Dec. 15, 2010

Texas Head Coach Jerritt Elliott
Opening statement…
We’re extremely excited to be here, representing the University of Texas. This team been through a lot and I am really proud to represent them and the university as we embark on our third-straight Final Four. We know it’s going to be a very tough battle. We have a lot of respect for the teams in this tournament; it’s what makes being a student-athlete special. I love coaching this team.

How have you been able to deal with heartbreak in recent years?

We did come out fast against Penn State in game three last year and then we came back and had some opportunities. In game four we lost by two points; we had a swing to tie it, I believe, at 24 and we had a swing out of the back court that could have been as close to being a touch off of Destiny’s ball last year. When you’re playing those two kind of caliber teams, you need a couple breaks, one touch here or something happens there. I felt like, when I watched the film over and over again to see what I would have done differently, there weren‘t any changes I would have made. I felt good with the way we started in our rotations and what we did. You have to make plays. We had some opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them. I have no regrets.

Even though it hurts and you want the players to win and experience what that’s like you can always walk off as a coach when they gave you everything they had. I had a team that did that both years. We have another shot this year and hopefully those experiences pay off in end, but we’ll see.

It’s another opportunity; I don’t think it’s a rally cry for us. When you look at Penn State’s program and where our program is at and the future recruits that are coming in and the players that we have, this could be a battle that continues for the next couple of years in the Final Four. We’re the No. 9 seed overall and we’re not favored to win this, but we have a lot of confidence as a team. This team is special and they have learned the hard way with how they started off. The two teams are completely different. I think we’ve got six or seven different starters out there compared to a year ago with a lack of experience on both sides and ultimately, a different style of play than we had a year ago, on both sides.

On Russ Rose and what he has done to elevate the sport…
Russ is one of the coaches that I really looked up to when I got in to this profession and I am actually one of the younger coaches. He has always been there for me and we’ve great conversations. We continue to talk. He is one of the coaches that does it right way. I think his players have a good time and they work extremely hard. He has a certain charisma at Penn State that he has created there. When it comes to recruiting, I know it’s us and Penn State. It makes it fun. I think the sport of volleyball has really grown over the last 10 years. Physically it is a lot more entertaining. With the ability of TV coverage; Russ has obviously been a big part of that with the streaks, the National Championships and the Final Fours. That is what this sport needs because it is a phenomenal female sport. Russ is great in front of the media and the way he handles it. We wish him continued success, just not tomorrow night. It’s fun to meet up with him because he’s a special guy and I’d like to say a good friend of mine.

On Penn State being a different team and what they bring to the table…
Again, we’re very similar teams, just like a year ago when we were similar teams with all of the firepower and experience. We each lost some key players. They still return Arielle [Wilson] and [Blair] Brown and they have a great freshman in Deja [McClendon]. Their libero is arguably the best in the country. They have pieces that can catch fire on any given night. The serve and pass game is going to be really critical. Having a good scheme for them and they will obviously be prepared for us. It the end its going to come down to who makes plays, there isn’t a major favorite in this match. That’s what I like about my team right now. We’ve been able to really good in the crunch and build confidence. Every time we’ve been pushed, they push back. This is going to be a bigger dog that we are fighting and we realize that and we’ll have to be prepared for that.

On playing in a 6-2 rotation:
“It's something that I've run in the past, the 2000 USC team did it and we did it last year. The pieces have to be able to work to make that happen. You've got to have some good ball control players, you've got to have good balance, and then I think the middles and the right sides have to be interchangeable to run some different combinations to really stress teams out. Ultimately, be a lot better blocking and the setters have to be able to set similar tempos. So there's definitely some risks involved, but there's some big gains as well when that happens. So we would have been in 6-2 right now if we were healthy. That was the plan and we really liked what we saw until we lost Bailey and then lost Ashley and kept losing players, that's why I had to take one of the setters at that point in the season, but our plan originally was to go with a 6-2 and I would imagine that's something we're going to get back to in a year from now based on the personnel we have based on who's returning and who's coming in next year. I feel like it could be -- for today's athletes, the type of athletes we have in our program, the physical dynamics, the speed of them, that we can really stress teams out a lot and we're fortunate enough right now that our depth of our team with a number of those athletes, we have players that can -- potentially All-Americans in each one of those positions and we'll see, ultimately the team each year is different and the chemistry is different, and that's my job as a coach is to manage that and the personalities to make sure that we're all working together, but we'll take a look at it and that's what we think on paper, but I've been wrong before and we'll make those adjustments as needed, but I've been a fan of it for a long time.

“I think the big thing is the middle blocker position too, you've got to have players that are really good in front, Rachel's predominantly a front hitter right now, and we have her go behind some, but it allows us to open some things up, and then you have a player that can run some combinations off of like a Jen Doris, and be able to have that access. If you have middles that can only hit the front, then it kind of gets stagnant and then it's a little bit more easy to get into a rhythm, so you've got to be able to find some different systems and different rhythms to keep teams off balance.”

On three student-athletes from one high school in Austin playing here at the national level:
“Yeah, it's pretty special. I mean, it might be the water. My daughter's 12 and already six feet tall so -- and we're in that school district. They've got some great players out there. They do a phenomenal job with the program there, the clubs that are within Austin do a nice job in developing players. It's a volleyball community, so you've got a lot of good trainers too that are helping those players, not only in high school but in the club level and there's a lot of nice athletes that come through that, and Texas is getting a lot stronger talent-wise here in the last few years and that shows with the players here. Great for me, yeah. Our number one priority is to keep the top kids in Texas at home and there are some times that we don't have enough scholarships and those situations arise, but, yeah, we're very lucky and fortunate right now to have such a good team and such good talent within our state.”


Sr. MB Jennifer Doris

On not being as much of an underdog in the NCAA Championship this season …

“Penn State is definitely a very good team coming from a very good conference. I’m just proud of our team. We did have a very tough road and I just think we did a really good job of taking it one team at a time and not looking past anybody. Getting to the final four – no one expected us to be here, but we have a lot of respect for Penn State. We’re just going to go out and keep doing the same things we have done all year, stick to our routines and things that have made us so successful to this point. Hopefully, in the end, it’s enough to get us past. If not, we’re going to know that we gave everything that we had, so we can hang our heads high.”


On whether Texas learned to win more this year than the last two seasons …

“We’ve embraced the process every day, starting from the practice gym to each of the games. When people started going down, it was fun to see different people step up. The team wanted to drive the bus and it has been fun to see the team driving. Every single day in practice and through the games, watching different people step up in the games has been a very fun experience, especially this last year.”


On facing Penn State in Thursday’s National Semifinal …

“Penn State is a great program. Russ Rose is a great coach. Obviously, he has done really well with all the All-Americans and their 109-match winning streak. They are very good and we’re getting up and are excited for the match. Jerritt [Elliott] has done a great job with this program, returning it to the national level. It’s just always fun to be a part of Texas and I’m glad to be here.”


Sr. OH Julianne Faucette

On having heartbreaking losses at the NCAA Championships in each of the last two years …

“It definitely makes you grow. You have to learn from those situations. Being down 2-0 at the break, you have to make a decision to come out and be fired up. From the first year that we made it to the final four against Stanford, Stanford came out [after intermission] and they were a completely different team – same with Penn State last year. We just have to respond. It’s hard to be in those situations twice, but you learn from it as a program and our coaches learn from it. We just take that as experience. We’ve been in a couple of those situations this year and we’ve been able to close out.”


On Texas advancing to its third consecutive NCAA Championship …

“We’ve had a tough road since the beginning of the season. There have been a lot of ups and downs just with our injuries and the adversity that has been thrown our way. We’ve stuck by each other, our coaches have stuck by us and believed in us, so at this point it’s just another team. We’re not really looking at it as a rivalry from last year. We’re here, we’re excited and we want to reach our ultimate goal, so we’re just going to keep aiming for that.”


On switching between setters during the 2010 season …

“I would say it has been like clockwork. Michelle Kocher is experienced and it was a tough decision for Coach [Jerritt Elliott] to make at the beginning of the season because both were playing so well. When Hannah [Allison] went down, it was like clockwork. [Michelle] came in and she was confident. We were confident in her because she has been in for the last two years, been to two final fours and set in those. She has done a really good job for us to this point. They’re each other’s biggest fans, which is really fun to see as a team. They support each other. Now that Hannah is back and healthy, we can make some subs as needed. It has just been a good year for those two as far as the relationship goes, and making it easy on Coach because of how hard they work.”


On whether Texas learned to win more this year than the last two seasons ...

“We have some experienced players that were in two final fours and, losing both those games the last two years were hard, but we’ve always learned something from that. On top of that, the adversity that we experienced this year made us have to make a decision: We could either make this year mediocre or we could come together and set the goals we have always set for this program and continue to work for them. That’s what we did this year. We had a downer when we lost in three straight to Texas A&M – our biggest rivals – and that was hard for us. At that point, we knew we had to make a decision as a team and we did. We kept pushing at it, regardless if people were going down with injuries, and people stepped up at different points.”


Jr. MB Rachael Adams

On Texas advancing to its third consecutive NCAA Championship …

“This team has come a long way and we may be the hottest team coming in, but we still see ourselves as the underdogs. We still have a lot to show and a lot to give. It’s going to be a challenge with these four teams and it’s not over until it’s over.”


On switching between setters during the 2010 season …

“As a hitter, it’s hard going back and forth between setters, but they’d both been touching balls all through practice. Michelle Kocher has been working on the other side when Hannah [Allison] was on the starting side and she has been through a lot. When Hannah did go out and she did come in, Michelle gave us her all. We kind of brought her in and it was even sweeter because we’ve all been through so much. We all became a lot closer together.”


On whether Texas learned to win more this year than the last two seasons ...

“We started out the beginning of the season talking about how this season is going to be different than last year, and how we would all have to come together and work for every single win. We’ve definitely learned something after each and every game – we have to put three consecutive games together instead of going up and down. We’re learning together and it has brought us a long way.”


Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose

Opening statement:
“We’re excited to be here representing our university, our conference and I know the players are excited about having the opportunity to again compete in the national championship.”

Reason for players wearing different numbers in practice:
“I didn’t notice that, but I like that. It’s a good thing to do. I know who they are. I’m not sure why they do that. If that’s what they’ve done in the past and it’s worked out for them, I’m all for it.”

Going for four championships in a row and making history:
“We don’t really look at it that way. Certainly, the players we’ve had over the last few years that left with national championships had the ability to have left with either one, two or three, and these guys are entering this weekend with a chance to do something else, but we don’t talk about that. We talk about this team, the opportunities they have and the need for them to play well together if they have hopes of winning the matches they play in. We don’t really talk about history. I think people write books about that sort of thing. Your numbers might be lofty but people have a way of getting out there and breaking all the records that are established so I’m not thinking along those lines. I’m thinking this year, this team. We have a large selection of older kids and nine freshmen, so it’s been a task this year trying to work with all of them as well as meet maybe some of the expectations the seniors still have.”

On being the Joe Paterno of college volleyball:
“He’s a wonderful person to be compared to, I’m sure. You know the answer. Nobody’s winning in any sport who doesn’t have a great collection of student-athletes. I think I’ve been fortunate to have number of great staff members through the years. Maybe the most important variable is that the university supported the program, and when a university makes a commitment to have success, it gives you the opportunity to do it. It doesn’t guarantee you will do it, but it gives you an opportunity. We were very fortunate when we joined the Big Ten, we entered a new era where we didn’t have to move so I had a new job without having to move.

“It’s the players that give you the opportunity. You could have great talent and if they don’t play together, it’s not going to make a difference. The run that we’ve had in the late 90s when we went to three Final Fours in a row, and the group that won the last three championships, they were not only very talented but they played well together and they liked each other. They made the commitment to look past some of the challenges that groups face. I think we all have different strengths. If you asked the four coaches here, they would have different things they would list as the most important thing. I want the kids to have fun. I want them to work hard and I’m not afraid to discuss both with them.”

On Texas:
“They are coming in as the hottest team. In hitting percentage, they hit .360 in their four preliminary matches. Their middles are first and second in the nation in hitting. They are playing with a lot of confidence. Julianne is a terrific player. Rachel is off the charts, similar to Destinee, there are times you have to not get yourself emotionally involved in her ability to do the things she does because she was that good in club and high school. I think they are playing great. They have a lot of confidence. Every team that gets this far can win. You don’t get here on a lark. We going to have to play awfully well if we hope to stop them from doing what they do so well.”

On replacing the talent that graduated from last season:
“When we were 3-3 in the Big 10, there were a lot of doubts. When we lost to Stanford, the reality was the top team. At that point in time, we were ranked No. 1 and I think Stanford was No. 2. Stanford, on that day, was far better than we were. They played better in every aspect of the game, they played harder and they were better coached – everything that affects an outcome. They lost Ashley Engel and Destinee and their libero; we lost Darcie, Megan and Alicia. You can come up with who lost more and it doesn’t really change the fact that it’s great to be here, whether you are playing with house money or not, we feel fortunate to be here with so many young kids. When the bracket came out, alyssa had to freeze frame it and explain to the freshmen what it meant. They had no idea, when they were looking at it, were the teams going to be reseeded after the first round or what. When you are saying to yourself, what were my expectations, I’ve been dealing with that for three and a half months. This is really an exciting opportunity for these young people.”

On the idea of playing major matches outside of the conference season:
“I think that’s something that would resonate in the commissioners’ offices in the various conferences. The way the Big 10 scheduling has gone, you have the first four weekends to play out of conference and then the next 10 weekends we are all in conference, so we’ve played a true round robin. With the addition of Nebraska, I believe we’re looking at an 18-game schedule, so there might be one or two open dates that people might have. Whether the conference wants to enter in to that agreement with other conferences, that would certainly be exciting. That is what I put together the Big Four tournament with Texas and Stanford and Florida. I was having trouble scheduling. I was always having people criticize the fact that I didn’t have a better schedule. All three of the people when I called them agreed it was a great idea and they would participate. There was a little hemming and hawing about who would host it and at what time. I don’t think it hurts you when you play a good team and lose. It gives you an opportunity as a coach to identify to your players this is what the top teams are doing and this is where we are falling a little short and this is what we need to get better at. We played Florida with a huge crowd and won. It was the only match they lost until they lost to Purdue. We lost to Stanford the next night. It was certainly a match that identified areas that we were pretty far behind Stanford. Texas was there and lost in five to Florida. When both our teams were leaving 0-2 and 1-1, I’m sure we weren’t thinking, yes, in December, we’ll be playing in the semifinals for a chance to win a national championship. Both of us had our tails between our legs after getting smacked around by Stanford. We had to be realistic about we need to get better at some things. In our case, we moved some players around and tried to change things. That’s what coaches have to do.”
 

Fr. MH Arielle Wilson

On getting old being here:
“Definitely in high school, I didn’t picture being in the Final Four, so it definitely gets more exciting as the years go on. The first year was a shock and ever since then it’s been incredible.”

On playing for Coach Rose:
“Definitely been honored to have a coach like coach. He definitely pushes you. You usually come in not knowing what you can do, and but the time you leave here, it’s like wow, I didn’t know I had that in me. He makes you a better person, better athlete, better all-around person.”

On playing sand volleyball:
“It should be interesting to see how it develops in the Midwest and East Coast where it’s cold outside to see if they put it indoor.”

On rematch with Texas:
“They are a different team, and it will be interesting to see how we both as new teams work together with our old teams and come up with a win.”


Sr. L/DS Aylssa D’errico

On getting old being here:
“I would completely agree one hundred percent. It doesn’t get old because it’s the spotlight you hope to be in when you’re training in club and high school and getting recruited. You don’t necessarily believe that it’s going to happen in four years, and it’s the most exciting part of the year for us, and we’re hoping to end on a high note and finish out our careers the right way.”

On players wearing different numbers in practice:
“The first we came to Final Four we did that, and ever since then it’s been fun for us to do, and we get a kick out of it , and we have fun in front of the crowd. Having an open practice, it’s a time for us to be loose and show what our program’s about. We’re a fun bunch a girls. It’s something we started when we first came here and didn’t want to let it go.”

On playing for Coach Rose:
“I would agree one hundred percent. He’s probably one of the most respected coaches in the game. Every coach knows him, knows what he’s about. Every player knows him and knows what he’s about. You grew up and know who he is. I think the best attribute that he brings to us is that he keeps us grounded and is always going to tell us like it is. There’s never going to be a day he’s going to sugarcoat it and tell you stuff you want to hear, he’s going to tell you stuff you don’t want to hear. Not many have people have that attribute. That’s what makes us the best players we can be. He’s never going to let us settle. It just drives us and motivates us, and it draws in very, very similar players. We have a lot of kids that have the same attributes that want to compete and want to be the best because of what he does.”

On playing sand volleyball:
“I know there are a few people on our team that have been able to play competitively on the sand. I think it’s a great opportunity for the future of volleyball because there are some people that could excel in beach volleyball not necessarily in indoor after college. Giving them an opportunity to train in that environment and play competitively in that environment will for sure give them an advantage once they get done playing in college. In the Big 10, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with beach volleyball with that aspect. We’re all Midwest/East Coast schools that don’t have access to areas we could play.”


RS-Sr. MH/OPP Blair Brown
On getting old being here:

“It absolutely does not get old. This is what you play for. This is what you work hard for early in the season and preseason is to get to this point. And right now, we’re just concentrating on finishing the season out in the way that we would like to.”

On the winning streak:
“It’s not about the streak. It’s about the game. So, the next day, you wake up, you go to the gym, and you work to get better, and that’s what it’s about. It’s not about the streak. It’s not about numbers. One day, the records will be broken. They break ours, and theirs will be broken again. It’s the nature of the game. It’s about playing the game that we play. It’s not about focusing on streaks or anything like that.”

On playing for Coach Rose:
“Coach is a big part of why student-athletes come to Penn St. We respect his honesty, and that’s what we want to hear when we get in the gym. We want him to be honest with us and tell us what we need to work on, and I think that makes a lot of people better. Of course, we’re attracted to the program, the tradition of success, and I’m sure that’s something that every student-athlete wants as well. I think it’s a unique fit for a lot of people to come to Penn St., and a lot of us have a lot of things in common personality wise, and it just really meshes well on the court. Can’t say enough about coach. He’s built this program up with the help of the university and a lot of the staff members, and he’s made into something that’s really special.”

On sand volleyball:
“Well, it’s hard to say because when I was growing up, indoor volley ball wasn’t big in my area, now when I go home, they have multiple clubs, and it’s grown so much, and it’s great that the sport has kind of taken off, and with the help of the Big 10 Network it’s given a bigger audience, so you never know, it may take off.”

On rematch with Texas:
“I think the rematch would be if we played the exact same teams. These are completely different teams this year. Texas is a great team with a lot of great hitters. It’s a completely different situation. I think we don’t look at it as a rematch, we look at it as a semifinal game to make it to the finals just like they do.”