Lexington Volleyball Regional: Pre-Tournament Quotes

NCAA Volleyball Regional Preview Quotes
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
Dec. 10, 2015


BYU Quotes


Head Coach Heather Olmstead


Opening Statement…
“We’re excited to be here. Thanks to Kentucky for being such great hosts. We’re excited to get in the gym today and practice and looking forward to our match against Nebraska tomorrow.”

On working with Alexa in practice…
“We’re always looking at jumps, the number of jumps she is taking as well as some other kids on our team. She does a good job of talking to us about how she feels, I mean, honestly, she’s just like a machine. She is jumping just as high or higher at the end of the match as she is at the beginning. Physically I think she is just very gifted and is able to take heavy load. We are definitely not trying to over-work her, but she wants to get all of the reps that she can.”

On Nebraska…
“Nebraska is just a great, well-coached team. They’re fundamentally sound, they have a great setter, they have great pins, great middles, great liberos, and so they’re a great team. They run their system well. John Cook does a good job with kids that get in his program - we’re looking forward to the matchup and how that is going to go tomorrow. We’ll try to play to our strengths and maybe to some of their weaknesses, but maybe just try to play our game.”  

On telling the players what to expect from Nebraska…
“We’re expecting a battle. Just a great volleyball match. We had two great matches in the Smith Fieldhouse and I expect the same tomorrow here. They have motivation for this match for themselves, but we also have our own motivation for what we want to accomplish and we just want to win the next match and it happens to be against Nebraska.”

On this year’s matchup opposed to last year…
“Yeah it’s great to play them again. We’re a little familiar with them because of last year’s match, but we realize they’ve got some different pieces. There are some things still around in different positions and we’ve got new pieces on our team. We’re not really focusing on last year’s match so much as just this year’s a new team and a new core group of girls that want to do something special. It’s their last time to play together and do something special. So it’s going to be a good match up, serving is probably going to be a battle. They’re probably going to be a good serving team, we feel like we’re a good serving team. Then obviously they have big physical hitters and we can match them with our big physical hitters as well.”

On the decision to make a change at the setter position…
“We feel like we have two great setters that have been with us and we feel like they’re both capable to run the show and so we feel really good. Plus we’ve playing both of them they’ve been doing a good job this season doing what is best for the team so we feel pretty good about where we’re at offensively.”

On Alexa this season…
“Alexa just continues to get better every day, every match. She’s made herself into a six-rotation player and really wanted to improve her backcourt passing, her defense and hitting from the back row. She has just patiently waited her turn to play that role and I think she is doing it wonderfully.”  

Alexa Gray, Sr., OH


On having a strong finish towards in the end of the season…
“My teammates have been playing well. It really helps me out when we get good passes. The setters have been setting me great as well. I think just my confidence in my swings and my game has just really helped me.” 

On having 70 swings in back to back matches…
“My shoulder doesn’t really get sore that much. It’s more like my legs that feel a little bit fatigued but, yeah, my arm is good.”

Ciara Parker, Sr., L


On coming into this season coming off a Final Four run…
“We got our taste of that and we want it again. Coming into this year, it kind of showed us our capabilities as a program and as a team. We believe in ourselves and each other and we just want to taste that again, so we’re really excited to be here like Heather said. We know Nebraska is a great team, but we’re definitely just excited to compete, so that definitely helps coming into every match.”

On the accomplishments of this senior class…
“Just the accomplishments we made at BYU we all had a goal. We wanted to play for a national championship. We wanted to change the program and inspire young girls to come to BYU. We wanted to be a part of something great and we feel like we have done that, but we hope that isn’t over. Our goal is still beyond us so we’re just excited to play here and we’re grasping onto every chance we get.”

Amy Boswell, Jr., MB


On coming into this season coming off a Final Four run …
 “I would say the same thing [as Ciara Parker], we know that the core groups of us have tasted it. It’s really exciting to there and people may not expect us to get there but we believe in ourselves and our confidence and our abilities but we know that we can always be getting better so that has been a theme throughout the season.”

Nebraska Quotes


Head Coach John Cook 


Opening Statement… 
“First time at Kentucky, a lot of blue here, we’re used to a lot of red. I think if you look at all the regionals, out of the four regionals, I think any team can win this regional. I think it’s a very competitive regional, we’re fired up to be here, we’ve got a history with all three of these teams. So, I think this is going to be a great, competitive regional.” 

On the strengths of BYU… 
“They have two premier players in Amy Boswell and Alexa Gray who get most of their sets, so we’ll have to deal with those girls. They’re a very good serving team and they don’t make errors. We’re going to have to play very solid volleyball and slow those girls down.”

On how Nebraska has improved since it played BYU in last year’s tournament… 
“I think we’re in a better system than we were last year. We’ve got players in the right spots, we’ve made a couple player changes. I think the system we created helps us to have the best opportunity to be a good passing team… We have a more diversified attack than we did last year. A lot of that has to do with Kelly Hunter, she can set everything really well. Last year was the youngest team in the history of Nebraska volleyball. We’re a year older, wiser, and more mature. That’s really helped us and paid dividends for us this year. We’ve had some really impressive matches where these girls have played at a really high level.”

On the importance of serving and how it impacts post season games… 
“I think that serving is a great reflection of how confident your team is. If you’re back there attacking with your serves, you’re serving it in, and you’re aggressive while in control, then I think that’s a great reflection of how confident a player is and the team. I think good serving wins all the time, not just early or late [in the season]. I know we’ve worked really hard on serving since last year.”  

Kelly Hunter, So., S


On the vibe of the team, the difficulty of staying loose, and how the team has used the intensity of the week to their advantage… 
“All of us, as people, like to play loose. Obviously, Coach says that this is the toughest week of the whole year. I think we’re just trying to be intense, get our stuff done that needs to be done while also keeping it loose. I think sometimes we get a little too [loose] and then we have to bring it back in, but I think when it comes game time we know how to turn on “game-mode” and we know how to manage that, so I think it’s a good thing.”

Justine Wong-Orantes, Jr., L


On how the team prepares for opposing players who have been recording impressive stat sheets… 
“Every match our whole team goes in wanting to play relentless floor defense. I like to believe that defense wins championships. I think that’s what we can control; it’s an effort thing. I think as soon as one person starts doing it then it becomes contagious so everyone wants to play relentless defense and play for each other, and that’s when we keep going.” 

Alicia Ostrander, OH


On what it means for the team that the Final Four is located in Omaha, Nebraska this year… 
“I think that any team has that destination in mind. We definitely want to be in Omaha at the end of the year. I don’t think we’ve put pressure on ourselves or let pressure get into where we want to be or where people think we should be at the end of the year. Like I’ve said before, we break down our team huddles by saying “Omaha,” so we’re keeping in mind where we want to be but, especially with this team, we’re really just focused on one game at a time. Yes, of course, that’s where we want to be at the end of the year but right now we have BYU.” 

Ohio State Quotes


Geoff Carlston 


Opening Statement… 
“Excited to be here in Lexington in this round; we’ve had quite the journey. We’re really proud of our group and excited to play Washington. Trying to make it a home court match, so to speak, since we’ve been here several times. I think we’re all just anxious to play, to be honest with you. Our last three weeks of our Big Ten season [were busy] so we had no time and all of a sudden we have 4 or 5 days to get ready… There’s only so much film and only so many things you can do to get ready. But, we’re excited, Washington is a great team so we’re looking forward to it.” 

On how conference play has helped prepare this team… 
“If you can survive through it and come out on the other side relatively healthy then you’re ready, you’re prepared… Our second half of our season we lost our setter, we thought she was gone for the year, and then she wasn’t… We had two or three players get pretty sick for an extended period of time and we were on the road for six of our last ten games. So I think for us it’s been a great journey, it’s prepared us for this moment. And, thankfully, we’re as healthy as we’ve been for two months. We went two months where we couldn’t buy a break in terms of staying healthy. Emily did a great job of righting the ship and keeping us moving forward with some pretty big wins… But when you lose your starting setter who’s been there for every set of every match and every point and all of a sudden she’s gone, it takes a while to find a new normal. This group fights, we kick and we scratch; you have to do that in the Big Ten. So, when you get to this point, if you’re lucky enough to make the tournament you feel like you’ve seen everything… ”

On how the team has served throughout the year and how serving will affect the game against Washington… 
“At the beginning of the year it was one of our goals to be one of the toughest serving teams in the country, and I really don’t think we were for the better part of the year. I think we’ve really gradually gotten better here in the last three weeks. Having a couple kids back that are our tougher servers back in the lineup has helped. Washington is a really tough serving team… They’re just really good at hitting their spots… Our serving has been better than it’s been, it’s probably the best it’s been all year, so we’re going to need to [continue that]. We can’t just blast balls out of bounds, we can’t give Washington points. At this level every team here is just too good to give away points. So, that will be the balance, serving tough but not just giving free points either. ”

On the importance of defense in the Sweet 16… 
“Washington having the highest hitting percentage in the Pac 12 says a lot about them; they’re just a really efficient offense. Our goal isn’t to keep them at a negative hitting percentage, though I’d take it. Really it’s about how this team has been good at staying in the moment and enjoying the journey. It sounds cliché, but our conference requires that, because you can’t get too excited and you can’t get too bummed out if things aren’t going well. Something we’ve been emphasizing a lot has just been playing defense. Our offense is what it is… At this level in the Sweet 16 everyone’s really good, so I think the teams that play better defense will win both of those matches tomorrow.” 

Valeria Leon, Jr., L


On the team’s defensive mindset… 
“We always talk about how defense is fun. We try to stay balanced, breathe a lot, trust what we see and go from there.”

Luisa Schirmer, So., OH


On what makes the team’s defense so strong… 
“Valeria Leon is a big part of our defense. She’s super loud back there and brings us a ton of energy. And, at the same time, even when we’re practicing she holds us accountable. We work really hard and we’ve been pushing each other all week and I think we’re really prepared in that sense because Val does such a great job. She’s the leader of our defense.” 

Emily Ruetter, Sr., S


On how the team’s mid-season struggles helped prepare them for the tournament… 
“We had been working hard, things were going our way at the beginning of the season and then a few things started to not go our way and we accumulated a few losses. But we just continued working hard and working on the little things and things started turning around and we’ve been on a little bit of a winning streak so we’re hoping to continue that here in Lexington tomorrow. ” 

Washington Quotes


Head Coach Keegan Cook 


Opening Statement….
“Thanks for having us. Wonderful place to be. Excited to play Ohio State, really talented, passionate team who plays with a bunch of emotion, so it’s going to be a fun and exciting match tomorrow. Again thanks for having us.”

On the powerhouses in this regional…
“A little bit of déjà vu. We had two of these teams last year in Nebraska and BYU, Ohio State is kind of the new member of this regional but I think it’s the toughest by far when I look at all four teams and what they have done this year. It’s the regional of death, it’s going to be a lot of fun. 

On the familiarity of playing a B1G team the second straight year…
“I think that seeing a team in the first weekend really helped a little bit. Michigan State was a big physical team who looks a lot like some of their other Big Ten teams and I think we had our eyes opened a little bit from that. We’re not going to be winning any lines easier anymore this year but now we can play anybody and tomorrow is going to help us even more with a big physical team like Ohio State.”

On comparison of the B1G and PAC 12…
“I think that the Big Ten has many big one-foot hitters who are really talented. I think that we’re going to see one tomorrow. We saw a couple last week in Michigan State and the PAC 12 was a little low on that this year. There’s one of them in the league so that is one of the bigger things that stick out to me.”

On playing the best teams to reach the final four…
“That is big mindset shift. I think at first you look at the bracket and you think really. Then you think how lucky we are, how many memories are we going to have. If we get to the Final Four having played the teams that we played, we have seen it all at this point. We’ll certainly be ready to go having played the teams to get to this point.”

Melanie Wade, Sr., MB


On what has contributed to their success…
“I think we’re a pretty experienced group. We have a lot of seniors and our underclassmen have been here a year, so I think that this year we have really come together as a team and really improved all season and we’re not satisfied with not getting better in practice every day. I think that’s been the biggest difference this year.”

On being in the Sweet 16 every year and how is that helping in the final go round…
“I think that volleyball is volleyball. I think that one thing the three of us has learned, really, is you have to be who you are at the end of the season. You can’t try to do anything special to win these games. I think that is the biggest thing with the last couple of years, we have tried to do some special thing when we get to this point and I think we’re very aware of that which is good. This year we can kind of stick to our volleyball, not try and be some superhero team.” 

Lianna Sybeldon, Sr., MB


On what they have been working on to get them over the hump…
“Well just in general, Keegan always says the team that is the best at the end of the season is the one that is still improving so we all have little things that we’re trying to work on but as a team we just want to constantly improve whether it’s blocking or anything, just try to improve.”