Rico up high and represent.”

 

On what she learned from her freshman year…

“More than anything, it has taught me to trust my teammates. They will your back no matter what is going on, on or off the court. They are basically all you have here, they are your family.”

 

On her advice to the freshmen…

“Do not let the pressure get into your head. You just got here, you are freshmen. We are all learning, even the people who are juniors and seniors. We are all going through this together. Just give it time and learn as much as you can as we go.”

 

#20 Nikki O’Rourke, Fr., DS

On being on campus for Summer B and getting a head start on the season…

“It’s helped me a lot. I’ve gotten to learn about my teammates and it’s given me a good perspective on what to expect for this year. “

 

On growing up in Florida and coming to the home state school…

“I’m a very home-bodied individual. Being close to home is a very big thing for me. I also love the campus and everything about the team.”

 

On her favorite part of being a Gator so far…

“I love being a part of the Gator Nation. I really get along with the whole team and being a part of the volleyball team.”

 

On recently winning the 18 Open nationals and how that experience helped prepare for Florida volleyball…

“Definitely. It was a lot of competition and being raised to that high of a level helps a lot. That final game was a lot of fun and really helped me once I got here.”

 

#30 Holly Pole, So., DS

On how playing as a freshman prepared her for the upcoming season…

“It has prepared me a lot. It was hard being thrown in there last year with all the fifth-year seniors and being such an older and experienced team. Now this year, I am one of the older girls on the team. It is a lot different. I’m just trying to help the freshmen feel more comfortable on the court.”

 

On what she has done to help out the freshmen…

“With our system that Dave Boos has defensively, there is a lot to learn. With all of the resources that the freshmen have been given, they have picked up on it so fast. During practices, if they do something wrong we will show them how to do it. It really helps having older girls here to lead the way for the freshmen.”

 

On the experience of being an early enrollee…

“We have one early enrollee this year. One of the things I can help her with is trying to lead her. It is not easy coming in January. You are not here with a bunch of freshmen who start early. I was able to help her get used to it, help her get on her feet quick because you are thrown into 15 credits of classes and volleyball, all at the same time.”

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