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Volleyball Media Day

Aug 10, 2013

Untitled Document

Head Coach Liz Kritza

Opening statement:
We are as excited as we have ever been to get started. We are reporting officially tomorrow (Sunday) and then will start practice on Monday. We will go into two-a-day practices until school starts on August 26. An interesting piece of our preseason training is that we will go down to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs after a week up here. It’s a pretty intense five-day training block where we don’t really take a day off, but we cap it off with a really nice team building activity.

We have high hopes and great expectations this season. When I got here a few years back, the biggest piece was bringing in the players and allowing them to develop, and I feel like we are in a really good spot. We have a number of players who played in virtually every point for me last year returning and we have some very nice additions including Taylor Simpson who is sitting here to my left.

We are really excited as a coaching staff. We know our players have been in on their own as much as they can over the summer and we really cannot wait to get in that gym (on Monday) and see what we have. The steps we have made from the previous seasons have been small but noticeable, but we’re not looking to make a small step this year. We are really looking to cement ourselves into the upper echelon in the Pac-12.

Talk about how it was to play in close matches last year and building upon it in the offseason:
I think when we talk about the differences from last season’s performances to this year’s, what you will see is a lot of offseason work; not just as a team but individually. Alexis (Austin) went over to China and played in a 14-day tour with a USA development team and they were playing against Chinese professional teams. I guarantee that experience is going to help her when she is playing multiple All-Americans in the Pac-12. Taylor (Simpson) was playing with the USA A2 National Team, both indoor and beach, and was playing against a lot of the players that she will face this fall in the Pac-12. We have another player, Nicole Edelman, who is a captain for us and was a captain for the U.S. Junior National Team that played at the world championships in the Czech Republic. There was a concerted effort amongst individual players to go out and play a level internationally that is higher than the levels we will face during the season and I think that will prove positive for us this season. The team in general feels this need to prove themselves, which I love as a coach. I love having players in the locker room that know close isn’t good enough.

One piece that I haven’t mentioned yet is the return of Kerra Schroeder. Kerra has played in every point of every set since her freshman year and we lost her in the second match last year to a knee injury. She has worked her tail off and has been incredibly diligent in the training room to come back. She is ready and she wants to come back and resume her role in leading this group. In this year that she has been out and away from the court, the talent level of the team has changed. It is a nice compliment to our program that I have the same player come back in and say, “Coach, this is going to be tough, but I’m going to work my way back into the line-up.” And credit to her, she is prepared to do that.

Where do you think transfer Taylor Simpson will be able to contribute the most on the court?
Taylor’s addition to the team is important for that reason (depth). She really needed to find a team and program where her skills can be best showcased and utilized and we’ve talked about that openly before she came and joined us. Being a six-rotation player is what all high level outside players are. Taylor brings the ability to score and in some of these close sets we talked about earlier, we needed a little more scoring power; Taylor provides just that. We are excited that she is with us, not only for her individual contribution, but what she brings as far as competitiveness.

What do you see as your biggest challenge this year?
Our biggest challenge will be getting our 20 players connected and moving right away. It’s a very fast preseason. We start playing on August 30 and then using our nonconference opponents we need to make sure that our team is ready for the big jump in the Pac-12. Once we start Pac-12 play, the biggest challenge will be consistency. We are playing different days of the week, which is a fantastic thing, which is credit to the Pac-12 Networks for coming in and changing how women’s volleyball is being televised live. Our players aren’t on a regular Friday/Saturday competition schedule, but that is a really good thing because there are a lot of people out there who get to see women’s volleyball live. With these different schedules, we have to be very intelligent in how we prepare and train them to be able to perform at a high level consistently. There is no easy team in the Pac-12 in volleyball. There is no night off.

What did it mean to be able to have your starting freshman setter (Nicole Edelman) thrown into the starting role as a true freshman?
It’s a little unheard of to have a starting true freshman setter and then when we lost Kerra Schroeder last year, I named Nicole Edelman captain, which is a lot of responsibility for a true freshman to shoulder. I’ve seen her grow tremendously. She had an opportunity to play internationally this last summer and the team struggled. The USA Junior National Team had the toughest pool they have had in years at the world championships. Nicole came back and said that was really difficult to keep a very high level team with very high level players focused and help them rebound from one match to the next. She told me she was going to use that for us this year. She’s gained maturity in the offseason and we are looking for her to continue to lead the team as far as setting goes and running the offense. It’s getting a lot more fun for her because she has more options; she has more tools and more players who are able to score.

What kind of role do you see Chelsey Keoho playing this year?
Chelsey is one of our favorites in the gym; we call her the ‘Flyin’ Hawaiian.’ She is a very exciting player to watch. She will throw her body at any ball on defense. She loves playing on the defensive side of the game, so much so that she earned herself a spot on the starting rotation in the back. Her role is all going to be dictated in keeping as many balls off of the floor defensively, but also being consistent in her serve-receive. We are looking for her to vie for a starting position as the libero or a defensive specialist.

Sophomore Outside Hitter Alexis Austin

Talk about how it was to play in close matches last season and building upon it in the offseason:
We have been training a lot since then. I feel like we have progressed a lot since last season. We have worked a lot on what the other team would do and make game-like decisions in case we are playing that team. I myself have improved a lot and even Taylor (Simpson) who has only been here since January has improved a lot. I’m really looking forward to playing against those teams again.

What did you learn from your international experience this year and does it help you understand what you need to do to elevate your game?
Playing overseas was a really great experience, especially going with the Pac-12 team and a U.S. development team. I was on the U.S. development team. It was great to see the difference in play in the Pac-12 against the girls that I will be playing against to see how they play and also playing against the Chinese professional teams. It was a big difference. A lot of people don’t move as fast as they do or have the ball control that they do, so you learn a lot from that. I learned how to hit different angles around them and how to play defense even better because they made me move. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to have my improvements show on the court.

Can you reflect on your freshman year and what it meant to you to get in there and compete right away?
It really meant a lot to me. At the time I was transferring from the middle to the outside and when Kerra went down I was really thrown into my new position. It was really hard and I had to learn a lot more angles than just being up in the middle and going side to side. I actually had to learn to use my arm swing faster and different angles. Freshman year was a great experience. I improved tremendously so hopefully this year I can see more improvements and make more as I go.

Junior Outside Hitter Taylor Simpson

Can you introduce yourself to BuffNation and tell them a little about yourself?
I’m very excited to be here. I got here in January and I’ve been practicing with the team. I’ve been to a couple of schools before this, but I think Boulder is for me. I’ve had a great time so far. The coaches have been great, the players have been great, and everyone has been really welcoming. I’m really excited to start this Pac-12 season.

Where do you think you will be able to contribute the most on the court?
I play outside hitter and I think I can provide a little bit more depth and experience in that position. I think I can add a lot in the front row and the back row.