Connecticut-Stanford Quotes, April 4
April 4, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Pleased to be joined up here at the podium by Connecticut head coach Gene Auriemma and Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery.
Again, once we have an opening statement from Coach we'll take questions for the student-athletes.
COACH AURIEMMA: The same thing I say all the time, whether it's at the regionals or at the Final Four, game time never gets here fast enough. There's a million things you have to do and I obviously know they have to be done. But I know I speak for the players. I wish game day was today, but it's not. We're anxious to play. We're obviously thrilled to be here.
I don't think that we're surprised that we're here. This was something that these kids have worked really hard for. And as I tell them every day in practice, there's only four teams left. And they're all really, really good. So I would expect nothing but great games on Sunday.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. For either or both of you, can you talk about the matchup with Stanford, where you feel like your biggest strengths are and maybe where their strengths lie?
RENEE MONTGOMERY: For Stanford, I think their biggest strength, of course, is their post game. I think Jayne Appel has really made herself a dominant post presence throughout the season, and she's just left it up to other teams to have to try to stop her. And I also think they have a perimeter to go along with that post game. But I'll say that's definitely one of their strengths.
As far as us, our strength is running the floor, making it a full-court game instead of a half-court offense and defense. I think our strength will just be to push the ball as much as possible.
MAYA MOORE: I agree, just as far as our strength being -- we like to go. We like to run. And that's just definitely one of our -- mostly our style of play. They're a disciplined team. They're going to force us to play their style of basketball. They're patient with their offense and they get the shot that they want. So we're just going to have to do our best to try to just disrupt their offensive flow as much as possible.
Q. Maya and then Renee, anything that you learned from last year's matchup in the semifinal that could help you Sunday?
MAYA MOORE: Just how much those little things matter. And the Final Four, all the things that you work on throughout the year. When your coaches are harping on getting the little things right. I think this year we definitely took it to heart a little more.
And so hopefully we've taken care of a lot of those little things and we'll be able to execute tomorrow.
RENEE MONTGOMERY: I think we learned that it really is a team concept that everybody has to work at the same level and you can't let someone work at their own pace or, you know -- I think that we learned that everyone is accountable 1 through 13 on our team.
And that's something that we didn't have last year that we definitely have this year, that no matter how many minutes you play, everyone on the team feels they have a role on the team that they have to do every day for us to be successful.
And I think that's the main thing, that everybody comes every day ready to do their role and do the best they can.
Q. Both Maya and Renee, what did last year's game as far as losing, did that in any way teach you how to be ready not to lose tomorrow night?
MAYA MOORE: I don't think we ever play not to lose. I think we always play to win the game. But I think losing last year did teach us a lot of things about better ways to win, a better way to execute the game or what we did wrong.
I think we came and we didn't play our style of play. We let them play how they wanted to play and we didn't play how we wanted to play. So I think it just taught us how to win more, per se, than to not play how to lose.
RENEE MONTGOMERY: I agree. I don't think you can win championships being afraid that you're going to lose. And maybe last year, I don't know, our team maybe was playing with that a little bit. I don't think we came into that game as confident as we would have liked to have been. And this year we're not going to play tentative. I think this is win or go home, so we're going to leave it all out on the court this year.
But we definitely know through Coach and his experience just telling us that you can't be on the court being afraid to lose. You have to go out there and just being excited and competitive to win.
Q. Renee, Maya, did you notice anything about Stanford's court presence last year, were they more poised, more disciplined than a lot of the teams you played last year? Obviously had a Hall of Fame coach, very experienced. Was their demeanor on the court different or more impressive than some of the other teams you dealt with last year?
RENEE MONTGOMERY: I would definitely say yes. I think the main thing about them is they never take a shot that they don't want to take. They go down on offense and they keep on working the ball around until the right people shoot the ball, where they should be shooting it.
I think a lot of teams sometimes might have players that just take errant shots that aren't supposed to be shooting it from the 3-point line and they just shoot it because they're open. But I think Stanford does a really good job of making sure that people they want to shoot the ball are shooting it where they like to shoot it. And that's what makes them so tough, because they have enough patience to wait until they get the right shot that they want.
Q. I'm struck listening to these questions about the loss last year. Everybody loses sometimes, and yet it seems like there's a different standard, a loss in any game is different for y'all than it is for any other team. Is that a pain in the buns or is that the way you want it to be?
RENEE MONTGOMERY: I don't think it's a pain, because I think you know that going into Connecticut. I think it's just -- they said along the years that we didn't make it to the Final Four that was unbelievable to our fans and to just the community, because they set such a high standard and we knew that coming in. So it's not like we can come here and think, My goodness, we didn't expect this. But we kind of knew it coming in, but it's also good because when you have high standards I think you reach a higher potential.
So I don't really see it as a pain; I think of it more as a motivation to work harder.
MAYA MOORE: When you come to Connecticut you know the culture of Connecticut basketball because of the success has been set at a really high level. And when we go out, our goal every time we step out on the court is to go out. And if we're going to lose on the scoreboard, it's because another team has just outplayed us and beaten us.
And most of the time when we're on the court we feel like when we play no team should be able to beat us when we're at our best. So that's just kind of the expectation that we have as a team, that we're not just going to give anyone a game. So when we do feel like that happens, that's devastating to us. And just the type of practices that we have throughout the whole year, consistency, intensity, it just makes it so hard when you lose. So hopefully something we won't have to experience.
Q. Do you guys have a sense of how you will play in a late-game situation if it's close? I mean, you've won just by simply obviously a lot of the year, if this is a two-possession game with 30 seconds left, whatever, are you confident that it's not something that you guys have experienced a lot this year?
MAYA MOORE: We always have to be confident. I think that's something that's separated our team this whole year. We came in thinking we can make the next play, get the next run, hit the next best shot. It's one of the situations you can't get caught up in the situation; just trust your instincts. And I trust my teammates. And that's when you find out the character of your team. I feel we've got good chemistry this year and we feel confident in each other to finish and make big plays. And if it comes down to it, we're not going to be afraid to make a big play.
Q. Renee, at this point on the eve of the semifinal you've had Coach give you the scouting report so you know your opponent pretty well. Do you think anybody at Stanford can actually stop you?
RENEE MONTGOMERY: That's a tough question. I think they're going to find ways. I know they're going to know all our weaknesses. They're going to pretty much try to play against that to make us do things we're uncomfortable with.
I'm sure they're going to try to slow us down, do some three-quarters. I know they're not going to have everybody crashing the boards like they did before. I know they'll do things to hinder us from playing the best basketball we can play.
But in that sense I think they will. They do have a Hall of Fame coach and I'm sure she's going to come up with something. But as far as -- I think we'll still be able to execute a certain extent to our game plan, might not be exactly how we want to go, but I still think even if, for instance, me or Maya don't score a point, I have confidence in my teammates that they'll be ready to step up in the big moment.
Q. Renee, you mentioned Jayne Appel. What have you or the team told Tina that she has to do to counter Jayne's play?
RENEE MONTGOMERY: I personally haven't talked to her yet about it. I don't think I need to. I think she knows that this is a great matchup for her as far as dominant post players. They both were up there today for the All-American awards. So they both I'm sure have a certain level of respect for each other.
I think she needs to be aggressive. I think any time when she comes out there and she's aggressive on offense and defense she plays really well against other top post players. And I've seen her play against some of the best ones, Courtney Paris and Kia Vaughn. I've seen her play against them. I know she's capable. I would tell her personally I've seen her do it before, so let's have it two more games.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, both.
Questions for coach.
Q. Two-part question on Tina Charles. I know you've said in the past you needed to push her. At what point did the light go on for her and, secondly, how much more room does she have to grow as a player?
COACH AURIEMMA: I don't think Tina's any more different than a whole bunch of players I've had at Connecticut. I think players like Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery, Diana Taurasi, they're different. Everybody else is pretty much in the same boat. They all come to college and they all think they're pretty good. They all think they're working hard. Then they get some numbers that make them feel like, hey, I'm pretty good.
They get some awards that remind them that I'm pretty good. And my job is to remind them it's not good enough. And with some players you can't do that, because it may be all there is. That's all they have in the tank.
But with Tina, I've seen Tina in high school. I've seen her in AAU. I've seen her in college do some things that lead you to believe that somewhere inside there there's the potential to be the best player in the country.
But Tina may not see that. And as long as Tina doesn't see that herself, then it was a struggle. So the biggest challenge that I had was how to make her see it, that inside of you is the best player in the country, the best center in America.
Has the light gone on? Yeah, I'm sure it has. I'm sure it has. But in coaching you always gotta have your hand ready to put it on the switch because it could go out at any time, and you have to keep turning the light on for her sometimes, as you do for any player except the two that are up here.
So I think Tina's going to play great this weekend.
Q. The biggest deficit you faced all year was eight points. That was still in the first half. Do you have any remaining anxiety if it's a close game tomorrow night how your team is going to respond?
COACH AURIEMMA: I have anxieties about a lot of things. You spend a lot of time in Philly. You can't go up there without having anxieties about everything.
I worry about lots of things. I don't worry about what the score's going to be with five minutes left or three minutes left or 30 seconds left. I don't worry about that. I figure if we're in the game and there's three minutes left and we have a chance to win, we're going to win.
I spent -- I bet you I spent more time worrying about the other 37 minutes and how to get us to that point. I think we've got -- I'm confident because I've seen it. I've seen Renee Montgomery and Maya Moore make plays in the last minute of games last year in practice.
If you told me there's 30 seconds left and we need a 3 to win the game, I'd dare you to pick anybody in this tournament that you would want shooting the ball other than Renee Montgomery and Maya Moore. So I feel pretty good about that.
Q. First, if you win tomorrow are you going to petition the Pac-10 to get a share of their title? And also is there a feel that this is kind of like the championship game tomorrow night since you've already beaten Louisville twice and Oklahoma once, although it was earlier in the year, this game kind of has a little more of that championship feel to it?
COACH AURIEMMA: You know, I've heard people say that. But it's not. The championship game is Tuesday night. So I don't want to make tomorrow night's game the championship game because I don't want to -- if you lose the game you lost the national championship. So in that respect it's the national championship game, because if you lose you're done. The national championship is over for you. But I don't want to be in a position where if we win the game our guys think we just won the national championship, now the next game's going to be easy.
There's no comparison between the Louisville team we played in the regular season and the Big East tournament and the team that's here today. And there's certainly no comparison between the Oklahoma team we played earlier in the season and the team that's here today.
So tomorrow we've got our hands full with Stanford. No question about it. But I'm sure you'll ask Tara all these questions. They've got their hands full with us. Sometimes that gets overlooked. I think your point about is it a pain in the ass to constantly have to -- I say this all the time to our writers up in Connecticut. At Connecticut the only story is if we lose. If we win, it's not a story. It's not a big deal. That story's already been written 100 times.
The only thing people -- it's like coming to see the gladiators, you know? You know who is going to slaughter who but you go there, and the only way it's going to be a big story is if we were to lose somehow, some way.
And it's a tough way to go through life. But, believe me, I wouldn't want to be in any other situation.
Q. How do you keep your undefeated team focused on the goal?
COACH AURIEMMA: I'm a really mean person (laughter). So I went to Catholic school all my life. And they scared me into doing things the right way all the time. So I scare them every day that if they don't do it the right way all the time -- but today you can't use the ruler. You can't take your belt off and slap them. You can't do any of those things that we were fortunate to have. So the kids are missing out on a great learning experience (laughter).
So I just go to practice every day and don't talk about our record, don't talk about our ranking, don't talk about how good we are. I just keep trying to find things that we have to get better at. And by constantly looking at those things we constantly find things that can make us a better team. And that's kind of the goal every day is become a better team. Not remain undefeated.
Q. Renee talked a bit about Stanford making you uncomfortable. Are they particularly good at that? Is Tara in terms of game planning particularly good at making you feel uncomfortable and doing things you don't want to do?
COACH AURIEMMA: I think sometimes too much attention is placed on who is coaching what team. I'm a lot better coach when I have really good players. And Tara is a really good coach when they've got really good players. But as a coach you can only do so many things.
When we played them in St. Thomas last year, the score at one time was 60 to 36. And then we played them here and they scored 80-some on us. So Tara became a really good coach in a couple of months and I became an awful coach in those couple of months.
When in reality what happens is you have a style of play and you're committed to it. And if you are committed to that style of play and you're disciplined enough and you do it, regardless, then you have to trust your players.
Tara's style of play that they've used throughout the season works great for the players they have and it's the perfect system for them to play. And they're committed to it and the players are committed to it and they execute it flawlessly.
If they're allowed to do that tomorrow night, they will win. So it's as simple as that.
Q. Coach, when you were in the Norman High gym recruiting Stacy Hansmeyer and perhaps Sarah Dimson, I don't know if you recruited her, but what was it about Sherri that made you an advocate of hers, that sort of made you think this woman has a future in the college game if she wants it?
COACH AURIEMMA: I said this on one of the teleconferences I was on. I was really fortunate growing up where I grew up to be surrounded by a basketball culture of great coaches, high school, college. I don't think any place in America has had more good coaches than Philadelphia, where coaching became the reason why you went. And sometimes to a fault. Like they think they invented the game, they were in the room with Naismith when the game was put together.
But I've always had a pretty good eye for what makes somebody good, I think. So when I walked in that gym and I saw the way their practices were structured, the way the people moved from one thing to another, the attention that was being paid to certain details of the game and the way she communicated with her players and the way they responded to her, to me it was the same thing that I was doing at the college level. And it's being done in a high school gym in Norman, Oklahoma.
So if you can do it there, the gym at Oklahoma is the same size, the court is, the players are going to do the same things, and you're going to do it with just better players.
So there was no doubt in my mind that with her communication skills and her organizational skills that she would be successful at Oklahoma. Never any doubt. When I spoke to her associate AD I told her that.
Q. Was that Marita?
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah.
Q. I know the story of Jayne Appel's recruiting trip has been talked about a lot. Can you revisit that one more time, her visit to Storrs?
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah, any time you're recruiting a kid from California, you know, you're taking a huge risk to get somebody to travel 3,000 miles to go to college when there's so many good alternatives on the West Coast and then you've got to fly over a lot of good alternatives to get to our place.
But you don't count on snow and ice and all that other good stuff waiting for you when you get there. And you certainly, when you're having shoot-around the day of the game, don't expect to see security guards and police come in and lead your recruit, telling you that we've got a problem. And you realize that her father's in the hospital going to have screws into his ankle because he broke it getting into your building. That's not the winning edge, I don't think. Except we showed off that we have good doctors.
But even if that hadn't happened, how could you pass up a chance to go to Stanford if you're a West Coast kid and they really want you bad? It's a risk that we take and sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. And I thought wherever Jayne went she was going to be what she is today.
Because people think recruiting is difficult. It's not that difficult. You watch kids play AU when they're 16 and the ones that beat the hell out of all the other 16-year-olds end up doing it when they're 18, 19, and 20. That's what she did when she was in high school and that's what she's doing now. I wish she was just doing it for us.
Q. What did you see as having went wrong last year against Stanford and what has to change this time?
COACH AURIEMMA: Well, to beat Stanford you have to have good guards and a lot of them. And when we were in St. Thomas, we had really good guards and we had a lot of them. Then when we got out here, we had good guards but we were minus two of them.
So we couldn't play the way we wanted to play. We had to play the way they wanted to play. And you can't let somebody play to their strengths. And we did. And they played to their strengths better than we played to our strengths.
And they made shots that they had to make when they had to make them. And I thought the game was lost at about the 10-minute mark in the second half, when we cut it to 1 and I made a couple of mistakes in that game. That was one of them.
We had gone from man-to-man to a zone, and they didn't score for three and a half minutes, and that's how we cut it to 1. And my gut instinct told me as we're going down the floor, down 1, we need to get out of this because they're going to figure it out. And I didn't change it. I didn't communicate well enough with my players. So Wiggins runs out to the corner and gets a 3. We come down and miss, and now I'm pissed. And I don't get out of it again and son of a gun makes another 3.
And now we get out of it, we're scrambling and then Pedersen makes a 3. So in that stretch the game ended right there and we didn't respond, we didn't recover. What are you going to do, you know? We could have made those same mistakes and they miss those shots and we win the game, who knows. But the key is Stanford won the game. I don't think we lost a game last year.
Q. If you were playing to their strengths, what would you --
COACH AURIEMMA: Their strengths, I think they're very organized offensively, they're very patient, very deliberate, very thorough. And they're really good.
Everybody talks about who we have. I'm not going to run down the whole roster for Stanford because I'm not familiar with it 1 through 13, but I guarantee you that most of the players that they put on the floor tomorrow were high school All-Americans or some version of it.
So they've got talent. They've got a great center. They shoot the ball well. They handle it well. That's why they're in the Final Four.
Q. A lot has been said, maybe on the West Coast more, I don't know, about Stanford's -- over the past decade, if you will, Stanford's talent but softness, not being a tough team. It was something they really tried to overcome last year. How do you look now that you've had a chance to pay attention and scout this particular team? How would you describe it as being a tough team or maybe not? We know you guys are a tough team.
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah, we're a tough team. I know this is going to get played out the wrong way. But I'm going to say it anyway. And I know I'm going to get criticized for this. White kids are always looked upon as being soft. So Stanford's got tremendous amount of really good players who for whatever reason, because they don't look like Tina Charles or Maya Moore, the perception out there is going to be, well, they must be soft.
Well, I think that's a bunch of bull. I watched them play and nobody goes harder to the boards. Nobody takes more charges. Nobody runs the floor as hard. Those kids are as tough as any of the kids in the country. But people on the sports world like to make judgments on people by how they look. And it's grossly unfair.
I had somebody say, well, you know, Stanford's really disciplined, as if to say we're not. You know, it's just the perceptions out there that people make. And, yet, you don't get here to play in these games if you're not tough, if you're not disciplined, if you're not talented, and you don't do all the little things that good players do.
So those West Coast people, you know what, the West Coast in general has a reputation of being soft. But that's to the East Coast people, you know? And it's probably true. Because we live in New York and Philadelphia and places like that and we walk down the street going: What are you looking at? People on the West Coast go: Hi, how are you doing? So, yeah, they are a bunch of pansies (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
End of FastScripts
THE MODERATOR: Pleased to be joined up here on the podium by Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer as well as student-athletes Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen.
COACH VANDERVEER: Thank you, Amy. We're really excited to be here. Our team has worked, I think, very hard all season long, and we've improved a lot.
And we're very excited to have an opportunity to play in the Final Four and to play Connecticut. We have our work cut out for ourselves, but we're confident we'll do a good job.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for student-athletes.
Q. Kayla, I know I've asked you this already, and I apologize, but I'm going to ask it again anyway. Can you talk about how you view this year's team's toughness, especially now that you're going against a team that's purported to be, perhaps, the toughest in the country?
KAYLA PEDERSEN: I think that defines our team right now, especially with those big losses at the beginning of the year. I think we really got after it and worked hard and everybody adjusted to their new roles.
And I think that takes a lot of mental toughness, more than physical. And I think that we're running the floor better. We're stronger. Just in every aspect of the game I just think we're more cohesive and tough together.
Q. Jayne, you guys have won pretty decisively in the last few weeks, do you have any sense if in a late-game situation, if it's to, say, a two-possession game late in the game, how you guys are going to react?
JAYNE APPEL: I think that even though the scores might have seemed like they were big games for us, we felt they were close the entire game, especially for us, Ohio State, we felt it was an extremely close game the entire time.
So I think we'll have confidence if that situation were to come up against Connecticut.
Q. Jayne, could you just talk about the success that you have had individually during this tournament as well as your matchup with Tina Charles tomorrow night?
JAYNE APPEL: I couldn't take any credit, really, for my individual success without my teammates. It takes all five of us on the court and really all 12 of us on our team in order for me to achieve what I have so far this season.
They push me every day in practice. Sarah Boothe has become one of my -- we all dread guarding her in practice because she has elbows that just go everywhere. So I give all the credit to my teammates.
And in terms of the matchup with Tina Charles, I think she's a great post player. We definitely have our work cut out for us, and it will definitely be a team effort in stopping her and their other great players.
Q. Jayne, do you still have the promise with your coach that she has to get a tattoo this year if you guys go?
JAYNE APPEL: Yes, we do. We decided -- we don't know what it's going to be yet. We decided it's going to be on her foot. That's as far as we've gotten.
Q. Going against a tough team like UConn, how do you mentally prepare to win this game as well as balance being student-athletes?
JAYNE APPEL: I think we have to go and play with confidence is one thing and come out and not be timid and be able to try and react to runs they're going to make.
KAYLA PEDERSEN: I didn't bring any of my books with me here because I wanted to focus on the Final Four. But, yeah, we just started a new quarter so we're not really worried about academics right now. So we're just totally mentally focused.
JAYNE APPEL: We did have to finish finals last regionals so that was pretty tough.
KAYLA PEDERSEN: But we're mentally ready to go.
Q. Jayne, I'll ask you this. For fans or for outsiders they see this rematch as kind of a déjà vu for obvious reasons. But talking to Connecticut players, they didn't put necessarily a whole lot of focus on that, even though a lot of people are returning. What's it like for you guys?
JAYNE APPEL: I think we feel the same way. I feel like both teams are extremely different in the -- not only the style of play but the players who have a big impact on the team.
Last year we relied a lot on Candice to do a lot for us and they had a different starting lineup as well. Definitely I agree with them in the sense that they were two different teams taking the floor, so it's not so much a big rematch as it is just the names matching up again.
Q. Do you have any stories about some of your early battles with Tina over the years in AAU?
JAYNE APPEL: On the court? I mean, we've battled it out every summer. We've played AU basketball actually -- Melanie Murphy on our team was her teammate when they played for the Gazelles, I believe. So I always give Mel a hard time. They had this whole Gazelle chant they used to do. So we've played since seventh grade against each other. So she's one of my great friends off the court, but on the court we're going to battle it out.
Q. Kayla, there's a perception that Connecticut's strength is in its transition. Most of the teams that have played them have marveled at how fast they get up and down the floor. How would you classify Stanford as a transition team, and do you think you can keep pace with them?
KAYLA PEDERSEN: I think that one of the things we take pride in is our ability to run. And I don't think a lot of those people give us credit for that. But that's our game. We run the floor. No other post can run like Jayne can.
So it will definitely be a fast-paced game.
Q. Jayne and Kayla, you talk about UConn being on a mission since they lost to you guys last year in the Final Four. Just talk about the mission that you're on, too, as a team this year after losing in the title game last year.
JAYNE APPEL: I think it's the same motivation that we want to get back to where we were and get to where we're knocking on the door of happening. It was so close last year and playing in the championship game. But we had a lot of work to do in the off season. We've really changed.
Even Coach has told us if I were to take a bet from the beginning of the year to now on how much improvement we've made and how much of a different team we are in just one year, starting from the beginning to now, it's a dramatic difference. So I think we've definitely worked really hard to get to this point so far.
KAYLA PEDERSEN: Yeah, I mean, everybody remembers what it felt like to lose to Tennessee last year. I think that makes us really hungry and we don't want to be in that same position; at the same time, we're not content just being here. We're here to play to win. And we've been here before. So that's our next step. We want to get the whole thing now.
Q. Jayne and Kayla, I realize Wiggins is gone and UConn has also lost their seniors, but is there confidence to be gained as to how the matchup against the existing players played out in Final Four and how you guys were able to play Maya and Renee and Tina Charles?
KAYLA PEDERSEN: Yeah, we have -- I know JJ's not here for us and Candice isn't here. But us two are playing, Jill, Jeanette, we had crucial roles in the last game, same as their players.
So it is a similar matchup but not totally the same.
JAYNE APPEL: I think there's the experience that both teams gained last year. I know I think the first time anyone comes to a Final Four it's a whirlwind of a weekend. I was more nervous for the open practice than I was for the actual game.
So I think that this year it will be I think for both teams, you know, a lot more, okay, we're here to play a game instead of it's great, we're at the Final Four, it's always fun activities going on. But I think it's more focus and get down to business.
Q. Jayne and Kayla, how is this a different experience than it was last year, maybe from the moment you guys won that Iowa State game to sort of getting back here?
JAYNE APPEL: I think it was more of an expectation rather than some goal that we hadn't achieved yet. I know Candace worked extremely hard during her four years to get to that point.
So I think this year we have the mindset we weren't going to be happy unless we got here and had a chance to compete in the Final Four.
KAYLA PEDERSEN: I think last year like after winning the Maryland game I was ecstatic because nobody thought we'd ever get to the Final Four. But after the Iowa State game we were all excited. But from the very beginning of the year that's what we knew we wanted to do and we were capable of it. So it really was expected.
Q. How is the preparation and the emotion different going into a game where you're the underdog rather than the favorite?
JAYNE APPEL: We were the underdog all last year. And I don't really think we really take that into account, we prepared exactly the same way. Our coaches provided us with hours of film, scouting reports that have everything on it that you could imagine.
So I think that we go into the same preparation mode, the same energy amount that we have with the past games. That's why we do it against the teams every year or every game during the season, so we can know how to prepare for a team in a game of that stature.
KAYLA PEDERSEN: Yeah, I think if we were the No. 1 seed or the 16 seed we'd still act the same way. We get the same amount of scouting reports on every single team, handle every team the same way, pregame ritual is the same.
So there's nothing really that much more special about being an underdog or about on top of the world. So we just handle everything the same way. We just want to play. It doesn't really matter what position we're in; we're just going to play.
Q. Jayne, can you tell us -- I'm sure you've told the story many times since you've been back from Storrs, but what was that trip like for you and how did your dad survive that trip on the way back?
JAYNE APPEL: He's walking now. No, but it was a great trip. There's a bunch of schools back East. It ended up the whole plan of the trip was to see Tennessee play Connecticut in Connecticut. And we were walking the shoot-around, and being from California my entire life and my dad grew up in Redondo Beach, he slipped on black ice. I didn't even know it existed. He dislocated and fractured his ankle when we were outside of shoot-arounds. He had to watch the game I think it was about less than five miles from the hospital and I got to go to the game and watch it. He was kind of mad he had to miss the game. He stayed a few extra days and had surgery. He's fine now.
Q. (Off microphone)?
JAYNE APPEL: UConn is a tremendous program. They put a lot of energy into recruiting me, and I went through their entire process. I think it just came down to me wanting to play with my friends and family and Stanford was the perfect fit for me and I couldn't be happier with where I am.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Tara, could you just comment on the evolution of Jayne's season this year? I think she started the year coming off shoulder and knee surgery and has she not only played her way into shape but into the best basketball of her career?
COACH VANDERVEER: She had shoulder surgery last spring, was out for six months. And she made the commitment that she was going to come back in great shape. Last year for us she had to play basically 39 minutes a game and we were watching last year's semifinal game and just the announcers repeatedly talked about how gassed she was, how tired she was. She was actually sick when she was here, too.
But she said, you know, the funny thing about that, she said, I thought I was in shape. And she really made a commitment in the off-season to really improve her conditioning. She changed her eating, eating more nutritionally and she's much fitter this year.
And unfortunately right in the beginning of our practices, right in the beginning of September, the beginning of October, rather, she had to have her knee scoped. So she was out with her knee surgery a little bit. So she was upset about that. But she has come back.
She's really the focal point of our offense. We go inside to Jayne and we let things happen through her. And she's a great passer. She's an incredibly unselfish and smart player. And just depending upon how teams play her, then she'll go with the flow. If she's doubled, she passes. If she's singed she'll work on taking her move. She'll rebound. She plays defense.
She's had some real extreme games. Like she's get six points in some games and 46 in another game. But she's the same person either way.
Q. In late-game situations, I know you've said there were a couple of games that felt more uncomfortable than maybe the scoreboard indicated they were. But if this is a tight game, if this is a two-possession game with a few minutes left, do you feel good about where your team is?
COACH VANDERVEER: You know, probably as a coach you're probably more comfortable if you're up 20 with a few minutes to go or one minute to go. But I think Jayne said it, the Ohio State game was a close game. Came down it was a four-point game. Maybe with three minutes to go.
And this is what we work on every day in practice. We might not have that many close games. But I don't think Connecticut does either. We have been in close games with really great teams. And I think we've learned what to do and also what not to do.
So who knows. A lot of it comes down you have to make free throws. You have to make maybe adjustments. But I feel confident that our players know what we need them to do and will do it whether it's a 2- or 20-point game.
Q. Could you comment on the development of Jeanette Pohlen, how she's assumed the role of point guard and how her off-season helped prepare her for that?
COACH VANDERVEER: That's a great question. Honestly, we would not be here today without Jeanette making the same decision that Jayne made in the off-season to really maximize her potential.
You know, a lot of players think you become a player during the season and practicing with your team, and in fact it's just the opposite. And I think that since the NCAA in some ways has the 20-hour rule they feel like we're done with practice, we're done. And Jeanette, not only in the off-season in the spring, but she changed what she eats. She eats much healthier and nutritionally-sound food.
She has improved her conditioning tremendously, worked on her skills, her 3-point shooting and ball handling and she was going to play for us no matter who else came back. So she was either going to play the 1, 2 or 3 for us and she was going to be out there.
It just so happened that the 1 spot was the one that was really open. And she has embraced it. And she's doing a great job running our team.
Q. Coach Geno and his girls talked about how they wanted to really run and run and run and how you all would try to slow the pace down a little bit. And it sounded like your players maybe wanted to take on the challenge a little bit. And you've mentioned your conditioning and that's obviously a real key role in that. But whether or not how successful you are at slowing it down a little bit, a game's that got that much transitioning and that much running a lot of times can turn on not necessarily the starters but your bench. Tell me a little bit about your depth and how prepared you think you might be for a game where you are going to be having to run a lot of people in and out because of the pace.
COACH VANDERVEER: You never know what is really going to happen tomorrow. But our team likes to play up-tempo. We like to run. And obviously Connecticut does, too. We'll play people sparingly.
So I'm not going to just substitute you go in, you go in, you go in, but if Jayne needs an extra minute, we'll put Sarah Boothe in. If Jill needs it, we'll bring in Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.
We've played three people off the bench the most, Lindy La Rocque, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and Sarah Boothe. But Melanie Murphy can go right in. She's doing really well. And we could play Michelle Harrison. I feel confident going 10 deep in limited minutes. But that's all depending upon the situation. And I look out there and we have to run the floor with Connecticut. You have to do some things and that's one of the things that's at the top of the list.
Q. Could you look back seven, eight years ago and talk about the differences, not just in the sport itself, but the Final Four experience and everything that goes around this event?
COACH VANDERVEER: Seven or eight years ago we weren't here. We had been here and probably noticed a difference last year so much because it's just that much bigger. There's so much more coverage. There's so many more things going on. The arena's full. I mean, it's a great experience for -- it's always been a great experience. But now it's just that much -- there's much more exposure for women's basketball, and you see it at the Final Four.
Q. I was wondering, Geno was talking a little bit about before Tina and it seems like Jayne as well, they're two of the most imposing centers in the country, but they're also just like such nice kids, like he picks on Tina sometimes and says like carry yourself, but they're both such nice kids but they're both All-Americans today.
COACH VANDERVEER: I would include Courtney Paris. She's, of course, quite an imposing center also. You know, these are women that are -- they're really comfortable with themselves and who they are, and you can just tell being around them that they love the game of basketball. But Jayne was wearing heels like that big last night. I got on a chair to take a picture with her.
And that's just -- I think that just points towards, I don't know, the changes, the progressive changes that have come with women being in sports, how they're very comfortable being out there battling and being aggressive and being physical and then being off the court, painting their nails, and they're kids.
Sometimes we forget how young they are and kind of the things that make them laugh. But they are really outstanding young student-athletes, and as you said I think especially the three that are here in this tournament, the three centers, are phenomenal centers. And how often do you get three that good coming through the same time?
Q. How would you sum up the senior season Jillian has had?
COACH VANDERVEER: Thanks for coming down for the tournament. It's great. Jill's had a phenomenal senior year, and I think a lot of it -- I know she was Player of the Year in Oregon two times and led the state in scoring.
She's really expanded her game. She was more of a post player in high school. She's a 2 guard on our team right now. Her ball handling, her shooting. But I think she's just had an outstanding senior year because of her summer with the New Zealand Olympic team. That experience really kind of broadened her horizon in terms of understanding how people play, how hard they work at the game, how big it is internationally.
And I think it's really helped her confidence a lot. But I'm going to really miss Jill and to know I could only coach her for two more games makes me really sad.
Q. I know you haven't coached an undefeated team in college but you had the experience with the U.S. team a couple years back. Could you talk what the pressure is like of having to coach a team that doesn't lose or hasn't lost and just what you've seen? I'm sure you've seen a lot of Connecticut this year, not on film. What's it like and the pressure that as a coach to try to get a team motivated every game and also the pressure of not having lost?
COACH VANDERVEER: My hat's off to Geno and his staff and the great year that Connecticut's having. I don't know. It makes me nervous. In some ways, you know, with us, we've learned a lot from losing. And you remember we lost some games early on. Or we even lost a game in the Pac-10.
And when you lose, it reminds you how much you hate to lose. And it really -- I think it helps us refocus. So he handles it well. And he's coached national championship teams that have gone undefeated and obviously they have great talent.
I was very nervous when we had the Olympic team and we kept winning and kept winning, and I wondered are there things we're not doing, are there things that we should be doing better?
But, again, they're having a great year, and he seems to be very comfortable with it. Maybe we'll be in that situation some day and I could answer the question better.
Q. What advice would you give to a young player who would want to play for a team like Stanford?
COACH VANDERVEER: Great question. First of all, I think that in order to play at the collegiate level, Division I or Division II and Division III, you really have to have discipline.
And you have to be disciplined in your studies and disciplined in your workouts. And really challenge yourself to use your time wisely. And that's the thing that I see with our student-athletes, is that they really manage their time well.
They might have time for a little like maybe video game, but not a lot. And they really manage their time well. They study. They are able to prioritize their studying and their workouts. But that would be the best advice is be very disciplined.
Q. I know your answer to this is that's a stupid question. Do you expect to win tomorrow?
COACH VANDERVEER: You know, I don't know that I ever expect to win. In any game that we go into, I don't expect to win. I feel that our team has to do the right things in order to earn the right to win. So I never go into a game expecting to win.
I anticipate we try to work really hard to prepare our team to do everything possible to be in a situation to be successful. But I don't expect to win any games.
Q. I was wondering if you could comment on the unique challenges facing the freshmen players on your team, being that they weren't with you when your team made this run last year, and also, if I may, the contributions you expect them to have in tomorrow's game, particularly from Nnemkadi Ogwumike?
COACH VANDERVEER: Nnemkadi was here, not playing, but she was here watching last year because she was here with the WBCA High School All-Americans and in fact played in the game that is going on this afternoon. But it is new for them, and we are counting on them to do the things they've been doing for us all year in Nnemkadi Ogwumike's situation: start the game, defend well, rebound well and take care of the ball and play and contribute.
And we don't have time for freshmanitis or jitters, whatever, it's one game, 40 minutes. We're also expecting great contributions from Sarah Boothe and Lindy La Rocque. Those three freshmen have performed very well for us all year, and we're hoping and expecting the same.
Q. One, either Joanne or Charlie talk to you at all after playing UConn in Trenton?
COACH VANDERVEER: I've spoken with both, yes.
Q. And second one is, did playing UConn last year early in the season and getting your butt kicked help you prepare for seeing them in the Final Four; that you've already played them once and had some idea what they brought and knew what you had to do better as opposed to this year where you haven't played them at all?
COACH VANDERVEER: I think last year's loss to them early helped us a lot. And I thank them for us being in the Final Four because without playing them I don't know that I could have gotten our team's attention in terms of how hard we had to practice, the pace that we had to play at.
Connecticut does a phenomenal job of just the pace they play at. They have great athletes, and their coaches and players have played at the highest level, and that's how they play.
And our team learned a lot from the Virgin Islands loss. I think a lot of players remember that, and they also remember last year. So we have the benefit of knowing if we don't do the right thing what it could be in terms of the bad side, and then knowing if we do the right thing what it could be on the good side.
So I don't know that it does -- the other two teams have played Connecticut. We haven't. But we played them as close to last year -- as close to in this year as you could.
Q. How does the team feel different today than it did a week ago today?
COACH VANDERVEER: A week ago we had just -- today's Saturday. We hadn't played yet. So we were getting ready for Ohio State. And it was kind of the first game of two games obviously at the regional.
Honestly, I feel the same way. You want to come in and win two games. Our team has been on this trip, like I think Jayne alluded to it a little bit -- our team has been very business-like on this trip.
I see just like really good focus on what we're working on, whether it's video. And I think it's great that our team has finished finals. Last week at this time people were kind of tired and they had been doing their finals this week. They're well rested. They've taken care of their finals.
They're very locked into our scouting report and doing the things we need to do to be successful against UConn. And having been here and having played them, I get a sense of calm. I mean, we know they're a great team.
We know what they like to do. Everyone knows what they like to do. But our team likes the challenge of saying, well, we're going to play our game. And they're excited about it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts