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Women's Volleyball
Press Conference Quotes from the NCAA Regional
 
 
 
Cathy George
 
Cathy George
 
 

Dec. 12, 2013

The Lexington Regional has begun for the NCAA Volleyball Championship, and MSU took to the Memorial Coliseum floor for the first day of practice and media obligations along with Penn State, Minnesota, and Stanford.

WATCH: NCAA Regional - MSU Press Conference


Michigan State Head Coach Cathy George

Opening statement ...
"I want to start by saying that we are thankful to be back here at UK. They have done a great job of hosting and we have really enjoyed it here. Tomorrow, we have Penn State and it will be the third meeting for us. With the Big Ten, you see so many teams represented across the board, so there is a lot of familiarity. Penn State knows us extremely well and we know them extremely well and our teams have gone toe to toe for years now. Penn State, obviously they return all of their starters from last year, a team that went to the Final Four and is pretty solid at every single position. They are a tough team to defend against and are a very physical team and a very well-prepared team. We look forward to getting after it ourselves. We've done a great job of preparing over the course of this NCAA tournament, and look forward for us to do the same thing as we go on."

On using the experience of being here weekend for the sub-regional ...
"It's always nice to be in a facility and get comfortable with facilities, but when you are in this business you go into so many different places that everyone is prepared for that. This is the end of the year. You've been going to opponents' places all year long so you always have to adapt by this time. I like being back here because we have a familiarity with the people and all that, but it may give us a little bit of something, and we'll take it."

On the key to defeating Penn State ......
"Well I don't know if there is really one key. I think it's going to be two teams that are going to be battle-ready. They are going to be looking at each other to gain access to the next round, so you are going to have two extremely hungry teams. Penn State has been eyeing that national championship, no doubt. We are looking to get on to the next round and continue as well. You are not going to surprise anybody at this time of the year. Everybody is prepared and everyone is ready to go. I think, for us, we just have to stay tough and know that Penn State is going to do some great things and we just need to keep pushing on it and continue to answer back with what we know we do well - and make sure that is where the game is controlled, and not stress over things you can't."

On how much preparation has been focused on Penn State based on recent matches with them ......
"Unfortunately, I look at it all. So my eyes are kind of glazed over this week. I have watched a heck of a lot of tape. I look at all of that and I try to come together with what is you can find as consistent. Is there something teams do consistently? I look at us and what we did do, what we didn't do. We have looked at that after the games we have played Penn State, and other teams. You try to improve your team that week after and how do you go about that. So we definitely look at that. We look at the consistencies from the matches this past weekend for Penn State and versus other Big Ten teams that we have seen along the way."

On the strength of the Big Ten this year ...
"It's awesome. If you look across the board, to have seven teams in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen is crazy, and that's a record. That's the record for any sport and definitely in volleyball. So we look at that and say we know that. We don't want to beat ourselves up over losses that we have had earlier in the year because any of those losses are from teams that are very, very talented. So you have been tested and I think that is one thing Kristen (Kelsay) was just saying is, there have been areas where you have been weak at during the year that you can look at. They have been exposed. Any of your weak points that have been exposed you have to sure that up and look at those things and then continue to strengthen the things you are strong at. In the Big Ten, you see different styles and you have to learn how to stop each style. I like that about the Big Ten because when you come into the NCAA tournament, you say, `Oh that reminds me of this team', or `That reminds me of that team'. I know our team can really identify with that and go from there. It speaks volumes to the Big Ten and what kind of athletes are playing in the Big Ten. You are not going to get a walk any night. They are teams that are sitting home in the Big Ten that are awfully good teams and we know that they are all good and great players. So there is not one night you can say, `Wow, we can take it easy.' I think that keeps you going and keeps you focused and keeps you on the task. I appreciate that about it, but I also lose a lot of sleep over that."

On why the Big Ten is such a strong conference ...
"I don't know why I say this or if there is any credibility to this statement and I was not coaching in the Big Ten in 1989, but it seemed like there was a real push to develop volleyball in the Big Ten from the administrators. The whole Title IX piece and everything was coming around and they were starting to put in resources back in that time. Then in the 90's you saw a surge at the Big Ten. More money was being put into it, the administration were supporting it with marketing dollars, and all of those other things, so it started to move in that direction. The volleyball in the west coast has always been strong, but the second place that it got really strong was Chicago. I'm old enough to tell you all of this stuff because I lived in it. But volleyball in the Chicago area in particular grew really strong as well as in the west coast. From that, then the Midwest region started to grow and some of the cities in the Midwest region started to develop club volleyball. With that being said, you have great recruiting opportunities and who better to feed off of that than the Big Ten, who is now supporting programs with dollars. As that kind of came up, you are looking at Cincinnati, Chicago, Indianapolis, the Milwaukee area, and all of those different cities you have seen them sprout up with all of these different club teams that are highly competitive with each other. If you look at the Big Ten's rosters you will see it comes from the Midwest primarily. You do pull out of other areas. These kids grow up and they see Big Ten volleyball on TV. They see it in their backyards. They are able to go and watch quality level of play and they are saying, `Hey, I want to grow up and do that.' If you look at Nebraska in the 80's, Nebraska did a great job of signing and keeping their own from the state of Nebraska. They took the best athletes and started to develop kids. Every little kid girl wanted to grow up and be a Husker. They developed that sense. I think the same can be said for the Big Ten. Young girls in the area say, `Hey, I want to grow up to that.' We are getting more TV exposure than anybody, we have more All-Americans than anybody, we have better attendance figures, and across the board you are seeing that grow. I don't have this all by statistics and I didn't do a study on this, but that is just kind of my observations over the years."

On the development of fifth-year senior Alexis Mathews ...
"I think it is hard to do in the Big Ten, I really do. I think it is much more difficult in the Big Ten than it is in every conference. I coached in the Mid-American conference and coached a lot of kids like Alexis (Mathews). One of the things is we felt like we could teach team and progress them. In the Big Ten, every little inch or weakness is exploited. So for Alexis, it has been a process. It has been at the highest level and at the fastest pace, but she had to learn it. She has elevated her game each and every year and she has done some really nice things. We are all very proud of what she has been able to accomplish over the years.

On keeping the team focused while dealing with travel, finals week and excitement in East Lansing ...
"The team is very excited because field hockey has done so well, soccer was in the Elite Eight last week, the football team won the conference and is going to the Rose Bowl, and it is our turn. That's what you want to do. You want to build your athletic department in a way that all teams are vying for championships, and you have All-Americans running around and doing all sorts of great things. It brings a sense of pride to our athletes. It is not a distraction at all. It is encouragement. We look to it to really inspire us and we want to inspire others at Michigan State - so it is kind of exciting. With finals, shoot, they turned right around because of the late day we got back on Sunday. They had eight o'clock tests on Monday to prepare for. But I think our team has done really nice job of preparing for the fact that finals are right in the mix. You know that going in so you need to time manage."

Michigan State Student-Athletes

#1, Kori Moster, L

On floor defense being a key factor in advancing this weekend...
"I know that we like to say defense wins championships, and you saw a lot of people step up in different areas. I mean Lauren [Wicinski] had 18 digs, and that really is a game-changer for us. When we can keep those balls off the floor, it puts our hitters in system. We get a lot more attacking options off that and we're a threat that way. When we keep the ball off the floor, nobody can really stop our offense, so that definitely is a big component for us heading into this weekend."

On what MSU is doing particularly well now ...
"We have talked a lot this season about the mental aspect of volleyball and how you are capable of beating yourself. We have kind of shown that a couple times throughout the year. We have worked on that when times get tough. Penn State is going to do some awesome things; there is no doubt about that. But how we respond to that is definitely going to be a big component in the game and really just in the game of volleyball in general. You see our maturity grow throughout the year and we have definitely grown since the last time we played them."

#12, Kristen Kelsay, S

On defeating Penn State earlier in the season ...
"I think that whenever you beat a team, you gain confidence that way. I think it is interesting that we beat them at their floor and they beat us on our floor. That kind of adds to the mix a little bit. Now we are playing in a neutral site. Like (Coach) Cathy (George) said, both teams are going to come battle ready. We are both hungry to move on to the next round. I think what confidence we have beating them, they have confidence from beating us, so I think that is a two-way street. I think it's going to come down to playing really good volleyball tomorrow. You can't ride off any wins or losses coming into this round. Whether you have beaten them or not, like Cathy said, there are no surprises anymore. Everyone is going to come out ready to go and being able to channel that into the here and now."

On what they are doing particularly well now ...
"I think what Cathy said about studying tapes is we have played them twice and in our last meeting was the first half of the second half of the Big Ten. I think looking back to what we did well, what we have improved on, and what did they to expose us, we can say with confidence that there are things that we do better than we did that week. They are clearly better at things they didn't do, so it is definitely going to be a different match. It's good to know that riding into this game tomorrow night that you have improved. That is why the Big Ten is so tough. It prepares you for this because it makes you get better every week."


Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose

On his impressions of the Michigan State team ...
"They had a great first half of the Big Ten season; they beat us, I think they beat Nebraska and they've got veteran players at key positions and four or five seniors. They've got two-time libero of the year in our conference. I think the system is good. The middles are very athletic. [Alexis] Matthews touches close to 11 feet so that is challenge playing on a women's net. I think they're good, they're good at every position, they're athletic, they take big swings at the ball and we're going to have to play really well. We played well the last time we played Michigan State and I thought we had a good focus and a good game plan. I think a great deal of the success we had in that match were the players wanted to reverse the outcome from the match where we played them at Penn State. We had opportunities to win and they did so I wasn't hesitant to point that out to the players for six or so weeks."

On the strength of the B1G schedule and the advantage it gives them in the NCAA Tournament ...
"I don't feel qualified to comment on other conferences but certainly in my experience one of the main strengths of the Big 10 is that it prepares teams for the NCAA Tournament, if you get selected to participate in the NCAA Tournament. The fact that we had eight teams, seven of them are still alive, there were probably other teams that didn't get selected that could have won a couple matches as well last weekend. The venues that you play in are very competitive, all of the teams are good, all of the coaching staff and athletic departments and support that the programs have it's at a very high level so there's not a real advantage that one team might think, or one program might think they have because in reality everybody is supported at a really high level.


"To have success you need to deal with those challenges and for some, as I said last week when they were asking the same question, it makes it more impressive that after losing our first match of the year in conference play we were able to win the next 19 in a conference that is filled with a lot of great teams and potentially two or three of them will be playing next weekend in the Final Four. We're also aware of the fact, we had to battle and you have to deal with tough crowds and you have to deal with great players in front of you on the other side of the net.


"We started the tournament with Long Island and a lot of people thought we played poorly but you know, Long Island was a really good team. Long Island would have won matches in our conference I think, they were small and crafty and totally different. And then the next night we played Utah and Utah was similar to the type of teams that I think the Pac-12 and the Big 10 are based on, large players. In certain positions they'd hit the ball high and hard as opposed to small kids that are really fast and hit the ball from different areas of contact. Playing Michigan State or Minnesota or Stanford, we've played those teams a number of times, the players, maybe not in my case, we've won and lost against all of those teams. There aren't many teams that I can't say we've lost to and we've beaten, that's the cause of playing for a long time, I recognize that, I don't take anybody for granted. I'm not spending any time wondering who we're going to play on Saturday because we're playing Friday. We win Friday, then I'll stick around for the second match..Otherwise I'm not going to watch a second match if we're not playing. I've seen enough volleyball this season."

On the foundation principles in coaching a team that transcends throughout all sports ...
"In this state of Kentucky you've got two of the greatest, most storied basketball programs and I would say our principles are probably similar to those principles. You cannot do it without a strong administrative support, you cannot do it without great athletes, you can't do it without a staff that makes the players better and you probably can't do it without somebody who's willing to take all the [stuff] from everybody that comes in all different directions because even when you're winning you've got problems. That's the hard part of it. There's a reason people don't coach like [UK legendary men's basketball head coach] Joe B. (Hall) did in the old days and Denny Crum did for so long. There's a reason, it's taxing, even when you're winning its taxing. I think universities enable programs to be successful. There's a reason that a lot of programs are successful in a lot of sports and it's because the schools care and they do the right things and they care about the student-athletes having a chance to be successful."

Penn State Student-Athletes

#1 Ariel Scott, RS

On what the team has improved on since the last time they faced Michigan State ...
"We have been working on ourselves a lot. Our passing has been really good recently so that is definitely a plus for us. We have been working on closing games and grinding out games. We have been improving on that since we faced them last."

On what she learned as a freshman while playing on the 2010 NCAA Championship team ...
"Mostly I learned composure from a lot of the older players, like playing with Arielle (Wilson), Blair (Brown) and Alyssa D'Errico. They were just so calm and composed and they were always teaching us freshmen, there were nine of us at the time, which was a lot for them to handle. We learned a lot from them and we are trying to do the same for the younger girls. As of right now, we are the only girls on the team to have won a national championship and we want everyone to feel what that was like. It has been really nice to pay it forward."

#12 Micha Hancock, S

On carrying the pride and tradition of Penn State volleyball into the tournament ...
"The biggest thing is the tradition of excellence and how the teams before us worked really hard. It wasn't about them being the best team always or if they were always on top of everything, but they always grinded it out hard and they always played together as a team. That's one thing that we have really worked on. In the spring before the season and this year through the season, it's like we didn't play our best at Nebraska but we somehow found a way to win and the outcome was good. So we've just tried to get in the gym and remind ourselves to push to work hard together."

#4 Domonique Gonzalez, L

On carrying the pride and tradition of Penn State volleyball into the tournament ...
"We were young and we watched Alisa Glass (PSU from 2006-09) and Megan Hodge (PSU from 2006-09) go through the program - and they are doing great things in volleyball now still. It is a great opportunity to play at a great program. We want to uphold what others have done in the past but at the same time create our own destiny with this team."

On what the team has improved on as the year has progressed ...
"We are just working on ball control and what we can control on our side of the net. Anytime you play a team in the tournament, they are good and everyone realizes that one loss and you are done. Everyone is playing hard and trying to control what we can and neutralize what they do as well."

 

 

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