Connecticut-Vermont Postgame Quotes
March 22, 2009
Head Coach Geno Auriemma
“When you have had a long lay-off like we’ve had, there’s always a certain amount of concern about how we are going to play and what the timing is going to be like. Even up until game time, I was hoping we could get through the first five or six minutes, expecting it to be a little bit of a struggle. The way the game started Renee (Montgomery) and Tina (Charles) took care of any doubts that I may have had about our timing and offensive rhythm. To score that many points at the start of the game and have Maya (Moore) play okay is a good sign for us. I thought the players from Vermont were unbelievable in their confidence and aggressiveness. They came in here expecting to win and played to win and were not at all intimidated. I was really impressed by them and can see why they are where they are.”
Did you purposely want to go out and challenge Tina Charles going into this game and this tournament?
“Well I think that’s what coaching is all about. You have to try and figure out how far can you push a player and what opportunities do you really have as a coach to make your point. I think Tina is old enough now at this stage of her career that you can’t sugarcoat it and pretend that it does not exist, but we are past the point where you say ‘Try your best’ or ‘Go play hard’. That does not get it done at this time of the year. This time of year a players have to go out and be the absolute best that they have been at any point this season, they have to be productive. You can’t get 28 points and 18 rebounds one game during the season and then settle for 15 points and 10 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament. There is not necessarily anything wrong with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but if you get 28 points and 18 rebounds in games during the season why would you settle for anything less at this time of year. I think in previous years that Tina thought it would just happen, and hope it would work out. You can hope all you want, but it doesn’t bring a National Championship. Doing is what gets a National Championship, not hoping.”
You have had conversations with Tina Charles many times trying to encourage and inspire her since she was a freshman, do you think that now it is starting to resonate with her?
“Well we won’t know until this tournament ends, whenever it does. I have had the conversations with her since her freshman year and I think she was too immature and too young to understand what her responsibilities and obligations are as a member of this team. All you can do now is keep delivering the message and hope that she has reached the point in her life where that is her expectation as well. It can’t just be my expectations, I have said it before, coaches are nuts if they tell you the players play for them. Players have to be a little bit selfish and play for themselves and want certain things for themselves. They also have to play for their teammates and I think Tina is maybe coming to that realization now.
Junior Tina Charles
Can you talk about getting off to such a great start in this tournament because we know how last years experience was like for you when you lost your spot in the starting line up for a while?
“It was really important like coach said after the game to just set the tone and get the game rolling. We came out with great intensity and even though we did not play for an entire week, everyone was just anxious to play and we came out and played hard.”
Can you talk about your individual performance today and what you were able to do around the basket in particular?
“Before the game, coach was harping me to think of a specific game that I went out and performed really well and had great intensity and energy. I went back and thought of the Madison Square Garden game. I just wanted to prove that I can be a part of the reason why we win games and with the past tournament last year, coach told me that I did not have a good tournament and he just wanted this one to be the one and I wanted to keep on going hard.”
Senior Renee Montgomery
How important was it for you guys to come out and play as well as you did right away just in order set the tone and get this tournament rolling?
“It was really important for ourselves because we also knew we have not played in a while and we did not want to play sloppy so we tried to make aggressive plays to get lay ups. We knew they were going to play aggressive and that they had a lot of people on their team that were gelled and knew how to play together and that it was going to be tough. We just wanted to get the game going our way as soon as possible.”
Is there a different feeling for this team this year going into this tournament as opposed to last year going in?
“There definitely is. The chemistry is completely different and that gives us more confidence. The work that we put in going into the tournament gives us more confidence as well. We are a more confident team going in this year than we were last year just by the things we have done on and off the court leading up to this game. Not necessarily our record of 33-0 but rather what we did going into this game which makes us more confident playing the game.”
No. 16 Vermont Catamounts
Head Coach Sharon Dawley
“The thing that comes to mind is how proud I am of our ladies today playing the top team in the country. I think that we came out a little timid at the beginning, but we kept fighting. There were a lot of opportunities where, I think, some people would have had a little quit in them and there was no quit on anyone on our team. No quit from people on the floor; no quit from people on the bench. It was great to see. Everyone wants to win the NCAA’s, but if you can’t win the NCAA’s then get some moral victories along the way and we had a great one today. I’m just really proud of everyone. Number three for us (Sarah Madey) is a walk on. The kid cracks me up. She comes in against UConn and knocks down a couple of threes and gets an offensive rebound at 5’4’’. I think she sums up what we are trying to be at Vermont and that is a team that brings 200 percent, a team that never stops fighting, never feels bad for themselves and just doesn’t know what the word quit means. If we got that accomplished today, then we’ve won a moral victory.”
Was UConn's overall team speed more than you expected?
“Yes. I expected speed and athleticism but it was even more than I expected. We were going into half time and I was saying, ‘We can’t buy a shot. Why are our legs so shot?’ Steve (Lanpher) said, ‘Well, we’re running up and down the floor against UConn.’ That’s another reason why I was so proud of them. Instead of being in awe, get back on defense a little bit faster. The speed definitely caught us for a while. It’s a tough adjustment. How do simulate that? How do you find people to practice against you like that? It doesn’t happen. I think we had to get used to that and adjust to that and go from there.”
Junior May Kotsopoulos
You guys gathered at center court as the final seconds were ticking off, what did you say to each other then?
“Coach Dawley said, ‘I am proud of you.’ We just wanted to say thank you to all our fans that came down from Burlington to watch us play and to our families from across the country and Canada that came and watched today. We just wanted say thank you and show our appreciation for that. Being at UConn with the crazy fans here, it was nice to have Vermont support any way we can. So, I was definitely thankful that they came today and watched us.”
What is the experience like now compared to what you thought it would be like coming in?
“Now you know what a BIG EAST number one team in the country plays like. It’s a different level than we’ve ever played before in our lives. I think it’s definitely a very good experience builder for next year when we come back here to play them in December, as well as next year when we go back to the NCAA Tournament. That is our goal next year and we won’t be happy if we don’t get there. When we come back next year we are going to use this experience and get past that first round.”
Junior Courtnay Pilypaitis
Could you talk about the experience of facing the number one team in the country, the anticipation and the reality?
“There’re a very good team and I think this is just going to help our program and all the returners are going to learn from this. It just makes you realize what you need to be to be at the top of the nation in women’s basketball. It was a great experience and we are obviously disappointed that our season is over, but we’re going to look back on this as a great experience and really learn from it. I was just happy that I was able to play UConn in the first round and hopefully they will be the champions, so we can say that we got beat by the champions.”
Coach was talking about how there were a couple of bad losses this season which were the reason that you probably were a 16 seed. With that being said, next year will the team be more focused and buckle down in the regular season with the hope of getting a better seed?
“I think we learned through our losses that we had this year, which we probably should have won because we were the better team on paper, but that is why you play the game. I think we are going to take this and know that every game in our season really matters and we can’t take anyone lightly. We have to go out and play hard every game, doing that will make us better toward the end of the season anyways, because we will be consistent. We had a couple up and downs during the year. We are just going to have to take that back and emphasize the importance of every single game in our season with our incoming fresh."