California Head Coach Rich Feller
Opening statement:
“It’s very nice to be in Kansas City for sure. This has been an incredible team to coach this year. The season that we had is second to none. My team worked hard, they were very focused. We went through the Pac 10 in the best fashion ever. It’s been fun. It’s been a great group. I’m looking forward to a couple more matches.”

Easier playing a team a third time when you’ve lost to them twice vs. playing a team a third time when you’ve beaten them:
“Who knows? The teams in the Pac-10 – we play each other, we know each other better than anyone else can possible know. It comes down to little things and execution on your side more than what the other team will do. We feel pretty good about our Thursday night opponent. We are looking forward to playing the Trojans again and looking forward to maybe a little bit of redemption.”

On winning the Pac-10 title:
“That’s a huge accomplishment. In the years before, I have made statements that winning the Pac 10 is tougher than winning the national championship. I’m not sure how true that really is, but it was a good thing to say at the time. It is very difficult, and like Carli said, when you are in the Pac 10, you are preparing for two very good teams back to back. There’s very little time to prepare yourself for both. When you can go through the Pac-10 and sweep on the road in every single match, that’s a gigantic accomplishment right there. And when you win almost every other match, it does prepare you for the tournament for the first and second and third rounds when you play back-to-back nights against really good teams. That really gives us a good idea of how to prep for that and turn around quickly and play a different team. Winning the Pac 10 has been a goal of ours for many years, and doing that this year the goal was reached and that was a big goal for us.”

On Tarah’s abilities throughout the year:
“Tarah made a conscious decision to get herself better. From a coaching standpoint, we were happy to do everything to aid that. She worked really hard. This was not a magic pill. This was a lot of hours of hard work by her away from the team at times. When we got on the court in the spring, she was so fit, we could ask her to do more – hit more balls, play more defense along with the whole team. We changed some things with our team. We quickened up the offense, changed the defense to more of an athletic type of a defense. Those things jut fit right in with what Tarah had done. It all worked together for a very nice result.”

On Washington match and how to maintain the intensity:
“I think this does speak to chemistry. We are pretty relentless when it comes to going after a ball, keeping a ball in play. We’ve taken a great approach to “live to play another ball,” if you can’t put it away. That attitude and mentality have carried us a long way this year. We are willing to outwork somebody for a point. It starts with Carli with leadership and then with these two and right down to the team. They are all on board. We are like that every day in practice. If we are not, one of the coaches calls them to task or one of the players calls the team to task and changes the attitude and behavior right then. We have a small team. We have 12 players on our team. We may be the smallest team in numbers of any team. Those 12 players are so integral in making this team work chemistry-wise. We’ve had a nine-player rotation for almost two months. Nine players play every single match, and there’s three that don’t ever play or very rarely play. But those 12 are a unit and they’ve accepted those roles and they work hard. The three who don’t play understand their hard work helps us be better every day in practice and the nine that are on the court show their appreciation to those three. It’s such a great relationship that when we get into a tough situation with 5,000 people screaming for the other team, it doesn’t matter. We have such a strong core with those 12.”

RS So. MH Shannon Hawari
On playing USC in Final Four:
“Any team that makes this far is obviously going to be really talented, and it’s going to be a challenge, so I think them beating us twice isn’t as big of a deal as it seems. I think it’s good that we know our opponent and they know us. I think that’s going to make it a better game. We learned to make a few adjustments that we didn’t make during the season and hopefully that will help us pull this one out.”

On Cal’s brand of volleyball:
“For me, this year has been really different from the last two years. I think this team is so bonded and our chemistry is so good, and that has helped us so much this year. Every player contributes, even the players that don’t see the court, and I think that has really helped bring us to another level this year. Our cohesiveness has helped push us that much further. I’m proud to be on a team where I can get along so well with all my teammates, and I think every player is a strong player.”

On Cal’s bracket:
“We were all really excited when the bracket came out. Our team really loves being challenged. We don’t like playing teams we know we can beat easily. We like playing teams we know will fight with us and battle. Out team steps up when we have to play to a higher level, and that just helped us that much more because we got more practice against good teams, and hopefully that will pay off here too.”

Sr. S Carli Lloyd
On playing USC in Final Four:
“One thing I think about when I come into this match is, when we prepare for USC during the season, we also prepare for UCLA, and that’s a lot because they are very different teams, and think going into this week, we have much more focus on one specific team that runs a high offense, and we aren’t used to that. We run a very fast offense in practice every day, so I think we are prepared now, and we’ve been preparing every day for USC and not splitting down the middle for two teams that are different.”

On Cal’s brand of volleyball:
“Our chemistry is one of a kind. Our team is very selfless. We love playing for one another. One thing we emphasize is that tonight we are playing for each other. It’s only us that matters. It’s no one else. We’ve got a lot of heart, and it’s a heart that’s like a family.”

On Cal’s bracket:
“When the bracket came out and we saw Washington, Hawaii, Nebraska, and knew they were going to be in our region, we were really excited about that came out we were excited about that. We talked about winning each match in three, and that’s a goal we have with the team, is to play our side of the court, and if we can do that, no one else should come out on top.”

On Cal’s play:
“I think there have been glimpses of our level of play throughout the year. I think we’re peaking at the right time, and all the work we’re putting in at practice is really coming together. We have the mentality of just playing volleyball. We train hard in the spring to in good shape for long matches and long rallies. We hope the teams we match up with haven’t put the work in like we have so we are in better shape for those long rallies. It’s controlling our side of the net. It speaks very well of our chemistry and trust in each other.”

On relationship between Carli and Tarah:
“When it comes to Tarah and I, we both have very distinct personalities, and we’re both very competitive individuals. When she first came to the program, we did struggle a little bit. We were good teammates, but we had a few troubles. We have such a good connection. We call each other our magnets. We’ve overcome mountains, we really trust each other. I believe in her, and I know that she believes in me. We make sure each of us knows that. We play for each other.”

Jr. OH Tarah Murrey
On playing USC in the Final Four:
“We approached the Washington match as one match, and this is how we’re going to approach the USC match as well. The past does not matter. It matters where we are right now, and I think that’s definitely going to help us for tomorrow’s match.”

On Cal’s brand of volleyball:
“We take pride in our work ethic. We go to the gym each day, and we really work hard. We want to show it on the court. We get so excited for each other. Everything we work hard for, it’s all showing right now.”

On Cal’s bracket:
“We knew we were going to play great teams, and we get so excited to play awesome teams. It’s so fun to play teams that are going to challenge us. The number one thing is focusing on our side of the court.”

On Cal’s play:
“Our coaches emphasize in scrimmage or in practice force the team to play volleyball. We want to extend the game beyond the three-contact mentality because there are more errors that can occur.”
 

USC Head Coach Mick Haley
Opening statement…
Obviously we are extremely pleased to be here. We came here with the idea that we have two matches left and we’d like to take them one at a time. We think we have great opponents to play against. We faced some really good opponents to get here. We are happy to be over with finals and able to compete one more time.


There’s three players from one Austin, Texas, high school in this Final Four, you’ve got one of them in Sara Shaw, and you know that neck of the woods. How does one high school produce three elite players in this tournament?
Al Bennett is a pretty special high school coach, especially for a Canadian hockey player, who went to Graceland College. He learned under Glen Lietzke at Austin Juniors. For him to go into Westlake High School and survive a very competitive environment and go to the finals, I think he’s been in the finals the last five years in Texas…he’s a pretty phenomenal coach. One of the people I respect a great deal in working with young athletes. I think it’s a tribute to him and Westlake High School, and maybe Austin Juniors, that those kids are all playing here. I think all three of those kids might have been on the team that won the national championship as 16s. What can you say? It’s like having three kids from Mira Costa High School in this tournament also.

Talking about the freshmen, is that the one factor or others that got you to this point?
I think there’s two things. For certain, the freshmen class has made an impact like not many others, but our juniors have really carried the game to a new level. Kendall [Bateman], I think is second or third in the nation in assists per game. Alex [Jupiter] has been phenomenal; she’s got over 1,000 swings and we’ve tried not to overuse her at all. She’s done very well in scoring points: her serving, her blocking and her attacking. She’s really upped her game a great deal. Then Lauren Williams is almost unstoppable in the middle and that’s one of the biggest improvements of that junior group.

To go along with the seven freshmen, six that came in with this class and Natasa [Siljkovic], the combination of the juniors and freshmen and a good solid group of sophomores and our seniors who have been good leaders really have all contributed. The freshmen class has certainly given us some spunk.


Mick, you’re a Midwest guy, wondering how you think sand or beach volleyball is going to play in this part of the country.
Actually, I think the sand game will be very popular. There are leagues around the Great Lakes. There are indoor facilities, I was in one in Springfield, Mo., I know they are all over the place. I really think that once this gets going, it will be every bit as popular as the indoor game.

The real problem right now is getting someone to get us the rules, timelines and regulations so we can figure out how to get the training cycles together for those athletes that want to do both and to try and figure how to do both and make this work efficiently. I’m hoping come January, we’ll get some guidelines on that because USC will sponsor a varsity team next fall. We’re excited about it, just like we are indoor, but we have players like Alex [Jupiter], who might be the best in her class in the outdoor game. In the indoor game, she’s really starting to come along now also. We have others that play as well, so we’re excited about that, but right now we’ll focus on the indoor game and see if we can finish the last two matches.

Are you surprised how mentally tough your team is as such a young group?
I think that has certainly been impressive; not something I could have anticipated, to tell you the truth. We won one in Hawaii early in the fifth game and certainly showed some dominance. Then we lost one in Washington three or four weeks later. Really, we were disappointed by that, but ever since then we have played eight additional ones, I believe, and we’ve come out on top in all of those.

I think what’s happened is that we’ve gotten more and more secure with what we’re doing together and it tends to make people relax more in those situations. This team doesn’t seem fearful. They seem to be ‘let’s try to win’ rather than thinking about the other outcome. I think it makes a lot of difference in those five game matches.

Are there any new wrinkles that you wouldn’t know about Cal and vice versa?
I think these coaches…I’m so respectful of coaches in our conference because they always come up with something new. They really study the films, they study game and the players are really attentive. There’s always the possibility that people will throw something new in. All of the good coaches always have something to throw in. We have to prepare for that. Certainly, they should prepare for us to do some different things because we have been very aggressive about doing that this year and will continue to if we see if it will give us an advantage. I think he should watch very closely. I think both of these matches you’re going to see coaches and teams doing things that maybe are something new to try and gain an edge and win. I don’t think anyone is going to stand pat.


On Carli Lloyd and Tarrah Murrey…
Lloyd certainly was put out there to do great things and she has certainly done that. Murrey has really stepped up her game and certainly we’re all impressed with that effort. She’s been a dynamo. In previous years she started out gangbusters but hit a dry spell in middle of the season. She hasn’t taken a step back all year long and Cal has to feel very good about that because they have several other players stayed course and gotten better. I think that’s a correct assessment; they are doing wonderful things. Carli, being a junior like Alex [Jupiter], they are kind of like the premiere juniors in the conference right now if you look at all of the stats. It should be a good battle.

On Russ Rose as a fellow coach…
It’s really hard to do being a Ball State grad and playing against George Williams all those years. He went to George Williams College and we’ve competed [against each other] all the way through. Certainly, you have to realize how special it is to have gone to three Final Fours and won them. We tried to do that, so we know. We got back to the Final Four a third time and then turn around and lose all those kids and come back a fourth time. That’s starting to get to levels that are not approachable in decades all the time. I think he’s been doing something very special with that program and I think everyone appreciates that.

 Is it his style? Team? What distinguishes his team?
I think you should ask him. If I knew, I’d probably copy it and beat him. He’s done a good job recruiting. He’s gotten good athletes, given them good leadership and they have gelled quite well.


Jr. OH Alex Jupiter

On the challenge of facing a team three times in the same season …

“I wouldn’t say that it makes it harder, I just think it’s a different type of challenge. Playing Stanford and Cal, they know what we’re coming with. It’s the same for us and it’s really just execution. Other teams are going to bring something that we might not have seen so far. Either way, it’s still going to be a dog-fight. It’s going to be a great fight when you get to this level.”

On the importance of the team’s defense in its success …

“Without our defense, we wouldn’t be able to set up such a great offense. It’s just the backbone of the whole game for us right now. We’ve been working really hard on that. You have to give credit to the defense – it shows through the offense. We work really hard on defense every day.”

On if her accomplishments are what she anticipated when she came to USC …

“I didn’t really anticipate anything. I just worked really hard to get into USC and, after that, I just wanted to make sure I was becoming a better person and a better player in any way I could think of. I was just going to take anything they had to offer. That has happened and I’m just thankful for that.”

On how her experience playing in France helped her transition to USC …

“I grew up being used to playing with older people. Because I was so young, the expectations weren’t really on me so much and I was just free to get better as fast as I could. Coming in here, it just became a different challenge, especially mentally, because the responsibilities just got bigger and more focused on me. I just embraced it and I feel like my game is more complete now.”

On sand volleyball …
“I am really considering doing both for that last year that I get. I really like outdoor volleyball. I’m just really excited that they’re giving other players the chance for years to come to try both or pick one or the other.”

Jr. S Kendall Bateman

On the challenge of facing a team three times in the same season …

“Playing Stanford for the third time made it even more exciting. You have to kind of change your game plan after playing them two times before, so it makes it that much more fun to kind of tweak what you’re doing and shift your offense or defense certain ways. That’s just another challenge that we face. I think San Diego was a great team that we played in the second round. They played us tough – it was a really close fourth set. It’s just a challenge every game we play.”

On the importance of the team’s defense in its success …

“I think defense is a huge part of the game; offense will come second. If we focus on our blocking and the defense around it, whoever has the best defense usually wins the game. I think that our huge focus is on blocking and defense, and then we set up our offense afterwards.”

On USC having 10 freshmen and sophomores on its roster …

“I think we’re so lucky to have such a motivated group of freshmen. We don’t really look at them as freshmen now. They’ve grown up so much since the moment they got here and they prepared themselves before they got here during the summer. I think that our freshmen group of girls and our sophomores have done a great job to prepare themselves for this level of play. They’ve matured so much to this point. They’re just some awesome athletes that really love the game and are so motivated to get better. We’re really lucky to have them.”