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Thursday November 29, 2012NCAA Volleyball Gainesville Sub-Regional Pre-Practice Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

 

2012 NCAA Volleyball Championship

Gainesville Sub-Regional

Practice Day Coach & Player Quotes

November 29, 2012

FLORIDA

Head Coach Mary Wise

On Tulsa

“Well I think you don’t think you can look very far into Tulsa and not recognize that not only is the leading point scorer this year, in (Tyler) Henderson, but the all time leading kill leader in the NCAA. That’s pretty special to play in a first round matchup in the NCAA tournament. I think our fans and volleyball enthusiasts are going to enjoy seeing a really good volleyball player with a wicked fast down swing.”

 

On what they will try to do to defend against that

“Well, you just know she is going to get her attempts and as she has all season. You just have to hope that some of the balls you can at least deflect with your block. She is going to get her attempts, you won’t limit that but if you can just transition her swing. She is also going to get her kills, we just hope it is not a record breaking performance.”

 

On what it is like for her going into another NCAA Tournament

“Well we have been very fortunate that we have played in the tournament every year that we have been here and it becomes part of the expectations, the culture of the program from what you do in the preconference schedule through the conference schedule. Everything is building towards playing your best volleyball at the end of the year. That opportunity will present itself if the team, the collective talent, has accumulated enough wins this year.”

 

On if being undefeated in the first round ever gets repetitive

“No. Does Christmas ever get repetitive? This is the highlight of any team’s season, but I think where experience helps us is to understand to enjoy the process. I am not sure that every team that we have had really understood that and maybe looked too far ahead at December and the NCAA Tournament and that wasn’t the case with this group. This group understood that we were a work in progress with all the new players and then dealing with the various injuries over the course of the season. What this group has done, and I say as players and staff, is that we have all embraced the process and really enjoyed it. I’ve said this before, it has been one of the most fun teams I have ever been around to coach.”

 

On the goals for the team this season

“The fact that we were picked to finish fourth in the league, I think that we surpassed a few people but even our own. That would be as a result of when Noami went down with the knee injury. At that point we thought if we could just get into the tournament it would be a huge accomplishment because the most critical position in terms of points scored in women’s volleyball is the outside and we were returning one player in that position and when Noami went down we knew we would be starting two freshmen. There were a few days of practice we even tried Chloe over there. Everything was on the table, how could we make up for the points lost when Noami got injured. What we didn’t expect was for Živa Recek to make what looked to be an incredibly easy transition from high school to the college game. The emergence of both Berkley Whaley and Gabby Mallette sharing that other position. Although that other position may not be a major point scorer for us, you can’t play with five and they have each in their own way been critical to our success.”

 

On both Taylor Brauneis being the quarterback and Taylor Unroe progressing

“We would be like a football team where, at some point you have to recognize the line and the quarterback. We may have an elite level wide receiver and an elite running back, but that line and that quarterback do a lot of work for us. For Taylor Unroe, she is one the floor five and a half of the six rotations. She anchors our serve and receive, but the part of her game that has improved so much especially in the last month has been her floor defense. The last month of the regular season she put together back–to-back really quality matches. Not just in the number of digs but in the quality of digs. Taylor Brauneis, she just has a high volleyball IQ and she plays the game, what looks to be with little effort. The ball comes out of her hands in such a killable way. A quarterback puts up very catchable passes and our quarterback puts up very killable sets.”

 

On the most fun part about being this deep in the season

“For the players, it’s new. It’s the point where you have played a 20-match SEC season and now there are only 64 teams playing. Even though women’s volleyball, 64 teams the same number that plays women’s basketball tournament. Obviously we don’t get quite the attention nationally but you ask anybody in volleyball world, they know exactly what the selection show means, what this point in the season means. You know you are playing a team that is coming off a great season, and if not a great season and great tournament run. Everybody comes in on a high so it’s like playing the best of the best. That is the most exciting part.”

 

On if there is any worry in the first or second rounds that teams can come in a knock off a team like Florida

“There is no question. I think where years ago, based on the old scoring and where the pockets of talent were, you could pretty much pencil in at least you elite 8 teams if not your final four teams, now that is just not the case. I think we are merging more towards where men’s basketball is because there are so many great players in that sport and there are so many more great players in the sport of volleyball. You play a 25-point set, rally scoring, we have leveled the playing field with our scoring and we have leveled the playing field with all the great talent and we are not allowed to seed past 16. Right now on any given night, in any of these sub-regionals, just like the regular season I don’t think scorers are going to surprise anybody. Penn State happens to be having another magical season. For them to be back in the mix doesn’t surprise anybody, just like any of the top four seeds. After that, who knows? I think it will be really exciting to watch the rest of the season.”

 

On where the team is now and how ready they are

“It was almost like in a pickup game where we were scratching out lineups in that second weekend because we were trying every combination without Noami. I think we are incredibly more organized than we were at that time and I think we have found our brand in terms of who we are. I think we are a physical team that can get kills out of six positions. We have become, maybe not an elite blocking team but we are a solid defensive team with our blocking, back row and serving. We feel like on any give night we can compete with any team. Are we good enough to beat any team? I wouldn’t go that far, but at least we can compete. There is nothing more a coach can ask for than that.”

 

On what want to see from freshmen

“I don’t think there is anything you can do to prepare them other than the big matches. You have to almost go through the NCAA to understand it and experience it. Today’s practice will be new to them in terms of timed practice and all that goes around that. But if this group of young players is any indication, just like when we won the SEC, if you took a picture at match point you wouldn’t have know that it was any different. They have just been so steady. You don’t get the high-highs or the low-lows, they have just been grinders and real steady throughout the season. Hopefully that is what we will be tomorrow when we play Tulsa.”

 

 

#9 Freshman Outside Hitter Živa Recek

On being named SEC Freshman of the Year

“I was named SEC freshman of the year and it was really a surprise to get this award. I was working so hard in practice during the season and I was playing my best every game. We were fighting every game, no matter who we were playing. I think I was one of the few freshmen who had the opportunity to play a lot and be able to score that many points. I just try to do my best every game.”

 

On different feeling heading into the tournament

“Of course it is different. This time we are playing against them. It is a new team for all of us so we watch their match video and prepare for them like every other team we played in the SEC regular season.”

 

On seniors feelings going into the tournament

“Everyone wants to do their best, especially for the seniors since it is their last year. They just have a little bit more experience in the NCAA Tournament. It is completely different from the SEC because once you lose you are done. Everyone wants to focus on the next game and we just need to win.”

 

On difference being from Slovenia to come in and possibly play for a NCAA Championship

“We didn’t play like this in Slovenia. It was a different system of the tournaments. We just played in the league and I knew all the teams we were playing. I was playing against the same teams three or four times every year. It is completely different.”

 

On if season has been successful or still wanting more

“No one expected us to win the SEC this year. I think we have become better than we were at the beginning of the year. We had a lot of freshmen on the team and no one knows how it will end. We just showed we can compete with everyone. I can say that we went into every game with the right mindset to just compete hard until the end. Also, the only loss (during SEC play) was 19-17 in the fifth set, so you can see that we are just working really hard all the time.”

 

On how much they know about Tulsa’s Tyler Henderson 

“We know that Tulsa has some good outside hitters and that’s the main thing we are focusing on now, just playing defense against high balls from zone four because they have the best players in the outside positions. That is what we are focusing on.”

 

On message from Mary

“She was so excited for me that I was playing so well during the season and excited that I was getting better and we were playing better as a team each game. All the coaches and Mary were excited that we, first of all, won the SEC and that we are ready to play in the NCAA tournament now.”

 

On the tournament being the toughest competition they have seen

“I think that our conference is really good with teams like Tennessee and Kentucky, they played at a high level. Of course there are 64 teams that are the best in the country and we know that no one will be bad and everyone will be playing hard.”

 

 

#10 Junior Middle Blocker Chloe Mann

On stopping Tyler Henderson

“We have been working a lot in practice to make sure we are set up for her, both blocking and in the back row. We do know that she is one of their best hitters so she’s definitely going to be one of our top priorities to stop one of our key points to hopefully winning Friday.”

 

On if any of the team has faced her in the past

“I know I personally never have, but from what we have seen she is a really good, strong player and she is going to be hard to beat.”

 

On excitement about heading into the NCAA Tournament

“Definitely excited, we love tournament time but it is definitely nerve-wracking knowing that at any point in time, teams are ending their season. It puts a lot of added pressure on us, but we have handled things this year that we were uncomfortable with so we are excited for this challenge.”

 

On difference between the SEC regular season and now

“In the SEC it’s more opponents that we are used to, especially when we start playing them a second time around. We’ve never played Tulsa before. A lot of the teams that we will face in the tournament are teams that we’ve never faced before so it’s a fresh look, a new look and we are definitely excited for it.”

 

On the quick turnaround between games in the tournament

“It’s different, definitely different than our Friday/Sunday SEC schedule. It gives us less time to prepare but I think we are doing a pretty good job of trying to stay focused one match at a time and hopefully taking care of business on Friday.”

 

On how much endurance plays into the quick turnaround

“A lot, both mental and physical endurance. Being able to prepare mentally for the match on Friday and also trying to think ahead strategically for what could happen potentially on Saturday. Also, physically being able to play at a high level on Friday and be able to endure the match on Saturday.”

 

On if feel that the team overachieved after coming in with such a young team

“I know some outsiders had a little lower expectations for our team, but from the beginning we knew what we wanted to accomplish. In terms of our perspective, we achieved what we needed to and hopefully have as much success like we did in the SEC in the tournament.”

 

On how excited to get things going

“Really excited, can’t wait for tomorrow.”

 

On Coach Wise being undefeated in the first round of the tournament

“Mary has done an awesome job. Her record is a testament to how strong of a coach she is and we are, as a team, all coming in really focused and doing all the things on the court that we need to do to win.”

 

On when the feeling that it is the postseason kicks in

“It kicked in on Sunday I think when we started watching the selection show and we saw our name in the big bracket of 64 teams. That’s when we knew it was time for business and we came here to play.”

 

On what the team needs to do to put together a nice run in the tournament

“I say just continuing to play how we did in the SEC, continuing to improve. I think throughout the course of the season we have been on kind of an upward spiral and that’s always what we want to see, to be playing our best volleyball toward the end of the season. Continuing to improve on the little things and different aspects of our game. I think digging is one area that I can say we have improved on tremendously as a team and hopefully that is going to be a big factor in making it to the upper levels of the tournament.”

 

On if consider the season already a success or not content yet

“Definitely not content yet. We won’t be content until we are sitting at the end of the race on top, but we do feel that we achieved what we wanted to for the first part of our season in terms of the SEC but the NCAA is a whole other half that we have yet to tackle.”

 

 

TULSA

Head Coach Steven McRoberts

On how his team has been preparing for its first round match with the Florida Gators:

“We’ve had an exciting week. After finding out Sunday that we were heading to Florida, there’s been a lot of energy in practice. We’re healthy and that’s always a good thing this time of year. We’re just trying to continue playing our best volleyball. We know we have a really tough matchup here and we’re just trying to get everyone ready and on the same page and get our game plan in so we have a chance to compete well here.”

 

On what are the keys to competing with a team like Florida:

“We’re going to have to be low error and remain aggressive. There have been times this season that we haven’t been very good with that. It seems like over the last three to four weeks that something has clicked. We’ve been able to execute well and keep our errors low, especially from a hitting perspective. We’re going to have to serve tough, we know that. They are very good in the middle. If they stay in system, it’s going to give us a lot of problems with their size and athleticism. Of course, on our end, if Florida is serving well, then we’re going to have to pass well and have more than just one option out of our serve receive. We feel like if we can serve and pass, stay aggressive and keep our errors low, we’ll at least make it a competitive match and have a shot when we get to the 20s.”

 

On Tulsa’s recent seven-match win streak and only losing one set during that stretch:

“We’ve just had good execution, that’s one thing the girls have done. We had a stretch there where, offensively, every time the ball was sent to us, we were just hitting it as hard as we could. We have started being smarter with our shots. Not everything is a hard hit. It’s more mixed with a few tips and roll shots, so our errors, especially in longer rallies have gone down. If you look at our serving with aces to errors, we have quite a few more aces than errors, so our aggressiveness has stayed tough and our errors have gone down. We had a stretch there too where we might have out-blocked our opponents, which is really rare for us, considering the last few years we’ve been 11th or 12th in the conference in blocking. A combination of all those things and having veteran senior players and know that this is the time to start playing well, it’s kind of all come together. We’ve been saying for the last month that we’re playing some good volleyball.”

 

On older players’ experience in postseason play to help the younger players on the team:

“You can’t coach experience. I know that’s cliché. I’ve done this long enough to know that. It’s important to have been on this stage before. Talking about our seniors, when I talk about their sophomore years, they went to Oklahoma and won a first round match against LSU, then lost in five to Oklahoma in the next round. Oklahoma has a great gym, but it’s not a huge venue. Then, they come back their junior year and play on the big stage at USC and beat Oklahoma in the first round. They played in a big gym and got to play USC in the second round, which was ranked number one at the time. Outside of the first set, I felt the girls bounced back well in the second and third set. They calmed their nerves and played two good sets. So, now we get to come back again, their third time and play on a big stage again against nationally ranked Florida. It’s going to be another really tough match. I think we learned a lot from that USC match last year on how to prepare mentally for a big match. So, I’m hoping experience pays off If we can start off playing in the first set like we did in sets two and three last year against USC”

 

 

#1 Senior Libero Jessica Adams

On the mood of the team heading into the first round match on Friday:

“Everyone is really excited. We’re all really excited to have the opportunity to play here in Florida and play a ranked team. The seniors want to go out with a bang. We’re super excited and ready to play and ready to get Friday here.”

 

On how the senior experience will help against nationally ranked Florida:

“I think we’re a really mature team. We have a bunch of upperclassmen that play. I think that will give us an advantage because we have been in the tournament before and we have played ranked teams before, so we know what to expect. I think everyone is ready to play.”

 

On what the team has learned about Florida from film this week:

“They are a very talented team. They are athletic. I haven’t gotten to watch a whole game yet, but I have watched little parts. It will be a tough game for us. We’ll have to play our best volleyball.”

 

On never facing Florida before and having to prepare for a new opponent:

“It’s exciting. We got paired up with Oklahoma twice. Once last year and once the year before, so we were excited about playing a new team, especially being from the SEC and being the SEC champion. It’s going to be really fun. I’ve heard this environment is a really cool environment and they bring in a lot of fans, so that should get us pumped up too.”

 

 

#7 Senior Outside Hitter Tyler Henderson

On how the senior experience will help against Florida on Friday:

“I think it’ll help big time because when you have experience and you are put under pressure with a big arena and crowd, it’ll help to have that experience out there.”

 

On the team’s regular season non-conference schedule in helping against Florida:

“I think it helped prepare us for a match like Friday’s because all the teams we played were really big teams and were tall. They are used to being in the NCAA Tournament and I think we’ve learned how to approach those types of teams.”

 

On what the keys to playing Florida are:

“I think the key is to keep our errors down. Blocking will also be big for us and swinging high.”

 

On what the team knows about Florida:

“I know they are active and fast in the middle. They are a really tall team and they are really good.”

 

 

MIAMI

Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch

On being in Gainesville for the NCAA Tournament and the region as a whole:

“We’re proud of the opportunity we created for ourselves to be in the NCAA Tournament – one of only 64 teams competing right now. We’re excited to be in Gainesville and looking forward to getting on the court.”

 

On scouting Miami’s first-round match-up with College of Charleston:

“College of Charleston has a couple of big hitters. One of them is actually well-known in the NCAA world – Darcy Dorton – she led Penn State to that National Championship and we know she’s a big-time, big-game player. They also have an excellent right-side attacker; they have some balance and we’re really going to have our work cut out for us. We need to focus on taking care of the ball on our side and taking care of the things we can control, which is our game and how we play.”

 

On Miami’s consistency getting to the tournament four straight years:

“It’s great for our program – our program only started in 2001. A lot of people don’t realize that and now we’ve established ourselves as a regular NCAA Tournament team year-in and year-out and each year it’s been more certain that we’ll be there and in that field. That’s what’s exciting about the growth of this program.”

 

On Florida head coach Mary Wise and her career:

“Mary Wise is an incredible coach and she’s done amazing things with the Florida program. Certainly going through the coaching cycles and seeing her have that great success – she’s obviously done a great job with this program. She’s someone that everyone admires.”

 

On Miami’s weapons and who the Hurricanes will rely on in the NCAA Volleyball Gainesville Sub-Regional:

“One of the most special things about this year’s team is actually how balanced we are. We have great hitters in every spot – a couple of great middles, a couple of great outsides and a really good right side. The thing about us is any one player can come on at any time and we’ve had that the entire season, where somebody steps up here and then the next opponent focuses on shutting them down, but somebody else steps up. We really want to rely on that kind of balance (on our team) to keep our opponents off balance when playing us, not knowing who’s going to get the ball and hopefully be real effective playing that way.”

 

On being in Gainesville for the first time since 2009:

“The team is super excited to get out on the court again. I know it’s been a few years since we’ve been back here, but actually myself and Nrithya (Sundararaman) have made that return, so it’s a new experience for everyone else. We’re embracing being in the tournament, the excitement that the tournament brings and getting out on the court.”

 

On Gainesville native Eryn Croft:

“Eryn is an excellent team player, she puts the team first and she really supports us. She works super hard. This is a homecoming for her – we have a Gainesville kid turned Miami Hurricane and we’re proud of that. It’s great to have her in our program.”

 

On Eryn Croft’s contributions to the team, even when injured last year:

“Eryn puts the team first – that’s exactly the kind of person she is. Everything the team does, she’s a part of, whether or not she had a physical impact. She impacts us every day in practice and helps make us better. We all know that, she knows that’s and she’s a part of every win and accomplishment this program gets.”

 

On Eryn Croft’s injury, recovery and return:

She (Eryn Croft) had a knee injury right before the season started last year and nobody wants to go through that. You look at it as a challenge, you go forward and deal with it. That’s the hand you’re given; it is what it is. You fight through it and that’s exactly what Eryn has done. Every player in our program improves tremendously each year and that’s the whole goal – to play at your peak when you’re an upperclassman and entering your last year.”

 

 

#3 Junior Outside Hitter Taylor Hollins

On Miami being in the NCAA Tournament and getting the weekend started in Gainesville:

“I feel very lucky because I’ve made it to the NCAA Tournament all three years that I’ve been here. It’s really exciting. I’ve never been to Gainesville, so that’s really fun. We have some really good opportunities ahead of us this weekend.”

 

On Miami’s first opponent in College of Charleston and game planning for College of Charleston:

“They are definitely a high-energy team. We’re really excited for that because it’s fun to play against teams that are really loud and crazy.”

 

On the type of teammate Gainesville native Eryn Croft is to the Hurricanes:

“She’s really helpful and she’s so energetic during practice. She tells us during games what she sees from the bench and what she sees open for the hitters, so very helpful.”

 

On the type of player she is and what she brings to the court:

“I try to lead by example. I’m not really one of the loudest players on the court, but I feel like I bring a sense of urgency and I feel calm during the game.”

 

On being in the NCAA Tournament for her third year and the program’s fourth:

“We’re really lucky. Not a lot of people get to experience this – I want to take advantage of every opportunity that we have.”

 

On the other two teams in the Gainesville Sub-Regional (Tulsa & Florida):

“It would really good to match up with either one of them if we take care of College of Charleston first. It will be fun.”

 

On winning 15 of their last 17 matches and how the Hurricanes are playing their best volleyball heading into the Tournament:

“We are doing really well and we are just really consistent right now. We’re on a roll.”

 

On Miami playing with speed and how the Hurricanes will use speed to their advantage:

“That’s important for us. We can beat people with our speed if they are bigger than us. It’s always good to have speed.”

 

 

#5 RS Freshman Outside Hitter Eryn Croft

On what it means to be back in Gainesville after going to high school here and growing up in Gainesville:

“It’s obviously exciting to be in front of my friends and family, but it’s good to be back here.”

 

On being a part of the Miami program:

“It’s really special. I love the University of Miami and I’m really happy I went there. Our whole team is a family and it’s a great program to be a part of.”

 

On being back in Gainesville and having a number of fans supporting Miami from the O’Dome:

“It’s really cool to be able to have my friends see us play. A lot of people don’t get to travel all the way down to Miami during the school year, so it’s good to have my family here and my friends.”

 

On what it means to be a Miami Hurricane:

“It’s really special. The tradition is really strong and literally our whole athletic program is a family. Everyone is really close – it’s amazing being a part of that tradition.”

 

On battling for playing time as a younger player and also having been hurt her first year at Miami:

“I just need to work every day to try to get better. It’s been hard coming off of an injury, but each day I try to get better and earn my way. I know there are really good players in front of me and I can use them to learn from and get better that way, too.”

 

On her injury and battling through it:

“It was hard. I had been at Miami only three weeks before I got hurt. Like I said, our program is a family and you have support the whole way. I wouldn’t have rather been at any other school with the injury. They comforted me, helped along the way and I received a redshirt, so I didn’t get held back at all.”

 

On her summer in Vietnam teaching English and volleyball:

“It was an amazing opportunity because athletics helped me earn that opportunity – it was through the ACC. It’s an experience that I would never take back. It made me appreciate my life here. Going over to Vietnam and helping those children was a life-changing experience."

 

On what Miami has learned about College of Charleston through this week’s scouting:

“As Taylor (Hollins) said, they are really high energy. They have some really good players – we have to be ready and focused for them. They’re a really good team.”

 

 

COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON

Head Coach Jason Kepner
On making the NCAA Tournament:

“The So-Con is different; it’s one of those small conferences you have to win. You already are fortunate to get that NCAA experience where if you lose you are done. I think that pressure and being able to handle that pressure for three straight matches definitely helps the team going into the tournament. I think we played better and better as the tournament went on. I am pretty happy with the way we performed at So-Con and also what that did for us going into tomorrow versus Miami.”

 

On being a high-energy team and riding their emotions:
“You are right. We are definitely a high energy team. We have a lot of people who get very excited. I think that when we are able to control that and not let it get out of control on the court, we are able to maintain a good level of play. When we lose control of our emotions, we tend to make a lot of errors. That has been a big focus, trying to control that energy because that can be a big benefit for us, but it can be a big hindrance to us when we are not able to control it and use it to our advantage.”

 

On Miami:
“They are a very balanced team. They have two good middles. They have a good right side, good setter. They have two outsides that hit out of the back row. We have to do a very good job of defending all of their attackers. We can’t really focus on one and leave other people because they will be able to set those people and be successful with those people. I believe they have four or five all-conference players. They are a very balanced team and I think that is a very hard thing to defend. We really have to focus on slowing people down. I really think we are going to be able to stop a ton of people solely because of their balance. Hopefully, being able to slow people down will give us the opportunity to transition and get some good points and runs.”

 

 

#11 RS Junior Outside Hitter Darcy Dorton

On making the NCAA Tournament:

“We are really excited to be here. It’s been a few years since we have been in the NCAA Tournament. I think the last time our seniors were freshmen. The majority of our team, this is their first experience. We are really excited to represent our school. We think that playing Miami is a good matchup and we expect it to be a really competitive match. Overall, we’re just really excited to get a chance to prove ourselves.”

 

On her experience playing at the O’Connell Center prior:
“I have experience playing here both as a player and as a spectator. I know the atmosphere in the arena. I know how loud it can get and intense Florida fans are. It creates a real fun experience to play at. We haven’t seen a crowd like that. It will be a good test for us trying to counter that. I am sure Miami will bring up a lot of fans. It will be a big match for us. I am really excited to see how our girls handle it. I think we are really well prepared. We are just really looking forward to it.”

 

On their run through the So-Con Tournament:
“We did have a really good run at the So-Con Tournament. It gave us a little bit of confidence heading into this. It helps reassure that we are a good team; we’re full of good players. I don’t know really what else to add. The way that the So-Con Tournament is set up, it’s different than a lot of other conferences. It is a tournament where you have to win to stay alive. There are some teams who play in conferences that they can finish second in their conference and expect to get a bid. Where coming from the So-Con, there is an importance in winning in it’s your last chance. Having that kind of mentality throughout the So-Con Tournament translates well in the NCAA Tournament because once you get into the NCAA Tournament it is you lose, you are done.”

 

 

 

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