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December 16, 2013

Lauren Carlini

Ellen Chapman

Annemarie Hickey

THE MODERATOR:  We can take questions for the players.

Q.  Annemarie, you're the only senior on this team.  You've seen everything that's gone on with the coaching change, all that.  I asked coach earlier what he would have thought if you were to end up in Seattle in August.  What would you have said to that in December?
ANNEMARIE HICKEY:  Well, I mean, at the beginning of the year when we were having our meetings, we were kind of actually talking about that with Deme Morales' birthday being on the 21st, and being like, what a cool present that would be for her.  We were kind of like, Yeah, you know, there's a slim chance, like we're rebuilding, we have a new coaching staff, we got more players coming in, so there's a slim chance we're going to make it.  We're going to work really hard.
Now we kind of look back and it's like that's a joke.  We knew we were more than capable of making it to the Final Four.  We're definitely a team that deserves to be here with the level of play we've been playing at.  We're just really excited to be here and super pumped to get on the road.

Q.¬† Ellen, when Kelly had that first conversation with you and asked you about what you think about being an All‑American, why did you chuckle?¬† Did you think he was being serious?
ELLEN CHAPMAN:  I knew that he had a lot of belief in me just from the start because he saw me play in club, in high school and everything.  But I don't know, the last couple of years I just haven't had the confidence that I should have playing.
But Kelly did an amazing job of just believing in me and I think that was the main thing that made my game so much better this year.
So I guess that's kind of why I chuckled, because I never really saw myself being the player that I am today.  But, I mean, I could not be happier of what he's done to me like as a player and everything, so...

Q.  Ellen and Annemarie, do you remember what you were doing last year at this time?  How much more enjoyable is this?
ANNEMARIE HICKEY:  Well, we're in finals week right now so we were kind of just studying, trying to stay on top of our grades.  But we were all also kind of enjoying the college life, just kind of doing what regular college students do, not really motivated as we are right now.
Now like I look back and I'm just like, Wow, this is how it's supposed to be.  This is where we're supposed to be.  It's a great feeling.
ELLEN CHAPMAN:  Yeah, just same as Anne.  I mean, just enjoying.  Like it's always weird not having any responsibilities like a normal student does.  Just no practice, no lifts, no anything.  Just class and being a regular student was what we were all doing last year at this time.

Q.  Lauren, you committed to Wisconsin early.  There was a coaching change.  When you came here the program was struggling.  Did you have any trepidation or hesitation and did you think it would turn out this way this quickly?
LAUREN CARLINI:  No, I never had hesitation because I knew where I wanted to go at a young age.  I had a path.  I committed to it.  I stood by my word.
And did I think we were going to be as far as we are today when I came in?  No.  I thought there was going to be a process we had to go through to get to the point that we are.
But I couldn't be more happy and I couldn't be more proud of my teammates that we've made it this March.  Just the fact we made that transition so quickly to get to the Final Four.

Q.  Lauren, your coach talked about how hurt you guys were earlier in the year.  Can you just comment on what that process was like.
LAUREN CARLINI:  It was disappointing.  It was kind of frustrating, too, just because we want to get better and we want to keep advancing.  Then people keep going down every other day in practice.  It was hard to get into a rhythm.  It was hard to get a, you know, solid six people on the court and kind of start practicing for real.
But, you know, we struggled through those first few weeks pre‑season, just had to keep adjusting and fighting.¬† I think that was a really good precursor to what our season was:¬† just keep battling through it and keep working as hard as we can to get to where we need to go.

Q.  Texas is a team that you don't face often, unlike some of the Big Ten teams you face.  Will this lack of familiarity cause you some trouble early on?
ANNEMARIE HICKEY:  I think we hadn't seen Florida State all year so we were kind of unfamiliar with what they were doing.  We watched a lot of film and scouted a lot about what their team was doing.
We have to give a lot of props to our coaches for all the hours and all the work they put in making us a better team each time, being able to scout that type of offense and defense.
I think it's not really going to be different for us since they're a different team and we haven't seen them yet.  I think we're just going to have to go in and really execute the game plan our coaches give us and really have trust in them that they know what they're doing.

Q.  Kelly said the players feel a lack of respect has been shown the team.  By whom and in what way?
ELLEN CHAPMAN:¬† I don't know, I mean, throughout the whole season we were winning and we continued to win, and we still never‑‑ we think we still never got the respect we deserved.¬† People were always doubting us.¬† People never stopped doubting us in the media, in the rankings, that type of stuff.
We just have always had a chip on our shoulder.  We don't want our previous years to define who we are this year.  We are a new team obviously.  Everyone's different.  Like me, I'm completely different from the player I was last year.  I think that goes for a lot of people on this team.
We just kind of wish that people saw that in us and realized that sooner.
LAUREN CARLINI:  Yeah, I think the big thing is there was definitely a precedent that went along throughout this whole year, people kept looking at previous years, how we fared throughout the conference.
It wasn't a good ‑ what's that word ‑ example of what this year is.¬† People just doubted us from the start.¬† Kind of even now they're doubting us.¬† Again, like Ellen said, always that chip on our shoulder helps.¬† We're going to go out there and battle no matter who's on the other side of the net.

Q.  Now that you've had a chance to reflect on last weekend, what was the coolest part?  What will you remember most?
ANNEMARIE HICKEY:  I think just at the end of the game when we won.  This is actually like kind of the first time I actually am reflecting and thinking about what happened, kind of thinking about what my favorite part was.
But just we went back into the locker room and we were all screaming, and they came in to tell us to come back out.  I think that was probably my favorite moment, was coming back out on the court and seeing the band, our family, our friends still there, cheering us on, making the Final Four.
We were just screaming our heads off.  Hearing all the players, being so excited for them.  I think just coming back on the court, seeing all the support we have, how excited our teammates were, how excited I was.  Just finally making it, finally proving people wrong, that we do deserve where we are right now.  Just we're excited that we get to go to Seattle, we're one of four teams left.  It's a really exciting opportunity for us.

Q.  I highly doubt many people on the outside are going to be picking you on Thursday facing the defend champ, No.1 team in the country.  Coach was talking about how their girls can reach 11 feet.  How do you prevent yourself from having doubt?
LAUREN CARLINI:¬† Again, just having a chip on our shoulder, having that confidence that we can compete with everybody.¬† Like Kelly said, they play a very different game than us.¬† We are a very defensive‑minded team.¬† They're a very offensive‑minded team.¬† I think it's going to be a real battle because I don't think they've seen a defense as good as ours.
Just going out there, being confident, saying we have nothing to lose, laying it all out there on the floor, seeing what we can do.

Q.  Lauren, there was a lot of hype around you coming in as a recruit.  You probably lived up to most of that hype.  How much of that have you heard throughout the year?
LAUREN CARLINI:  I try not to listen to it just because I don't want other people's opinions and other people's comments and things in my mind.  All I focus on is my team and getting my team to win.  Whatever happens at the end of the year happens as far as accolades and awards.  Like that doesn't really matter to me.  The only thing that really matters is getting my team as far as we can and just winning, so...

Q.  At what point in the season did the Final Four go from being a dream to a tangible reality, in your opinion?
ELLEN CHAPMAN:  I think that we stepped up a lot when we played Michigan State and Minnesota, that area of the season.  We have been playing well the entire season, but I think that was kind of the turning point where we were upsetting some major teams in the Big Ten.
I think that's sort of when we started getting everything together, everything started to click.  After that point we just continued to grow.  I think this past weekend, we're playing better than we ever have, and that's how it should be.  Every match is just getting better.

Q.  Obviously everybody goes into the NCAA tournament to win.  Nobody goes to lose.  For some reason there is a certain honor of going to the Final Four.  Even though you might not win the tournament, still the Final Four is significant for a lot of people.  Why is it significant?
ANNEMARIE HICKEY:  I think you're finalizing the teams that really can play calm and stay very poised and together as teams, whereas before in either like the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8 you're playing teams that might be a little bit more nervous or might be a little more anxious to get the games started.
Now we're playing teams like Texas and Penn State who have been in the tournament multiple times, have been in the Final Four multiple times, where it's easy for them.  It's just normal for them to be there.
I think now the significance is, Okay, now we're going to be going up against this huge crowd of many coaches, fans, like little kids that looked up to us that are watching us, and it's definitely going to be a different environment for us to play in.  We're really excited.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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