Volleyball Press Conference
Nov. 30, 2004
General Comments: 'I think we can do this on a regular basis, I really do. People thought I was a little bit crazy when I talked like this four years ago, but we set some standards and then all we ever talked about after that was just having an appropriate approach every day and how we would do that. And then you look at this year, and people say wow, look what Washington has done, but the reality of the thing is that we didn't make that much progress this year. It's just when you win a Pac-10 title or set a win streak, those are significant and they have a ton of meeting, but as a teacher and a coach we measure stuff in practice every day and we made more progress after that first year and the second year than we did this year. It was just gratification for hard work, it was something to appreciate. The real meaning comes when you win a national title. At this point in time, where I'm at right now is where I'm always at. We wouldn't want to be anywhere else other than here's what we have to do, and let's go do it at the highest level. The players are the magic, and they always will be. We create the environment, and we set the standard and have activities we do but they do the work. The best thing about them is that when we were in the locker room after the UCLA match we celebrated for an hour, but these kids wanted more. It was a good feeling. And there is a lot more out there. They wanted to get to business. We are back to just doing exactly what we do, we are going to go back to the gym and we are just going to approach this thing exactly as we always have. If we do that, we are capable of playing at an extremely high level. If we get distracted, and forget the issue of preparation, then I worry. But I'm not worried about this group. They are ready.'
On lessons learned from the two losses this season: 'We learned a lot. You dig deep and just don't want it to happen again and you really search. It is a matter of emphasis. You really have to get your emphasis right, so you really start to focus on things. You also learn that there are no little things. Everything counts. And in a match like that, where the margin of error is so thin, you have to pay attention to detail. And to win a national title the margin is going to be even thinner. You learn that, and then maybe practices are a little sharper, and we are on our details a little longer. We learned a lot, but I still believe you learn a lot from winning. We learned a lot from winning 22 matches in a row.'
On the importance of home court advantage: 'I can't measure it, it is huge. The way the Husky fans have come out is remarkable. The only other crowd where I've been that has had more energy than ours is the Olympics in front of 12,000 people. There are few schools with this atmosphere.'
Scouting Idaho: 'We don't know anything, and I think that's okay right now. We are approaching this thing very internally. We are not going to be thinking about them too much, we are going to address what we need to address and then we will slowly implement some things into the week. We are in a nice rhythm and I like where we are at.'
On the role of setter Courtney Thompson: 'It is a hard role. Being responsible at the level she has to be responsible at for so many different things is a hard thing. She understands the demands of the task and what she has to do. The only thing I've ever worried about her is that she is so competitive that you don't want to have all that energy take you out of the behavior you need to have to win a national championship. She competes all the time, and I get on her sometimes to keep her head on and to do the things that she knows how to do. But she has been big time this year. She is the only setter on the All-Pac-10 first team, and setters never get recognized.'
On freshman Christal Morrison: 'She is the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, and she has gotten better throughout the season. She has done a lot of good things and I have put her in a lot of different situations like when Sanja got hurt, and she had to switch positions. But she adapted well and she did okay. She is not close to being where she can be, and someday, if she remains in this approach, she is going to be one of the top players in the country.'
On sophomore Courtney Thompson: 'She is little, but it's not how big you are, it's how great you are, and she is becoming a great player. She is going to get better, and she is really understanding how to run our system. She has developed her eye-work and she sees things faster and responds quicker. She is just doing the things that the best setters in the world do.'
On Brie Hagerty: 'Talent-wise, she's got as much talent as any kid I have ever coached. I get on her all the time because she competes so hard, and she is showing much more composure. You have to have great composure to be good all the time and she is developing that.'
On Sanja Tomasevic: 'She can do everything at a high level. The amazing thing about her is that she is playing with six pins in her hand. But she's got to play better, and she will.'
On the team's excitement: 'I hope they're not too excited. There is some energy and you get a lift going into the postseason, but you can't have too much of a lift. We were so high going into the USC match that we were bouncing off the walls. It was a good match. I think these guys are learning to control that, and it is really hard to be a great player. It is hard, and they are learning how to manage that day to day.'
On being named Pac-10 Coach of the Year: 'It is a great thing. My wife was mad at me because I didn't tell her, and she had to read it in the newspaper. It is a good thing, and we've got good coaches in our conference, but that's not what you coach for. You coach to get that national championship trophy. And I think we can do that.'
On the importance of this NCAA Tournament: 'Any time you get a chance to win this thing it is a big deal. I don't know if it's any different though. I've been accused of being too focused, but I don't know if it is any different than any other one. I know that for this university it is just this opportunity that we could win a national title like football did in 1991. When you win a national title, it just separates you from everything. It is just a unique experience and we have that opportunity. I just want to make sure we practice well this week.'
On rebounding from the loss to USC: 'The USC match was a tough one. Being able to bounce back from that took a lot of mental toughness, but we knew we had to focus on the next day and come out and play tough to win the Pac-10 title. Overall I think as a team we dealt with it okay. We knew we had to rise to the occasion and we did. Jim knows how to address the right things and keep us level-headed and focused on the things that we need to do and that will result in the ultimate goal.'
On playing at home for the first round: 'We take everything one day at a time, and that's how you have to approach it. Every practice and every play counts. Coming into this weekend we need to focus on Idaho. First of all what we need to do is focus on ourselves, and then start on Idaho.'
On being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year: 'It is a really big honor and it is something that means a lot to me. It has been a fun year and it is exciting to win this award but I am really focused on the team. Our main goal as a team is to try and win a national championship now.'
On being leading as a freshman: 'One thing that I think is unique on this team is that there are no barriers between upper classman and lower classman. It doesn't matter and I have really enjoyed that, so being a freshman hasn't really been a big deal.'
On feelings going into the tournament: 'I feel really good. Even though we have had our two recent losses, I have pushed those aside and I feel really good. We are all competing really hard right now and this is something that has happened in the past, as it happened last year. When we realize that it is go time, we get the right mentality and we go into practice to work hard and get the job done. It is really exciting knowing that everybody is pushing each other. It makes you a better player because you can't make mistakes, you can't event make the little mistakes. When we practice as well as we practice, we play really well.'
On learning from the two losses: 'It is hard because no one likes to lose. After the first loss it really didn't sink in until the next day, I was really more stunned then anything else. The next day I realized that you have to forget about it and move on. If you keep thinking about it you are going to be thinking about it the next game and you are going to be scared to make mistakes. The only light that I can see is that it is better to lost now then in the tournament.'
On last year's tournament: 'There are no little things. Last year we were six total points away from making it to the Final Four. A lot of people didn't think that that we would make it to the Sweet Sixteen, let alone the Elite Eight. Making a little play can make a huge impact and it can be the difference in whether or not you are making it to the next round or not. You could say that was the biggest thing that we have learned. When you are only six points away, it makes you work that much harder. The little points are what kill you and you have to try to avoid even the little mistakes, because they all count.'
On number seven seed: 'At first we were surprised by it, but we realized that we got a really good draw. Just because you are the seventh doesn't mean that you are going to finish seventh. We get to play at home, but if we were a higher seed we would have got to play at home. We just have to take it one game at a time and hopefully we will be at home until the Final Four. We just have to play hard and play our game so we can go out there and get it done.'
On playing at home: 'It helps a lot because we can stay in our routine every day and we can go to class just like any other day before a match. On Friday nights, our crowds are unreal. They keep growing every game and I am just stunned with how many people are starting to show up for every game. It is exciting and I hope that more students will come to our games like they come to the basketball games. I think that we can get even more people to come and it is just good for us to be in a battle with our crowd right behind us.'
On team's performance during Tomasevic's absence: 'We learned that anybody can get in there and do the job, you can't just rely on one person. We did a really good job with our rotation while she was gone and it was like nothing ever happened. We all were concerned about Sanja and we really wanted her in there, but now we are very thankful to have her back. She gives us another element to our game, but you can't think about it too much because you can't do anything about it after it has happened.'
On playing one game at a time: 'If we lose we are done. You can't look ahead because you will never have that next game if you can't win the first one. We are looking at Idaho right now and nothing else, Idaho is all that we are concerned about. Upsets happen, but you can't worry about it. We have to go in and play our game and not be concerned about the next home games. It is something that we are going to strive for, but it is not something that we are going to look forward to.'
On the seventh seed: 'We don't think about what seed we are. We are more excited about getting to host in front of this crowd than being a higher seed and having to travel somewhere else. I would rather stay here and be the number 64 seed. So it feels great.'
On adjusting to being back: 'When I step on the court I didn't feel like I was gone at all. So I don't know how people feel around me but all this time I was around the team and hanging out with them and on the courts. So I didn't play but I felt like I was there for them any time they needed me. When I got back on the court it felt like I had stopped playing yesterday. That's why I was annoyed the first couple days of practice because I could not play as well as I could play before. Just because for me it felt like I stopped practicing two days ago, not like five or six weeks ago. And everyone said 'Be patient, it's going to come back,' and I was like, 'What's going to come back? Why did it leave?''
On what she needs to improve: 'In every area. I can improve so much more in my hitting, my blocking, my serve. It's a new type of serve that I'm serving now. I'm not serving anymore in my jumper because it puts more stress on my hand then jump floats. What I'm working on right now is getting my jumper back in practice, and getting more consistent in my jump floats, the one that I'm serving right now. So I just have to get more on target and then I can always work on my passing. Passing is just something you have to work on every day. We're just blessed that we have Candace Lee next to us.'
On her hand's health: 'Volleyball-wise it's 100%. After the game is over I take off the padding and I don't feel any pain or anything. It's funny because people said when I came back that people were going to go for my hand and hit at my hand and hope that they're going to break it again. I thought, 'Go for it. It has padding on it so if you hit at that hand it's even stronger so it's like a wall. It took a while to adjust to playing with the padding on. That was kind of awkward at the beginning. But once I learned that, that's when my game started coming back. Slowly they're taking off some of the padding so hopefully by the end of the season we will take it all off and I'll only have the six pins in. Which I don't even feel those six pins, I don't know what they're talking about. I see them on the X-rays but that's all.'
On what she learned during her time out: 'I learned a lot about the team. I learned how some other people can play great volleyball. Some other people stepped up and I was amazed. Not just some, all of them who played did an awesome job. I knew they were good volleyball players but I didn't know they were that good. They surprised me. I was watching the Stanford and Cal games, those were the first two games I watched since I got injured, I was staring at the bench and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, is this the team that I play on? I'm so fortunate.' I learned a lot about them. Now when I came back I wasn't scared that I might not play as well as I played before. I didn't have this pressure in me that I had to play 100% every night because there's Kate (Leck), there's Christal (Morrison), there's Brie (Hagerty), other people are going to step up. The depth of this team was what I learned.'
On possibly overlooking Idaho: 'We don't think ahead. We think one game at a time. I don't know what's with this team but (Jim McLaughlin) has been accused of being focused too much. We are so oblivious, all of us, it didn't even hit us that we were Pac-10 champs. Maybe it's because the season is not over and we are hungry for more. But the real acknowledgement comes with a national title and that's what we want to be remembered for. We want to put our rings on.'
On home-court advantage: 'It's going to be awesome. It helps us. We don't have to travel. We don't have to adapt to another environment, time zone changes or anything like that. We just keep doing what we're used to and we can stay in school too. And having these great people here, we're excited about it.'
On the two losses: 'Going into tournaments you've got to expect more and more matches like that. Last year we lost one match like that in the Elite Eight to go to the Final Four. We lost by six points to Minnesota. That's the match that kept us in the gym all the winter and spring. We were thinking about being six points away from the Final Four and so that's a loss we learned a lot from. Now these two losses in conference against two great teams are going to be the kind of teams we'll face to go to the Final Four so I know we learned from them.'
On the season thus far: 'It's been awesome. I'm just trying to enjoy it all and take it one day at a time. We've got a lot of work to do before the start of the tournament.'
On getting to host: 'That was awesome. Our crowds have been so cool and so fun. We'll get to train here an extra day and be more comfortable and have our routines set. It will be a big advantage I think.'
On her timing with Tomasevic: 'It gets better every day just like every other hitter. But it's so great because you can't measure what she brings to the team. Physically, yes, but just having her back on the court as a leader and she's so fun to play with. Everyone loves playing with her and she makes everyone better. So we're really excited to have her back.'
On having a target on their back: 'The second half of Pac-10s was tough. Everyone had a career night against us. That's kind of what you want as an athlete because they're making us better. But now that it's the tournament I think everyone's got a target on their back because if you lose you go home.'
On winning the Pac-10 in their last match: 'It was real fun. It was a good win for us I thought. We didn't play as well as we could have and it's nice to have a win going into the tournament. We had a big crowd so it was fun.'
On the close defeats: '[McLaughlin] talks so much about details on every single play whether it's an early point or late point. There's no little things. And the two matches we've lost have been by two points in the fifth game. So you really understand that. Everyone can think back on five points they screwed up on so it just reiterates that there are no small points.'
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