Kentucky Head Coach Craig Skinner Opening statement We’re very excited to be here and when you get to a regional it’s exciting for every program that made it and it’s going to be an exciting weekend of volleyball and we’re looking forward to getting on the court tomorrow.
On how the SEC season prepared the team for the regional: We had some very competitive matches in our conference. If you look at the end of the season, we had four teams in the top 25 in us, Florida, LSU and Tennessee. Each night when one of those teams competed, it was tough. The last two matches of the year played Florida and Tennessee and we have a lot of deuce games. When you’re in that situation enough you get a sense of what it takes to win close matches and that is what happens in the NCAA tournament.
On returning to the regional: It’s been a while since Kentucky has returned to a regional and the great thing about this group is that they are excited about competing and winning. We’ve put ourselves in a position and had a lot of success throughout the year and I think when we saw the draw in the NCAA Tournament we felt good about our chances to do it. We had to beat a couple very good teams in Michigan State and Oregon to get here. I think that’s only a benefit when you have to play good teams to get to this point because it helps you when you get to a regional. It’s a great vibe around our team and the effort is there. We can’t wait to play again. That’s the mood on this team is that we can’t wait to step onto the floor again and get after it.
On the different style of play between conferences: I think you could probably say that. There are a lot of different styles out there. I think Michigan State is physical, powerful and hits the ball hard. The Big Ten is a very competitive conference. Oregon runs an extremely fast offense and there are a few teams in the Pac-10 that do that. You do see that. I think the ACC is slightly different in their style. The advantage that we have in the SEC is that you see a lot of different styles of play from top to bottom from each school. I think we’ve prepared ourselves no matter what style we face in each round that our system allows us to make adjustments.
On if they faced a team that plays the same style as Florida State: We’ve seen a lot of 6-2s. There are a lot of teams that run a 6-2 offense with three hitters in the front row all the time. There are similar types of play set where they’re off one foot off two behind, set behind a setter quite a bit. There’s a bit of foreign flavor in the SEC where you see a lot of foreign athletes that have a lot of experience. I wouldn’t say there’s one particular team in the SEC that is like Florida State’s style, but I think we see a lot of what they do. Now the question is that you have to match up physically with them and be able to play good enough defense to slow down what they can do in the front row.
On the key roles of the seniors: You talk about two Sarah Rumley and BriAnne Sauer) people here, who want to be the best at what they do. They come to the gym and want to make themselves better. That’s something that our team feeds off and it allows them to be confident when they step onto the floor. I don’t think there’s a day that’s gone by when our season ended last year that they didn’t want to get in the gym and make themselves better. They are playing the best volleyball of their careers right now and that’s how it should be when you are a senior.
On ACC Player of the Year and Florida State Middle Blocker Brianna Barry: She’s a veteran. She’ tall and physical at the net and is capable of hitting the ball at all areas of the court. She’s can hit wrist away, she can hit cross body; she can tip to open spots on the court. She’s going to get some kills, but the question is do we let her hit 500 and let her get a lot of kills. That’s the equation is when you get to this point is that they can’t let her have their way with you. We’re going to have to serve tough enough where she can’t get her the ball as much as they’d like to and we need to have a block available that she has to make decisions when she attacks and not just hit to an open net.
Senior Setter Sarah Rumley: On making the NCAA Sweet Sixteen: We’re just really excited to be here and step on the floor tomorrow to compete again. As a senior you just want to step on the court here and play your best volleyball at the end of your career. It’s just enjoying your time with your teammates. Every time you step out on the court we want to compete the hardest we can and hope we can play for tomorrow.
On the type of team Florida State is and what to do to win: We’ll need to shut down their middles and isolate them in some ways that would be great for us. We just need to be able to defend that. Otherwise, our defensive effort. If we can defend them and be in a position to run our offense the way that we need to run it I think that’s what will help us be successful.
Senior Defensive Specialist BriAnne Sauer On making the NCAA Sweet Sixteen: We’re thrilled to be here. The last two years we lost in the first round and we knew that we weren’t a team that should have been knocked out in the first round. We should have made it farther. This year we’ve taken that step and this isn’t where we want to end up. We still want to win these two games and move onto next week.
On the type of team Florida State is and what to do to win: I know they have middles that hit around the block and we have to be able to defend that. Our defense will be key. If we block as well as we did this past weekend it will be good.
Florida State University Florida State Head Coach Chris Poole: Opening Statement:
“We are really excited to here, obviously they do a great job at Minnesota having volleyball fans. Volleyball is great here in this area, and I have known Mike for a long time. He has been a mentor of mine and I have a lot of respect for him. To be here at the University of Minnesota is a great honor, and certainly being in the regional round is a great honor for us. We are here to try to work hard. All 16 teams left are all good, so I think you should see a lot of good volleyball and I know everybody is going to be working hard.”
On how quickly success has come in only his second season at Florida State:
Well, when we went in to the program one of the things we tried to do is to fix was the volleyball culture. The team had existed as a mid-level ACC program for years, and had been to the NCAA tournament once in 12 years. We knew there was some talent on the team, and we felt if we could get them working the right way and get them believing they can be better, and really challenge them to be better things could improve quickly. We challenged them to be better as players, better as people on and off the court and then we knew we could make some head way. We have worked hard to do that, but they certainly had to buy into the things we wanted to teach them and we have been very blessed and very fortunate this year to have a great group of young ladies. It seems like those times when we could have been down and we could have lost we continued to find ways to win. That is the mark of a successful team. There are a lot of teams that struggle throughout the season in close matches, in close games and not find a way to close them out and typically we found ways to close out those games.”
On if he is surprised at how fast success has come:
“I was not surprised, I started a program at Arkansas 15 years ago and we pretty quickly were able to be competitive. In our second year there, we went to the finals of the SEC tournament, our third year we were in the NCAA Tournament and in the fourth year we beat Florida to win the SEC. I like building programs, I consider it a challenge, it is a lot of fun and I think the biggest thing you have to do is have great assistants who buy into your philosophy and then get your players to buy into that philosophy. I think a lot of times you can go places, and you have to start over because your upper classmen resist what you are trying to teach them. I think we were very blessed and lucky that these juniors and seniors wanted to jump on board and try to be part of what we wanted to build rather than trying to resist it and causing us to wait years to do that.“
On preparing for Kentucky:
“Well being in the ACC, we know a little bit about Kentucky. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Skinner. He is a great coach, a great trainer and they have a great program there. He has done something similar there by going into Kentucky and reviving that program. Up until the week before the end of the season, they were in good shape to win the SEC, and just dropped those last couple of matches. Some of that was due to some sickness with their players, and we realize that they are very, very good. We realize they are dangerous, they are tall, they are physical, they have a great leader at setter who is a senior and does a good job distributing the ball. I think we are going to have to work hard on our serves in order to take them out of their offense and in turn we will have to pass the ball well, so that we can run our offense. We are averaging around a .310 hitting percentage, and we have been consistent with that throughout the year. No matter who we have played, we have stayed up at .260 to .350 range. I know we can do that, but our passing is going to be the key. We have got to settle down, we have to pass the ball and run an effective offense against them. As simple as that sounds, I think for both of these teams, the team that passes and serves the best will end up winning tomorrow.”
On seniors on team:
"We are a team that really focuses on our middle attack, both of the players on either side of me are our two starting middles. We ran a pretty fast offense, and I think it is going to be important to have our passing down so we can the ball to our middles. If we can do that, it will really open up our offense. We also have a senior setter who is really good, understands the game really well and distributes the ball very well. Mira Djuric is also a very good player who when she is on is as good right side hitter as there is in the country. Her biggest thing this year is she sat out last year because of a couple of injuries. She had to get back into the swing of things in the first half the season, and was not as consistent as she could be. So it will be a key that these four seniors go out there and help lead the way at their respective positions and help us to be successful that way, as opposed to going out and being nervous or struggling to get into a rhythm that we will need to get into real quick."
On being a No. 1 Regional seed:
“We kept trying share with our team even during the season. I knew what the wins were meaning to us. I think a real key early in the season, was beating Illinois in a neutral-site match in three sets and playing as well is we did against Florida. I don’t think a lot of people understand we lost in five sets, but we were also up 12-10 in the fifth, and 14-13 serving for the match. We were one play away from winning. So I knew we were playing well, I knew that as long as we continued to play well on our side and continued to get the wins, we could settle in and see what happened in that case. It was a surprise to be seeded that high, but not in the top eight.“
Senior middle blocker Jordana Price On winning the first two rounds at home:
“It was awesome, not only did we win the first and second round, but we got to do it at home. We had not been in that position in the NCAA Tournament in a real long time as a program. So for us to get to go and host was a great feeling. Not only were we there, but our families and the people who supported us all year got to share it with us. It does not get any better than that.”
On the team’s reactions to the No. 1 regional seed: “It is funny, it splashed on the screen and then everyone was like whoa. You could hear the buildup of the excitement. It is an honor to be seeded as a top-four team in the country. It brings responsibility, and helped us realize we are very good team, and we need to step up to what has been put on our plate. It is tough, but it is good.
Senior middle blocker Brianna Barry On hosting the NCAA Tournament at Florida State:
“I agree with what Jordana said. For us as seniors, we have never gone to the NCAA Tournament in our careers. So getting to host was nice to be in our comfy confines at home in Tallahassee. We had the fans and everyone out there, and it was amazing because people could see this was Florida State volleyball and this is what we had to bring to the table. Now, moving through the first two rounds and being at Minnesota is very exciting. We are looking forward to see what happens this weekend.”
On receiving a No. 1 seed:
"That was little unexpected. We were watching the Selection Show, and the coaches always have full confidence in us. While we were watching the show, we were expecting to be in the top eight somewhere, and thought that would be pretty cool. We were reading through and it said Penn State, Texas and we said wait that is Florida State. We were completely in shock. It is a good pressure we needed. We know that people will be watching us. People know that Florida State volleyball is coming up and being known. Pressure will hope, because we play better when we know more is on the line. I think it will help people step up, which is what we need to win. “ Colorado State University Colorado State Head Coach Tom Hilbert We’re very excited to be here. At this stage of the NCAA tournament, everyone’s good and we started out the season with a lot of uncertainty and a lot of new people play in different positions. This whole season has been one of discovery of how good we can be and continue to improve. To get to this stage of the tournament is an exciting thing, but we also feel like we can be competitive here. On the way the team is playing right now: I would say that this entire year, we’ve been an interesting team. We have had a lot of very close matches. Even in situations you wouldn’t think we would have to have close matches. In the greatest majority of those matches, we have won. I think what that does to a team is gives them a feeling of comfort. Whenever they are in a competitive situation, they can get through the situation. We play a match against New Mexico State, which Tessa mentioned, and didn’t come out of that winning it. I felt okay about that because if there’s a time we can take a loss that’s the time to do it. The next weekend we opened up against Middle Tennessee State, which is very good and it was a back and forth match, but when it came to the fifth game, we won. We turned around and prepared very well for Washington and did what we expected them to do and we were able to combat it and win in some tight situations. This team is very comfortable competing and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been successful this year.
On being this far in the tournament with this group of players: We haven’t been this far since 2003. What it takes to do that is peaking at the right time. That’s always a great challenge for any coach, but it has been for me as well. We want to play our best volleyball in December and this group is doing it. I think they’re doing it because this experience is so fresh to them. We have a new setter; we have wonderful leadership in Tessa and (libero) Katelin Batten. It’s been an environment of fun this year. I know that sounds goofy, but it really has. It’s been a fun environment and it kept it fresh. This freshness has taken us a long way.
On what CSU needs to do to be competitive to beat Minnesota: Minnesota, like every good team in a major conference has got athletes in every spot. They are very physical. We play different teams and play different styles of things. They’re not going to be any faster tempo wise than us, but they play the game probably two to three inches higher, and that’s a lot. You put a kid like Tabitha Love on the left side, who every ball she’s banging up the 10-foot range. (Lauren) Gibbemeyer, we haven’t seen a slide hitter like that yet this year. Those are going to be great challenges for us, but I like the way our team responds to those kinds of challenges. One of the things we do pretty well is that we block well. If we can physically put some hands in front of those guys that work for us, we’ll have a chance.
On CSU’s overall style of play: We try and block and defend well. We focus a lot on that part of the game. Offensively, we’re very similar to the University of Minnesota. Because we’re so young, we aren’t a fast tempo team either. That’s an area we are trying to improve on literally every day. Through the course of this corps group of players, we’ll get faster and faster. We have a new setter who doesn’t have a great deal of experience. We try to keep things pretty simple, but the main focus of what we do every day is to block and defend. Senior Middle Blocker Tessa Nelson: On being a Minnesota native and how she went to Colorado State instead of Minnesota: I kind of clueless during the recruiting stage. I remember going to their camps and watching games here at the U, but after I went to Colorado State I made a decision really early in the recruiting process. I really liked Fort Collins. It’s got a small town atmosphere and I really wanted to be a veterinarian and CSU has a great program.
On playing in front of a large contingent of family: I have a bunch of family and friends coming up. Hopefully the weather stays alright so they can travel. They live about three and a half hours from here. I have aunts, uncles and cousins in the Twin Cities so it should be fun.
On having Brett Favre listed as her favorite athlete: I had him on there for a long time. I’m a big Vikings fan and everyone called me a traitor. I think I could just predict the future. I like how he loves the game so much that he can’t let it go.
On winning the conference and playing their best volleyball right now: After we won conference, we played a non-conference game against New Mexico State and we lost. They were a really good team and that prepared us to step up our game for the next weekend and play two good teams at home. I feel like we’re playing some of the best volleyball we have all season and everyone’s hearts are definitely into it and we couldn’t ask for anything more than that.
Red-shirt Freshman Middle Blocker Megan Plourde On upsetting Washington in front of the hometown crowd: I’m a red-shirt freshman so I’ve never experienced this before. There are no words for me to really describe the feeling. I was excited and really fortunate that we’ve gone so far already. Junior Outside Hitter Danielle Minch: On upsetting Washington in front of the hometown crowd: I was really happy and really proud of our team to make it this far. It’s comforting to know that we worked for it and we deserve to be here. I think we can do a good job here and go farther.
University of Minnesota Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert Opening Statement:
“We are awfully happy to be in the Regional. When we saw the first and second round draw, we were not sure that was going to be an automatic pathway into the regional. We are here, and we come off a very strong weekend in Knoxville. I think the team is playing probably its best volleyball of the season right now. I think there is some talk about Washington and Oregon being upset, and people are saying this regional might not be as strong as it could have been. I don’t buy that. You play who is in front of you, if you win you advance and if won that means you were better than the other team that night. I am very happy with the field for this regional. I hope that all the teams play well.”
On his memories of the 2004 NCAA Regionals that Minnesota hosted at the Sports Pavilion:
“One of my most indelible memories was the 48-46 loss in the fourth set against Georgia Tech when we were up 2-1. I think that is still an NCAA rally-scoring record for a set. Both coaches had used all their substitutions and all their timeouts. By the end of the set, the Georgia Tech staff and our staff, who knew each other, we would gaze down the way and giggle. There was nothing any of the coaches could do tactically, and it was up to the players on the floor to settle it. Then we lost that fourth set and came back to win the fifth set 15-8 to claim the match. It was a great night, and then we went five sets with Ohio State and the great Stacey Gordon the next night. What I remember about that is putting a freshman middle blocker, Jessy Jones, in who had not played much that year. We put her in down 2-1, and she went in and started shutting down Stacey Gordon. Those were some great matches, and like these two players up here I hope we can replicate it this weekend.”
On how the players are feeling heading into the regionals:
“This tournament, the regional round, in my mind is where the best volleyball is played throughout the entire tournament. This is to go to the National Semifinals. I don’t think any of our players need to fire themselves up, in fact I don’t want them getting so fired up and tight that they are not themselves. They have done a good job all week of keeping a good perspective. There is no additional motivation necessary at this point.”
On Colorado State:
“I think we are similar to Colorado State. We both have a balanced attack, they play scrappy defense and counter-attack real well. I don’t see any holes in what they do. They do it all very well, and I think it will be an even-up match. As usual it will be a matter of who wins the serve and pass game. That is usually who wins the match, whoever serves and can pass better.”
Junior outside hitter Hailey Cowles
On getting to the NCAA Regional round and hosting:
“It is really exciting. It was definitely our focus in the first and second rounds in Tennessee to make sure we got back home to play in the NCAA Regionals in Minneapolis. It is a great feeling to be back here, and to have won a couple of tough matches on Tennessee’s home court. Both of those teams played well, so we are happy to be here.”
On First-Team All-Region Golden Gohper middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer:
“I think Lauren (Gibbemeyer) is an amazing player, we all know it. She has really stepped up in a leadership role this year. I think that has carried her onto a different level this year than she has been the previous two years here at Minnesota. Just from playing with her in club volleyball and her at the University of Minnesota, she is a great competitor who wants to win and wants our team to win every time she is out there. She is a great person for this program to have, and she is playing at a real high level right now.”
On the 2004 NCAA Regionals at Minnesota:
“I was at both the Georgia Tech and Ohio State matches in 2004 as a spectator. I remember being in awe of the players, how great they were and that both matches were very exciting. You could feel how much the girls were enjoying that experience, and I want the same for our team this year. To just take this all in for what it is worth, and enjoy what a great experience it is to be part of.”
Senior outside hitter Megan Wilson
On getting back to Minneapolis for the NCAA Regionals:
“I think it is very exciting. Every single person on our team stepped up and filled the roles that were required of them. To see all that come together at this point in the season could not be better timing with the talent that we have.”
On being in the NCAA Regionals in 2005 with Missouri as a redshirt, but getting back with Minnesota as a key contributor:
“I am beyond excited. There are not many words to describe being one of the top 16 teams in the nation. Actually getting to play during it is a dream come true. Every little girl that plays volleyball thinks about going far in the tournament, and having a chance presented before us to possibly go to Final Four is very exciting.”
On her decision to transfer to Minnesota this year:
“I am very happy to be here. Different doors opened here, I came and visited and I fell in love with the coaches, the players and the program. Going through all my years of college experience, something in my gut was just telling me this was the right place to be. I followed my heart and it has worked out well this year.”