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December 16, 2015

Hugh McCutcheon

Paige Tapp

Daly Santana

Omaha, Nebraska

THE MODERATOR: Representing Minnesota, head Coach Hugh McCutcheon, Daly Santana and Paige Tapp.

COACH McCUTCHEON: Good afternoon, everybody. On behalf of Minnesota volleyball, we're very happy to be here at this phase of the tournament and excited for our match tomorrow with Texas.

Q. Coach, what athletically has allowed Daly to have the season that she's had with the numbers she's been able to produce?
COACH McCUTCHEON: I think she's been healthy. That's been a great start. She worked very, very hard in the spring and prepared to kind of get herself physically ready to have the season that she's having.

I'm sure she can speak to it more, but I thought her work and obviously just staying healthy throughout the year has really helped her.

Q. Daly, what have you seen of Texas? They're a very athletic group, big team. I'm sure that's nothing that you haven't seen before, but just talk about going up against their front line.
DALY SANTANA: Yeah, I think they're a great team. They compete really well. But I think so do we. I think we know the plan. We know what we're going to bring tomorrow. So it will be a great match.

Q. Can you kind of maybe just go through how you maybe turned around last season and kind of where it started this season and kind of coming back and having the rebound that you did.
COACH McCUTCHEON: As you know, there's no magic. There's just hard work. This group has developed a capacity for hard work and matched that with a commitment to the process, to learning, to improvement.

I think in the spring, obviously, we got some stuff done in terms of the weight room and the physical conditioning and also some of the fundamentals.

Over the course of the season, our athletes have come to work every day to get better, and it's paid off.

Q. Could I get your take just on the fact that there's no West Coast teams here, that it's an all Midwestern semifinal.
COACH McCUTCHEON: I think it speaks just to the parity -- the increased parity of volleyball. There's good teams all over the country now. Perhaps at one point it used to be a little more West Coast dominated, but it seems that there's great volleyball players and great volleyball programs everywhere.

Q. Coach, when you were doing USA stuff, you play in lots of different formats, the pool play and tournament play. What do you think of the NCAA Tournament and the excitement, I guess, of this event?
COACH McCUTCHEON: I think it's a great event. It's been a great thing to be a part of. Obviously, each week, as you progress, the attention amplifies exponentially.

But I think what it's doing for our game, the exposure we're getting on television and through the press, the quality of volleyball that's being played in the tournament across the board, it's wonderful. Again, I think it speaks to this earlier point of the overall development of the game in this country and how it's continuing to grow, and the tournament is a big part of that growth, and it's an important part of that growth.

Q. Coach, just a little bit of playoff stats. Just in your area alone, between your program and Concordia, can you talk about the growth of the game in the immediate area there to your campus.
COACH McCUTCHEON: Sure, we're very fortunate to be in a state where volleyball matters. It's high school, club level, and obviously into the collegiate space as well. There's a lot of good programs and a lot of people that care about it. It's great to be in a place where it's that important. And that gets played out a lot of different ways, but for us, one of the ways that gets manifested is the crowd support. We get to play in front of a packed house more often than not, and there aren't many places in the country, let alone in the world, where you get to compete in front of 5,700 people or whatever. It's a phenomenal thing.

So it's great that we've got such good fans in Minnesota, but I think it speaks to the popularity of the sport in the state.

Q. Hugh, what was it like to put the ball in Samantha's hands so early in her career at the age she was? And then for Paige and Daly, how did you guys maybe help her along or help her kind of come along this season?
COACH McCUTCHEON: It was pretty easy to put the ball in her hands. The kid can play. She knows how to dish the rock. She knows how to set. She knows how to keep hitters in rhythm and how to run an offense. We recruited her for that reason.

PAIGE TAPP: I think she's a very skilled volleyball player. Even though she's a freshman, she definitely shows her leadership on the court. She was able to come in, and we trust that she knows what she's doing. In the heat of battle, she definitely steps up to those moments. Despite her age, she's definitely a leader and has maturity in her volleyball game.

DALY SANTANA: Yeah, another thing, I think she came in ready to work, and I think that's all you can ask for, someone that's going to come in and work hard. I think it's always tough to have hitters adjust to a new setter and for a setter to adjust to new hitters. But she came in with a great mentality, and I think that will help.

Q. Paige, you guys obviously started out and lost the first two matches of this season, and the expectations were obviously really high. What did those first two losses teach you, or what did that do to the team to start out that way?
PAIGE TAPP: It just showed that we had to mature a little bit as a team, and we still weren't where we needed to be, and we just have to come in every day and get better.

As the season moved on, we did a really nice job at that, working hard in practice and taking every game -- making sure that we played each game like it was extremely important.

Q. [ No microphone ] Big Ten versus Big 12?
COACH McCUTCHEON: No, conference-wise, first of all, Big Ten is just an awesome conference to be in, and I mean that in every sense of the word. How great that we've got two Big Ten teams here. I don't mean anything against the Big 12, but I barely can pay attention to our conference let alone what their conference is and what it means.

So we're very proud to have two teams representing the Big Ten here. We're just worrying about our next opponent, and that's really all there is to it. I don't think there's more there than that.

Q. For both of the athletes, we've talked a lot about how the team made that commitment to hard work and to getting better this year. Why this year? Why is it that this year was the year that you guys finally -- everything clicked for you and you decided that everybody would get on board with this commitment?
DALY SANTANA: I would say why not this year? I think everyone in this group kind of understood what hard work -- or I guess how much hard work needed to be put in for us to reach the goals that we needed, that we wanted. So I think everything just kind of fell into place.

Overall, we just made that decision as a unit, you know what I mean? All of us together made that decision to, I guess, be the team that we wanted to be this year.

PAIGE TAPP: Yeah, it's definitely something that doesn't happen overnight, and I think every single person on this team was ready to work hard every single day. That's what we've done for the past year, and it's definitely paid off.

Q. Paige, Daly, Nebraska is in the middle of finals week. Where are you guys in the semester? I'm just curious. Are you in the middle of classes? Finals? Are finals looming?
COACH McCUTCHEON: Paige, tell us about your day today. What have you got on tap?

PAIGE TAPP: I woke up at 6:00 a.m., took a final, came here, and I'll go back to the hotel and take another one. It's pretty busy.

All of us have finals this week or next week. We're just trying to stay on top of it and focus on Texas.

Q. Hugh, four of your players were named All-American team today. That's the most in Gophers history. Could you address that fact for us, please.
COACH McCUTCHEON: I wasn't aware of that fact. That's me addressing it. It's great to get that recognition. Obviously, it validates the hard work and the stuff that's gone on. Most importantly, I think it speaks to what this team has done. Obviously, individuals get the recognition, but it speaks more to the work this whole group put in, and I think that's the way everyone sees this. These are Minnesota awards as much as they are anyone's.

Q. Coach, when you look at Texas and your statistics, there's one player on both teams that gets a lot more swings than anybody else. When you're going up against a team like that, what's that like to prepare for?
COACH McCUTCHEON: Every team has the patterns that they play to or play with. So throughout the scouting process, you do your best to figure out how you're going to leverage your strengths and maybe exploit some of their weaknesses.

But at this stage of the tournament, most teams, first of all, are kind of what they are, but more importantly, everyone's really good. So as much as we're going to focus on Texas, it's equally, if not more important, to make sure that we take care of the things that we need to take care of. The ability to do what you do becomes critical at this point.

Yeah, Texas, they've got a lot of good players. They've got a lot of ways they can hurt you. I think probably you could say that about us. It's going to come down to, like I said, who's going to stick to the plan, but who can manage themselves.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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