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December 17, 2015

Jerritt Elliott

Chloe Collins

Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani

Paulina Prieto Cerame

Omaha, Nebraska

Texas - 3. Minnesota - 1 (26-24, 27-25, 23-25, 25-21)

THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started. Tonight for Texas, we have Head Coach Jerritt Elliott, Yaazie Bedart-Ghani Chloe Collins and Paulina Prieto Cerame. Texas advances to Saturday's national championship match at 6:30, with a record of 30 and 2.

Coach, if you'll start with an opening statement, we will open the floor to questions.

COACH ELLIOTT: Well, I think that was a very high-level match. I think both teams played extremely steady. You look at the side out percentages and the way the team plays and the hitting percentage, I think it was a big time semi-final match, which is great for our sport to grow it.

But we have a tremendous amount of respect for Minnesota. I think Hugh had an excellent game plan to go against us. I thought our serving did a nice job to get them out of situations. And I'm proud of this group. This is a team that never gives up. There's a reason why I love coaching this group. We lose Chi and freshmen Mo comes in, and we're able to kind of step up our game and play well. And this is, just the way that we played tonight was remarkable.

For Yaazie to play the way that she did as a freshman and with no nerves is a tribute to her. But, also, I think it's a tribute to our culture in terms of getting her ready.

I thought Chloe ran a great offense with our passers doing a nice job. I think it was an all around great match for us. It's hard for a team like Minnesota to go home playing that well. That could have gone either way. The first two sets, we got a big ace and made a couple big plays at the end. But I don't know, my mind's kind of racing as you can hear, why I'm all over the place. I'm excited for this group and so glad that I have another two days with them.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor for questions.

Q. Yaazie, what is your journey been like this year coming in as a freshman and then having probably what was your best match of your career thus far.
YAASMEEN BEDART-GHANI: I've just been building, each game, each practice, and I have such a great support group here. And they just really push you to be the best that you can be.

So, just going out there and working hard every day with them has probably made like so much of a difference in my game.

Q. Chloe, Yaazie was -- obviously, she's a freshman and she didn't play a lot the first half of this season. Did it take you a while to figure out where she likes the ball and get on the same page with her. And if so, has it finally clicked, because she's had her best matches here in the NCAA tournament?
CHLOE COLLINS: I think over time we developed that chemistry throughout practice. Even though Yaazie wasn't playing as much during the season, we would definitely get those reps in in practice so the chemistry was always there. It's just constantly building every match and through every practice and she's done really well. I'm extremely happy for her.

Q. Coach, can you give us an update on Chi's status and if she will be available Saturday night?
COACH ELLIOTT: She will be fine. It had nothing to do with conditioning, she was just cramping. I think some of the nerves maybe this -- she has a tendency that can happen. It's happened before in the season. So, we just had to -- we thought we were able to manage it through kind of a half a game, and then it got worse. And we made a decision to get her some medical attention to try to see if we could get her back in case we went to game five. But I have no worries that she will be back, no concerns.

Q. Coach, when either Kansas or Nebraska look at the tape, they're going to see that the slide for Minnesota was, just, almost 95 percent successful. What did you want your athletes to do? What did they fail to do? What would you like them to do if Nebraska or Kansas comes back?
COACH ELLIOTT: If this is a little team that could. We got some matchup issues. Amy's not a very big blocker, Chloe is not a very big blocker. We've got some situations where we got to be smart, we've got to be good with our serving and get them off the net. And I think that's what we were able to do to get them into some predictable situations.

But at this level you're going to face that. I think what we have is what our seniors have kind of labeled as amnesia. We let the big swings go and just got to be good with our offense. We don't have ways to counteract it. I thought that with the speed of it we got to be a little bit more -- we got to get over a little bit sooner and reach.

But when you run an offense like that, where you got a one and a wave, you got to respect the middle, but they're going to get one-on-one all the time. So, you hopefully do a good job with the matchups in terms of servers and some of the things that we were able to do helped us kind of get out of that.

Q. Coach, passing was an issue early in this season, ball control, a lot of people would say, Texas, if they could pass the ball there's no place they can't go. What were you successful in doing all season long to better that aspect of the game beyond just simple reps?
COACH ELLIOTT: I think Eric, my assistant, does a phenomenal job training it, and we have just been building over it.

But one of the keys is, one of the people that don't get any recognition on this team is Nicole Dalton. She was one of the reasons we won in 2012 as a DS. She's been injured, she's coming back from an injury, she wasn't able to win the starting spot with the setting and Chloe's done a phenomenal job and Nicole has now taken on a role that helps this team. And it shows a lot about what kind of people we have.

But not only is she a great passer, but she has great mentality back there and adds a calmness. So, I think we have got four good really solid passers, and we can do so some things with it and we can control the ball. And this is one of the best passing teams we have had. Not one of the most physical, but we have been able to control the ball. And with our two middles being able to hit behind, we can do some different things that can give us some advantages matchup-wise, even though we're a little bit smaller and give away some other areas. But ball control has been the staple point for this team.

Q. Coach, Yaazie didn't play a lot in the first half of the season. Was she injured or had she just not earned her way into the lineup? And talk about that, where she came from and now where she is, where she's had these last four matches have been her best of the year.
COACH ELLIOTT: Well, we knew she was good. I think Yaazie, from day one, came in committed to what she needed to do to get better. Early on, in the early practices, we had the freshmen of the year that transferred in that was playing on the right side and Yaazie was competing on the left side and had some really good practices and was battling that.

Then when we lost her, we made a concerted effort to get her over to the right. But it took a week or two to kind of get it going. And in our gym you got to prove that you can kind of get to that point. After about a week, you could just see that gaining some momentum and taking some good swings. And early on in the season, I think she was just swinging as hard as she could and kind of figuring it out. And now she's starting to get some range and some belief and able to deal with some longer balls. We've been training her more at a system and longer sets and she's done a phenomenal job on that.

But the best thing about her is that she's got a confidence about herself that she doesn't need any kind of stroking from a coaching staff to convince her what she's good. I think she has that mentality. I think she embraces these situations and I think it shows a lot to our upperclassmen to what you're doing. And that's happened, some of the things that she's done in the timeouts over the year, you can see what her confidence level as a young athlete is.

Q. Chloe, in the first set it was 15-15, no, 13-15. You executed a setter dump, and then you appeared to strut and Minnesota appeared to notice and was not happy, I think. I don't know. On the very next play they got a setter dump, their freshman, right back on you. But from then on when you would do that, you either looked right up at the ref or otherwise. Did somebody tell you not to do that? Was there any conversation about what you were doing or not doing out there in your celebration?
CHLOE COLLINS: That was just me in the moment. I was really excited for myself and the team and we got the point. Throughout practice Jerritt and I always discuss like moments when I should dump, when I shouldn't dump, and that was just one of the moments when I actually executed. So I was just caught up there. And as far as the other moments me tipping, it was just trying to have another one of those straight-down moments that didn't happen that way.

Q. Paulina, you came through in the clutch against Florida and then that first set you seemed very comfortable. Have you been growing and just feeling more comfortable late in sets and late in matches this year?
PAULINA PRIETO CERAME: I think, just with the experience that I've had and having Yaazie and other newbies in the court has made me have to step up as a veteran, and I think that's given me confidence. And I give a lot of credit to my teammates and our chemistry as to why I'm so confident about myself and each other.

Q. Coach, when Chiaka went out, they clearly wanted to go after your freshman middle. But can you talk about weathering that storm, other players maybe stepping up their games around her?
COACH ELLIOTT: Yeah, it started to happen in game two. So I was, early on, I was communicating with Mo saying, hey, this is your time -- she's been great in practice -- we have a lot of confidence in you, and let's go out there and have some fun and enjoy this moment and be the confident young lady that you can be. I think the telling, it happened we got stuck in rotation six, that's where it's ours, it's Paulina and her in there, so we only have two hitters, so the tendency is that you kind of ignore that player early on. I think that's what they did. So I called a timeout and just I called a one and made them stay and try to get them to commit and Paulina just actually went over them and got the big sideout and then we were able to sideout the next time. They scored two points and then we went away with Amy on the white to try to counteract some of the following that they were doing. Because when teams scheme, then the middle of the net is wide open. And Amy took a great swing. So it's a tribute to Chloe knowing what's going on, making good decisions, Paulina stepping up, and she's grown so much with her confidence and belief and I think she's embracing the big swings right now.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to Texas on advancing to Saturday's national championship.


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