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December 17, 2014

Haley Eckerman

Jerritt Elliott

Amy Neal

Chiaka Ogbogu


THE MODERATOR:テつ We're joined by the Texas Longhorns.テつ Coach Jerritt Elliott and Amy Neal.
COACH ELLIOTT:テつ It's going to be a great opportunity for us to represent the University of Texas and with the ultimate goal of trying to win another national championship.
We know this field is loaded.テつ And we've got our hands full with BYU tomorrow evening.テつ We're excited about the opportunity and they've got some players that have been putting up some big numbers and obviously lead the country in blocking.
So we'll get back, get organized with this group and we're looking forward to the opportunity.

Q.テつ Other than the obvious, of her being 6'7", what stands out about Jennifer Hamson?
COACH ELLIOTT:テつ She can play at a very high above the net.テつ She can pretty much go over us if she's in rhythm and able to score.テつ She has great range.テつ She obviously has put up the last game against‑‑ Sweet 16 put up seven and a half kills a game.
And when she's on fire, she's one of the best players in the country.

Q.テつ You talked before 2012 about the proverbial monkey that was on your back en route to winning your first national championship at Texas there.テつ How much has your perspective changed in the last couple of seasons since then on winning the national championship?
COACH ELLIOTT:テつ It always helps to win a national championship.テつ You can breathe.テつ But I think like anything, I mean, age provides experience.
And since then we've had another two opportunities to be here.テつ You learn about your team and the makeup you have within that team and the commitment they have.テつ And you try to apply what we've learned in those years.
And last year was the upset at Wisconsin, and I think we understand that.
The thing that we talked to the team about yesterday was in 2012 our toughest match was Michigan.テつ Last year we got eliminated by Wisconsin and now we're playing BYU.テつ All those teams have been unseeded.テつ And they're very capable of playing at a very high level.
And the respect factor on that, I think, the upperclassmen and the roles that they play in terms of leading is critical.テつ And they've been able to pass that message down.
I think the team has bought into that now, but ultimately we'll have to show up and play tomorrow night.

Q.テつ Haley, you were nodding, that was going to be my question.テつ Last year when you guys played Wisconsin, you got this team that wasn't expected to be here, and it almost seemed like you were just stunned by them.テつ Now you've got another team that wasn't supposed to be here.テつ What's different?
HALEY ECKERMAN:テつ I think this year we're focusing on the game ahead of us, which is BYU.テつ Last year I think we may have overlooked Wisconsin a little bit.テつ And this year we know that BYU's good.
Obviously they've gotten here.テつ So we have to focus on BYU and only BYU and making sure that we're taking care of what we need to do against them.

Q.テつ Amy, Jerritt said the other day that you played with sass last weekend.テつ What does that mean to you?テつ And is that a struggle sometimes with confidence early in your career?テつ Was it at all?
AMY NEAL:テつ Yeah, I think especially my freshman year and still last year, I was working on my confidence a lot.テつ And Jerritt and Erik have just pushed me really hard to get to my‑‑ get my confidence a lot higher and just play with how I can play.テつ And if I'm confident, I can play my game.テつ And he always does say I have sass with him now.テつ So I guess it's a good thing.
And I think I do have a little bit of sass with him.テつ But I think it kind of helps with my game and he's pushed me really hard and I think it's made me become a lot better player.

Q.テつ Oklahoma's not ‑‑ the state itself is not known as a volleyball hotbed.テつ A couple of players from other teams are from the state.テつ But since you're in the area, do you sense that there's pockets bubbling of volleyball that could aspire to the level you and other programs here are at?
COACH ELLIOTT:テつ Yeah, I thought about that last week.テつ We're so close to Texas, I think we'll have a big following on it.
But the sport is continuing to grow.テつ I believe that the TV ratings went up 23 to 34 percent last weekend.テつ You're starting to see attendance across the country skyrocket.テつ There's a lot of‑‑ because of the TV rights with all the SEC and the Big Ten and Big 12 and Pac‑12 and all these schools are starting to become more visible.
I think the athleticism continues to grow.テつ And these smaller states that have not been very big in terms of sports, in terms of volleyball have now started to really grow.
California used to be the dominant state in volleyball.テつ And I think now Texas is the dominant state.テつ It wasn't there in my early years when I was recruiting, but you start seeing the Midwest starting to explode, and the sport is just kind of gradually growing and growing, and now I think it's really catching fire.
I think in the next three to five years you're going to see a big change.

Q.テつ Haley, Saturday night against North Carolina, arguably y'all's toughest postseason match so far.テつ From that match, what did you all learn that you can take into the Final Four here into Oklahoma?
HALEY ECKERMAN:テつ I think one thing is that you can't underestimate a team.テつ North Carolina played amazing against us and challenged us.テつ It showed that when we are challenged, in the fourth set especially, if we look each other in the eyes and know we can do this, then we can come out and win.
And I think that was a big confidence booster for all of us, just knowing that when we play together and we fight and we give it our all and leave it all out on the floor that we can be a great team.

Q.テつ Amy, can you share your personal perspective going into this championship considering that you were part of a national championship team two years ago and then with what had happened last year?
AMY NEAL:テつ Well, I think every year's different.テつ And just last year being upset, I think we've learned a lot from that game, from that game, and I just think that this team is completely different but we know that we can't look over any team, like Eck said.
And we need to focus on BYU because they're a very good team and they're in the Final Four, so they're obviously extremely good.テつ We have to really focus on them.テつ And I think that's just all we need to do is really take them seriously because they're very good.

Q.テつ Jerritt, I know you want to win them all and they're all important, but do you have any kind of different sense on this one?テつ Because not everybody loses seniors like you're going to lose this year.テつ It's a pretty impressive senior class and group that's hard to equal.
COACH ELLIOTT:テつ Yeah, there's no question in terms of what Khat Bell and Haley has done for our program in terms of where we're at.テつ They're big pieces to our success.テつ I think to win championships you've got to have great leadership and great seniors but you also have other players that step up and play at a high level, too, during that run.
And I think we have all that.テつ And I think the great, every year that I hear this question is that how are you going to replace these seniors, how are you going to replace Bailey Webster and Destinee Hooker and Ashley Engle and those players, and fortunately we created a culture.テつ Our recruiting has been very strong.
And next year's team will create a new dynamic and a new system, and we'll see kind of rebuilding the puzzle.テつ That's the enjoyment of coaching.テつ But we've got the pieces obviously to get back here again for years to come.
But we'll miss them more so from an emotional standpoint.テつ They've been such a big part of it.テつ They've been a big part of our success.テつ But in a sense as a coach it's exciting for you to see them take that next step.テつ Now it's time for them to spread their wings and go play professionally and get their degree and start the next phase of their life.
We're very involved with all of our alumni and they're very excited about us, and getting texts and messages all the time.テつ And they'll reflect back on this more so in terms of the memory they have and how special this time was.テつ I don't think the student‑athlete sometimes gets how great of a time this is in their career.

Q.テつ You ladies had a chance to see Coach Rockwell and what kind of impact did she have when she was here with you guys?
HALEY ECKERMAN:テつ Really big impact.テつ She helped in recruiting a lot of us, and she was more than like a coach for some of us.テつ She was like a motherly figure and a friend someone we could go to talk to about a lot of things.
So I think just seeing her just brought a lot of excitement back.テつ And I know a lot of players attacked her and she almost fell one of the times.
But it's cool to see her here because we missed her a lot.

Q.テつ Coach, a minute ago you said California used to be considered the hotbed of volleyball and you said that Texas is now the hotbed of volleyball.テつ Would you elaborate?テつ What do you mean by that?
COACH ELLIOTT:テつ When you talk about‑‑ at least when I talk about hotbeds, it's the number of high‑end recruits, the sheer number, how physical they are, how many different players can play different positions, just the sheer rankings in terms of where you're seeing the rankings go right now.
Not to say there's not good players in California.テつ There's still really good players but in terms of the sheer amount of the amount of players that Texas is having right now.テつ You look at all the teams across the country and there's so many good players from the state of Texas that it just kind of, for whatever reason, I don't know if it's the Longhorn Network, I think it's based on some of the success that we've had, but the sport has really grown.
Early on in my 2000s when I got there, there wasn't a whole lot of talent.テつ There was a good group before but they had all left the state.テつ Our goal is obviously to keep all the best kids in Texas at home.テつ They all have somewhat of Texas ties and we're very fortunate to have that success.

Q.テつ Haley, you've done this now your third time; the other two, this is your second time around.テつ The biggest difference in your approach to this year from perhaps the first time you made it to the round before, starting with Amy?
AMY NEAL:テつ Talking about how different it is this year.テつ This team, we didn't lose that many, it's just our chemistry is really good this year, and we have a ton of fun together.
And I just think that we still have the same mindset of taking it one game at a time and really focusing on the team in front of us and not looking ahead at all.テつ But I think we are just really on the same page this year and we will trust each other on the court.
HALEY ECKERMAN:テつ Especially as a sophomore there's probably more nerves going in as a freshman.テつ But I think, like Amy said, this team has a lot of chemistry.テつ We've been really focusing on one game at a time it helps us kind of contain our nerves and everything.テつ So, yeah, just our biggest thing is looking at BYU and only BYU.
CHIAKA OGBOGU:テつ I agree with both of them, the chemistry.テつ Each team is different every year.テつ We lost Shaw one year, we lost a group of them.テつ And then we gained more, too.
And I think this season, especially, focusing on the relationships and the friendships and just the fight together as a team, especially during offseason, we were fighting together and focusing on fighting as a team and playing as a team and the team chemistry has been great this season.
Through all the ups and downs through the loss against Oklahoma and Florida, we've come together and bounced back as a team.
We've done a really good job at when someone might be having an off game or going off into their own island, pulling them back in and making sure we're a unit.

Q.テつ Haley, I know you're not playing Penn State, but your experience and knowledge‑‑ you've obviously known Micah Hancock for at least a little bit.テつ When you think about her game, is there a word that describes it and sort of what she brings to them and when she's on the court?
HALEY ECKERMAN:テつ I think like any setter, she's kind of their quarterback. テつAnd that's what every setter has to be.テつ And she as a senior, especially she's not going to give it up.テつ She's going to fight for her.
She knows it's our last time her last time and she's going to do what she has got to do to get there.

Q.テつ Coach, before the national semifinal you'd been to the regional semifinal for nine straight years what are your thoughts of women's volleyball being the model of consistency for Texas athletics?
COACH ELLIOTT:テつ Well, it starts from the top.テつ Our athletic directors and Chris Polnsky and the department as a whole has really given us all the resources we need and they believed in me as the head coach when I took this program over and have seen it grow, and I don't ever believe that we are the model for Texas athletics. テつI think everything goes in waves.
For me it's always been about how do you maintain this level.テつ Because it's very, very difficult.テつ And you either are trying to build enough wins to sustain a great program and then if you get to that level you've got to be able to sustain that level.
And that's where as I've said many times I lose a lot of sleep and have to work really hard with recruiting with our base, but when you hire good people, you talked about Salima a few minutes ago or Tonya Johnson and Erik, I've got a staff that's all head coach material.テつ And they make impacts on these young ladies' lives.テつ They do a very good job as a team of taking care of each other but they also I believe have a really good experience.
I think that shows when people are being recruited and they see it's more than just the game of volleyball.テつ We're trying to teach them a lot of lessons on and off the court.テつ And when you do that and you build a program the right way, hopefully it sustains itself.テつ But that's the challenge.
And our goal every year is to try to get back to the Final Four and give ourselves a chance to win the national championship.テつ So this is the new year.テつ We've got another great opportunity in front of us with BYU.テつ And hopefully we can make our university proud by the way we fight and get out there and compete.

Q.テつ Coach, the FIVB used video replay for the World Championships this year, and it seems that it's something they're going to look at more and more in international games.テつ Now that more conferences and of course Longhorn Network have televised matches, is it time for the NCAA to consider doing video replay experimentally, or conferences to do that?
COACH ELLIOTT:テつ I won't comment on what the NCAA should do, but I will comment I've been a proponent for quite some time.テつ There's a cost factor in this.テつ It's a new technology.テつ I think the FIVB, it's about $15,000 for a weekend if you were to have that.
But I think it's critical for us to really look at what is best for our sport.テつ And to my knowledge every swing or every point is a two‑point switch.テつ And I've talked about this before.テつ I've said if you get one or two bad calls, that's a big switch in terms of what can happen.
And our sport is not only about producing points but it's also about managing, not losing points.テつ And it would be‑‑ you've seen some matches where balls have been in or out.
And I think it's great for the fans.テつ I think it would be fantastic if we could have one or two reviews and the fans could sit there and watch like they do on tennis.テつ And it makes our sport better.テつ So anything for our sport that makes it more on a level playing field.テつ Because the ball is moving so fast.
I think it's something we should really consider and we gotta figure out a way.テつ And that will be I'm sure some of the discussions that probably our AVCA will look into and also the NCAA should look into in terms of bettering our female women's volleyball game.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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