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Friday August 16, 2013Florida Volleyball Media Day Quotes

Gainesville, Fla.

MEDIA DAY PHOTO GALLERY

 

The No. 9 University of Florida volleyball team held its annual preseason media day before Friday’s practice at the L. Gale Lemerand Center. Head Coach Mary Wise and each of the squad's 15 players addressed the media at the event. Below are the quotes in full from the event:

 

Florida Head Coach Mary Wise

On the differences between the beginning of this season and the beginning of last season…

“Because of the returning players, the health of the returning players and the depth on the team, some really good things are happening in our gym right now. A year ago, we were still in first gear, because it was brand new to so many players. Now, it’s brand new to really just three players, since Denise Belcher started school in January. We are moving much faster and we’re in a really good place right now.”

 

On having Noami Santos-Lamb healthy…

“For Noami, who is very expressive and a player who just loves to play volleyball, last year was a long, long year for her. The excitement is she gets to play the game she loves, and she has worked very hard to put herself in this position. She’s still not at 100 percent in terms of exactly where she was before the injury, but there is nothing wrong with her arm right now.”

 

On Chloe Mann coming back for a fifth year…

“The redshirt has worked pretty well for the Gators over the years. The beauty is that we don’t lose players early to a professional team. We get five years, and that’s five years of experience. The hardest challenge for Chloe was finding a major. She has so many AP credits from high school that she entered the University of Florida as a second semester sophomore. She’s already graduated, she’s working on her master’s degree. Chloe is a coach on the court and off the court and really has developed into an outstanding leader for us.”

 

On what Živa Recek can do to top her freshman year…

“The difference this year will be Živa will not take anybody by surprise any more. She and Chloe will be the highlights on everyone’s scouting reports. The difference is that last year we asked so much of those two and they had to carry by far the majority of our offense, and the beauty of this 2013 team is there are more arms to go around. Fans are going to love seeing Simone Antwi in what is now her third year in the program and to see the type of player she has evolved into. We’ve got the depth on the pins, either left or right side, the likes of which I’m not sure we’ve ever had in this program. We’ve got a lot of combinations of point scores. A year ago, we had barely two, and if it was a perfect pass, Tangerine (Wiggs). Last year, everything else was sort of held together by Band-Aids and now we’re pretty well held together. I think we have a chance to compete against some of the best teams in the country.”

 

On the evolution of the defense the past few years…

“The four DS’s, their volleyball IQs have really risen. The effort has always been there, but now you’re adding technique and IQ; it’s the best combination. We have a lot of confidence in playing any four of those players really in any of the positions. They are that close and they each bring something special and unique to the floor to make us better.”

 

On a No. 9 preseason ranking…

“I think it’s great for the players to be recognized, but a lot of that has to do with what happened last year, and our players understand that. As cliché as it sounds, we all know it’s about where you end. We’re not focusing on the end now, we’re focusing on putting ourselves in the position to be the best possible team we can be, come Aug. 30. We’ll keep trying to raise that bar all the way through December.”

 

On the ‘Final Four mentality’ she has instilled in the team this preseason…

“This is a very compliant group; they work very hard, but the Final Four mentality reflects that we’re trying to do everything at the highest possible level, whether it’s decisions off the court or point scoring on the court. It would be unrealistic to ask a young team to come in with that mentality, but these players get it. The entire team was here throughout the summer and they would be disappointed if we weren’t putting our goals high and trying to achieve the highest possible.”

 

On coaching a team differently so as to return to the Final Four…

“I don’t know if you coach a team differently, but you want to put yourself in a position that when you play a team as good as a national championship team or a national finalist, that you can score enough points against them, you can get to 45 points before they do and you can keep them from scoring points. You hope you’re healthy enough, but you put yourself in a position that come December you have a chance. And that’s all we’re asking for, is a chance.”

 

On her expectations of Taylor Brauneis…

“What we find traditionally for transfers is it’s really the second year before things become a whole lot easier. You have to credit Taylor because her easy-going demeanor has transcended into how she played last year. For her to step in and run a 5-1, says a lot about her as a player. Chloe Mann led the nation in hitting efficiency last year; well the person who was getting her the ball was Taylor. Like any player, what we like to do is see that learning curve continue, and she had a great spring and summer. Now she has to try and take advantage of it in her last fall.”

 

On how excited she is to start the season…

“Right now, I’d love to push a pause button. This is one of the best weeks of the year; we don’t have to share the players’ time with classes, studying or anything else. I love this time of year. I don’t think they share our view on that. I think some of the younger players would want a fast-forward button, but this is really one of my favorite times.”

 

On Taylor Unroe’s development…

“She’s has been so stable for us in terms of the serve receive. What we are asking of her this year is we need more point scoring from her from behind the end line and more range defensively, since now there are other players who have some defensive skills and hopefully we can use Taylor in more than just one position.”

 

On who has stood out the most so far

“If you forced me to choose, I would say Denise Belcher has really been fun to watch. It’s been a while since we’ve had somebody as quick as Denise is. Denise can make plays that very few players can make, just because of how fast she is. She’s just a freshman, she’s still learning the game, there will be points that could possibly go to the other team, but she’s got a chance to score a lot of points for us. She’s really had a good training camp.”

 

On what Belcher’s role will be…

“Now the challenge is, and this is a great problem to have, that we have depth in Gabby (Mallette) and Ziva (Recek) and we now have a lefty on the group. We just have so many more options on the either left side or right side than we’ve had in a long time.”

 

On who may be poised to have a better season than they had last year

“I think Gabby Mallette in many ways. She became a starter, and she played so well in the NCAA tournament, and even in the loss in the regional semi-finals. We’ve had very few players as physical as she is that high above the net. She’s got a real chance at having a better season that last year.”

 

On possibly running a 6-2 this year…

“It’s a possibility, but right now as well as Simone (Antwi) is hitting the slide, we might not want to do that.”

 

On getting another setter in transfer Mackenzie Dagostino…

“We feel very fortunate that Mackenzie wanted to play closer to home and we just happened to be located closer to home for her. She is easily one of the best defensive setters that has every practiced in this gym. She is so fast and has a really high volleyball IQ. When you add that to her competitive spirit, she’s got a lot of what you want in a setter.”

 

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#2 Dana Backlund, So., S

On this summer…

“I got a lot more reps and we started working a lot more as a team. Just getting comfortable with everyone and a lot of the team chemistry stuff. It was another summer of experience. It has been good for all of us.”

 

On the upcoming season…

“We’ve been talking about a Final Four mentality, so that is our main goal for this year’s season. Our saying for this year is Final Four mentality. Everything that we have been doing on the court or off the court, we’re working on having that mentality. Whether that is in the weight room, practice or with each other. We’re working on a lot of chemistry stuff.”

 

#3 Alex Holston, Fr., RS

On the team being ranked preseason number nine…

“I think it’s a really good stand point for our team right now. We’ve been working really hard in the gym.”

 

On ‘Final Four Mentality’…

“The Final Four Mentality is just doing everything we need to do in the moment. It’s not so much as focusing on the NCAA Tournament as it is preparing for our next game and focusing on the SEC Tournament.”

 

On the transition to Florida…

“It’s going good. I’m coming from Maryland to here so it’s a little bit different weather. Just the transition with volleyball, the game is a lot faster; it’s a lot more systematic and there is a lot more positional stuff we have to learn that’s not like high school and club.”

 

On the outlook for the year…

“The team has set a bunch of goals and we have been working really hard in the gym so we want to keep working hard, as a team, towards that ‘Final Four Mentality.’”

 

#5 Taylor Unroe, Jr., L

On getting Noami back…

“I think it is a great gain for the team. She has done really well in practice. It is good to have someone who can hammer the ball out there. All of the outsides are great, and she is adding to that.”

 

On mindset going into this year..

“I think last year we surprised a lot of people, but I don’t think that we are not going to surprise anyone this year. People know that we are getting a lot of people back and that we can compete at a really high level. I don’t think that we are considered the underdogs.”

 

#6 Mackenzie Dagostino, So., S

On the Final Four mentality…

“Basically, it is just us doing our jobs to work for the Final Four. Putting in the work every day and effort at work to get there. If one person is not doing it, we can’t make it there. I am a transfer and coming from the program I came from, this is completely different. Going into college everyone wants to get to the final four. When you play for a program that doesn’t have that same mentality and you come to something like this, it is a completely different thing and it is amazing to see.”

 

On getting accustomed to Gainesville…

“I love it. I’m from Tampa, so I’ve been around here my whole life. I grew up a Florida Gator fan. It is fun and these girls are crazy cool. I’m only two hours away from home. It really is nice.”

 

#7 Gabby Mallette, So., OH

On the attitude of preseason practices so far

“Practice has been intense. It’s pretty competitive for how early it is in the season. It’s really fun, the gym is loud and everyone is talking to each other. I think the game looks a little different for me, since I now have a year of experience, but overall, everyone is just really excited and really focused. It’s going to be a good year.”

 

On her excitement for the season to begin:…

“I’m really excited. Not just me, but everyone as a team is excited. I can tell from how two-a-days are going and preseason. Everyone is really focused, really determined and disciplined with our system here. Everyone has an open mind to anything and everything the coaches say, so we’re all on the same page. It’s really great.”

 

#8 Taylor Brauneis, Sr., S

On what she’s looking forward to this season…

“A big part of my senior year is going to be making my last year my best year. As far as the team goes, we’ve worked so hard this preseason and to bring that into games is going to be really exciting.”

 

On how two-a-days have been going…

“Two-a-days have been going great. We’ve been working hard every single day morning and night. Mary’s been pushing us and it’s been really good. We’re starting to come out of our comfort zone a little bit.”

 

On what she’s doing personally with a ‘Final Four mentality’…

“I’m just coming in the gym and working hard for every single rep I get. Every single time I’m in the gym, I’m trying to make people better - that’s my job as a setter. Having that ‘Final Four mentality’ is big, just knowing that we can get there and coming in and working hard every day.”

 

#9 Živa Recek, So., OH

On winning AVCA National Freshman of the Year…

“It was great. It’s an individual award, but I give a lot of credit to my teammates and my coaches because they helped me to get better. They helped me to improve at every game and every practice. Winning was a great experience. We were working hard as a team during every game in the SEC, every practice we were preparing for our opponent and hard work pays off.”

 

On her experience last year, coming from Slovenia to a new country, etc…

“It was a great experience. When I came to Florida for my official visit two years ago, I knew I wanted to be here. I wanted to stay here, I wanted to practice in this gym, I wanted to be around the coaches. I loved it then and I still love it, I wouldn’t change it for anything. During the season, people didn’t expect us to win the SEC and go that far in the NCAA tournament, but we were working hard and our team was really good every day, and being able to prove people wrong was a great experience.”

 

#10 Chloe Mann, Sr., MB

On a No. 9 preseason ranking…

“We’re obviously happy with the preseason ranking, but that’s not where we’re focused. We’re focused on where we end up at the end of the season, and hopefully that’s No. 1.”

 

“We see it, but it’s not a huge focus of ours. It’s definitely flattering that we’re able to be in the top 10 and we feel honored that how well we did last year was able to translate into a No. 9 preseason ranking, but you can be a top-ranked team and fall in your first weekend. We just need to make sure that we’re staying focused and we’re not letting a preseason ranking cloud our judgments on how good we are.”

 

On going beyond winning an SEC title to winning an NCAA title…

“We need to keep reaching for that goal of winning an NCAA Championship. We need to stay hungry and never give up, no matter what the circumstances are. No matter how many years Mary (Wise) has been here, every season she comes in wanting that NCAA title. With this being my last year, we really want to accomplish that for her.”

 

On preparing for the Nike Big Four…

“We’re really excited to go out there and play at Texas. Unfortunately, we won’t be playing Texas, but just to be surrounded by such great teams ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the preseason is exciting for us. It’s a good benchmark for our team to show where we’re at compared to that level of competition. It should be really good.”

 

On what she’s looking forward to this season…

“I’m looking forward to coming out strong as a team and collectively being able to bring home what this program has been looking toward for so long, and that’s a national championship. During the preseason, we’ve shown a lot of strengths offensively and defensively. We’re excited to let the fans see that.”

 

#11 Madison Monserez, Jr., DS

On her role as a junior on the team…

“As you get older, you try to teach everyone and help everyone learn the system. We’re all doing it together and everyone is doing great.”

 

On her outlook for this season…

“Every time we step on the court, we’re trying to get better. Every time we have a chance in practice or in a game, it’s to get better. So, we start by getting everyone on the same page and learning everything. Then, we progress to conference play and just keep on going throughout the season – we keep progressing and getting better.”

 

#12 Denise Belcher, Fr., OH

On practicing with the team

“Coming in here, our lives have been literally volleyball, eat and sleep. But, the fun part of that is all the bonding – not necessarily set bonding, just us naturally coming together as a team.”

 

On her goals for this season

“My goal is to find my role within the team. As a team, we have this big goal of going as far as we can go, farther than last year, but my goal personally is just to come in to the team and find my place.”

 

#15 Shaďnah Joseph, Fr., MB/OH

On her transition to college…

“I love it so far. It’s pretty good. I already feel more American.”

 

On workouts…

“Workouts have been great. Everybody is so energetic and we’ve been working out a lot. Things have been going really good.”

 

On goals for this season…

“For now it’s just keeping up with the team and being able to compete with the players. I am playing middle so I’m competing with the best middle’s in the country and getting better.”

 

On two-a-days…

“It’s really good and allows me to get more comfortable one day to another.”

 

On team objectives…

“One of our team goals is try to find out what lights each other up. We try to find everyone’s comfort zone and see how to get the best out of them on the court. So we’ve been doing that and working at it during practices so when it comes time for game situations we can apply it easily.”

 

#16 Simone Antwi, So., MB

On the ‘Final Four Mentality’…

“This year we have high expectations for ourselves so everything we do in and outside of the gym we want to make sure it’s geared toward a ‘Final Four Mentality’ just because it’s our goal for the season.”

 

On the excitement of the season beginning…

“I’m very excited. The summer training and everything is all a little taste so the whole team is really excited and we are practicing really hard.”

 

On playing alongside Chloe Mann…

“I’m excited to play alongside everybody. We’ve all been working hard in the gym and working hard in the weight room with Matt DeLancey so it’s finally fun to get on the court and see it all pay off. Of course it’s fun to play with Chloe because you never know what she’s going to come up with and Chloe just brightens up everybody’s day.”

 

On goals for the season…

“Basically just make myself better so I can make the team better.”

 

On workouts…

“Workouts have been really good. We go work out and we gear it towards the ‘Final Four Mentality’ so we’re not just going to go in here and get this done, we’re going to go and work out so we can get to where we want to be.”

 

#17 Noami Santos-Lamb, So., OH

On the biggest obstacles of overcoming her injury

“I feel like it’s all equally hard: getting over the injury, getting over how much it hurt and how long I was out, and even when I was back in the gym, it was getting over the fear of getting hurt again. But, it’s great to have the team there with me and to have them push me in every way to be back and even better than what I was last year.”

 

On the team’s ‘Final Four mentality’

“The ‘Final Four mentality’ for the team is basically consistency and working hard in everything you do at all times, no matter what it is. The team is all in – all together – buying in and working hard toward a common goal. We’re going hard for each other and with each other, and that will definitely help us in the long run.”

 

#20 Nikki O’Rourke, So., DS

On the training this summer…

“It’s a lot easier just because you have everything down now so it’s not as much training; it’s more muscle memory. But it’s always a good workout.”

 

On her outlook on the season…

“Hopefully we do well. We’ve been working really hard and it looks like it will be a good year for us.”

 

On season goals…

“For myself it’s just play hard and compete. We have a lot of competition going on every day in the gym and we all work hard against each other.”

 

On the meshing of the team…

“We’ve had four new people and have been going through some different defenses. So it just makes you realize how much more detail I can go into. I learned a lot last year so now being able to put everything into play is helping me to realize a lot more things. And of course my upperclassmen help me out with a lot of stuff. We all work together really well. We always have each other’s back.”

 

#30 Holly Pole, Jr., DS

On the Final Four mentality…

“We’re just a super competitive team. Everything that we do in practice is competitive, whether it is a passing drill or a six-on-six drill. Everything we do with that Final Four mentality because at the end of the day that is our goal. That is what we are trying to achieve.”

 

On examples of the Final Four mentality…

“Just coming into practice with the mindset that you are going to get better every day and working towards that. If you get better every day and every practice, then you are doing your job. I am very excited about the year. It has been a long time since we’ve stepped on the court and played a real match.”

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