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December 9, 2016

Lauren Carlini

Molly Haggerty

Haleigh Nelson

Kelly Sheffield

Madison, Wisconsin

Wisconsin 3, Ohio State 2

THE MODERATOR: We have senior Lauren Carlini, senior Haleigh Nelson, and freshman Molly Haggerty. We'll start with opening comments from Coach. Then we can take questions from the student-athletes and questions from Coach.

Coach, if you'd like to start us off.

COACH SHEFFIELD: Wow. So many wow things. Wow for the fans for packing the Field House and really, really, when we needed them and how loud they were. A lot of people called in sick or skipped work or class or whatever to get in here. I'm not sure we'd do that without the fans and how they were. So that was incredible.

Wow to Geoff and his staff and Ohio State. It was a legendary match there. You really couldn't get much closer than that those last four sets. He had his team believing and fighting. You know, those guys were just making -- there were so many plays on their side.

You know, Schirmer, offensively there, when the game was on the line was ridiculous. You saw the heart of Hughes, just trying to carry that team on their back, and how good Sandbothe is. There was just incredible fight from those guys. Hats off to them. I know that's a hard loss that will stick with them for a while. We've all been in that case. I'm sure that they're proud of their efforts.

These guys up here with me and the others that are downstairs, it's -- I don't know what we were down. It was quite a bit. What do you have it as? In the fourth. What did you say it was, Diane? 19-14. So to outscore them 11-3, and I think that was off of A-Mac's serve, wasn't it? She was just really moving the ball around and really keeping them off guard. She gave us a huge lift.

Nelly just going in there -- what was that, in the fourth set? You're -- she really got into the team in a way that, you know, captains and leaders do. The strength and the confidence and how she communicated is exactly what our team needed, and the team followed her. So proud of how far she has come to demand at the biggest time, and everybody gave her full attention and responded appropriately.

Molly, holy cow. I mean, you could tell -- I don't know if there was anybody in the whole building that was having more fun than her those last couple sets, other than maybe a few other teammates wearing the jersey. But there wasn't one ounce of scared from her, and I thought Lauren did a great, great job.

So proud of our team for fighting. It's a match that obviously could have gone either way, but when our back was against the wall, I thought we responded with strength and unity and confidence and execution. Those are things we've talked about all year long. I'm so glad I get at least one more day with these guys.

Obviously, I've got a few things on my mind. So we'll let you guys ask them some questions.

Q. Haleigh, you got a condensed version of your pep talk?
HALEIGH NELSON: You know -- I'm so sorry about my voice. I don't even remember exactly what I said, just the road wasn't going to end for us tonight there. This wasn't going to be the last match that I played with these people that I love so much. I just wanted them to know that and that we were going to take the momentum back and we were going to win that match, whether it was going to take us diving into the stands, whatever it was going to take. I knew we were going to come back.

And I just wanted my teammates to know that I believe in each and every one of them. So that was just kind of what I said, but I don't remember word for word.

Q. Lauren, what was Amber serving? What was the key to that, and was that the spark that you ladies needed?
LAUREN CARLINI: I think that was the spark, along with Molly demanding the ball, Haleigh's talk during the time-out. There was just a lot of factors coming together at that moment that we were just going to become unstoppable. Amber did a great job back there, kind of like what Kelly said, moving the ball around, keeping them on their heels. It makes the blocker's job and the defense a lot easier, just getting them out of system. So she really pulled us up there.

Q. Lauren, you went to Haleigh twice on match point. Was that coincidence, or was that just where the ball had to go?
LAUREN CARLINI: No, I knew she was going to get a kill. She -- her and Molly both today were just demanding the ball. They wanted it in the big moments. So I knew she was going to get the job done. I knew that she was going to find a way to score. So I trusted her, and I gave her the ball.

Q. Lauren, how has this team's chemistry evolved over the last month, month and a half, where you guys didn't play well against Minnesota here, then you went to Nebraska, didn't play well. You guys have really been on kind of a tear since then. How has it changed for you guys to be able to start clicking the way you have been, to be prepared for a game like this?
LAUREN CARLINI: A lot of that chemistry starts in practice and recreating these moments in practice, these big moments. So when we get into match time, it's kind of natural. I think, when we get into matches, it's been stronger each and every time we played.

When those big moments come down to it at the end of the wire, at the end of games, that's when we're the strongest, when we're connecting, looking each other in the eyes, and knowing we have each other's backs. That chemistry is really what pulled us through the game, honestly. I think fourth and fifth set, battling so hard in that environment, that is what successful teams do. That is what our team has been doing is just creating that chemistry and building on it.

Q. Haleigh, you guys weren't just trying to beat a team for the third time. You weren't just trying to end a team's season or beat a team that has a chance to get to the Final Four and host the Final Four. What was that task like? A lot of pressure, I would assume, but describe what this task was all about for you guys.
HALEIGH NELSON: We really made it about us. This is our journey, and we knew that Ohio State was going to come in and give it everything they had because their road is the road home. To get to play a Final Four at home is an incredible opportunity. We knew that they were going to come in with everything they had and that we wanted this -- we were going to have to want this match more and have it show in how we played.

So we really focused on more ourselves than them and just how we showed up and the effort that we were going to bring to the table. If we knew that, if we stayed in the moment and we stuck to how we know how to play, this would work out in our favor, and we were able to do that.

But that Ohio State team, I mean, they played incredible. That was the best I've seen them play all year long. Their seniors really lead in an incredible way, and they really left their heart out there on the floor, and that was something to really -- it was really impressive.

Q. Molly, what was the feeling like in the huddle when it was 19-14 in the fourth?
MOLLY HAGGERTY: I think the whole time we stayed pretty calm. We've been in that situation before. I think that's the key, just to look each other in the eyes and have confidence in each other and know we're going to battle and get out of it. That's exactly what we did. I think it's really cool to see the seniors just lead us through. I've always looked up to them, so it was really cool to win it for them and just be able to move on.

Q. Lauren, there was a moment in the third set where it looked like Kelly was trying to get the crowd going. His arms were up in the air, trying to exhort the crowd. Does he do that often?
LAUREN CARLINI: Here and there. We had such an incredible crowd today. I've never heard the Field House louder. Hey, use it to our advantage. If Kelly's going to do it to get them going, I'm fine with that.

COACH SHEFFIELD: If I'm going to pay for these guys to come into the Field House, they'd better be getting off their rear end and saying something.

HALEIGH NELSON: I didn't see him do it, and I heard everybody roar, and I knew already what he was up to. He's stirring up trouble over there.

Q. Lauren, your coaches said that you guys aren't -- and I'm paraphrasing -- aren't quite a championship team yet, but you're getting closer. Did you feel you guys took another step tonight towards that direction of being a championship caliber team?
LAUREN CARLINI: Yeah, it's just embracing those big moments. That's one thing that we kept saying. During the huddles, during time-outs, this is the moments that we play for. This is the moments that are going to make or break a National Championship run.

So in those moments, it's just kind of what Molly said -- having the confidence in each other, trusting each other that we're going to do our jobs and get them done and execute. So just -- yeah, I guess, in those moments, just being a championship caliber team is huge. I think execution is the main key behind that.

Q. Molly, Lauren and Haleigh have been in these kind of tournament matches. This was the first time for you in this sort of heat. What was the experience like? Can you draw on any of your previous experiences that compared to it?
MOLLY HAGGERTY: I mean, I just think it's really cool that every match you play is very competitive. I try not to think of it as a different match. I just kind of want to keep my composure and just do whatever I can for the team. It's just really cool to see how the team can just play their best, and I think it's just -- I mean, tomorrow, whether we play Stanford or Florida State, it's going to be a battle, and that's the cool thing about the NCAA Tournament is no matter who you play, we're going to get their best, and that's what we've been doing so far.

THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss the student-athletes and take any questions for Coach.

Q. Kelly, you subbed in Amber, I think it was 19:15. What did you want to get from her, and would you be in the fifth set without her contributions?
COACH SHEFFIELD: We're not. We're not in the fifth set for that. Kelli Bates had a big, big-time cover to extend the match. We're not in it without Bates making that play.

But, yeah, certainly Mac, she goes back there, we're moving the ball around to different areas, you know, and their libero is really good. I don't know what she ended up passing, but I know going into the fifth, I think she was passing a 2.6, which is just lights out ridiculous. She reads and takes a lot of court.

So we tried to keep it off balance, and Mac just went back there and was -- I mean, just diming exactly where we were wanting it. We were sending it here, sending it here, sending it over there, kind of kept her out of the way and put a lot of pressure, and then we D'd up.

But to answer your question, no, we're not going in the fifth without her coming back there. But it was more than the serving. You've got to defend after the serve, and our team, we got some big stop blocks in there, got the crowd going, and you could tell our team was starting to believe a little bit. You know, there was some fight, but you could tell there was -- you know, that's hard being down that far. You're just a few points out from your season's over.

But I love the confidence that she went back in there and the fight that everybody else just kind of stayed.

Q. Coach, in a win like this, obviously, Ohio State's a great team, but do you at all feel like you dodged a bullet? Or at this point in the season, there's no such thing as a bad win?
COACH SHEFFIELD: No, that's certainly -- that was not a sign of relief down there in the locker room, believe me. That was a lot of people that were down there about as happy as they've been their entire lives.

You don't take anything for granted. It's not who's supposed to win or who's favored or what the higher seed is or anything else. You get to this level, when you get to this point in the tournament, every team is so legit. They are really good, and you're getting their absolute best shot. An entire week of focusing on the opponent and being rested and not -- you know, just locked in.

There's not relief or dodging a bullet. It is, man, when we had to respond, it was two teams making incredible plays, and we just -- we outlasted the marathon. We just -- we stayed with it. There's incredible jubilation when that happens, when you stay the course, you stay the fight, especially when you're getting your opponent's best shot.

That was a heavyweight match there, no doubt about it. It's two studly teams that were just punching each other and just making incredible effort plays and just no fear and just going back and forth, man. That's what it's all about.

Q. You just mentioned how hard it is to win games like this. In four years here, you've been to three Elite Eights now. You're on the cusp of making another Final Four. Can you appreciate what you've been able to do with these kids here in this short time before you move your focus in until tomorrow?
COACH SHEFFIELD: Wow. I'm proud of these guys. I think that's where the thought is. You're happy for them. You're happy for them. You saw -- you know, this team, they loved this sport so much. They loved playing. They loved being in the gym. They loved being around each other. The seniors, especially, put so much into it.

You're happy that they get -- they've earned the right for one more opportunity, for one more day. They've earned the opportunity to play in a match where the winner gets to go to a Final Four.

So there's no appreciation from me or thinking about it or anything else. You're just so happy for them. When you get excited after that match -- and believe me, I was fired up. But you're so excited because they get to continue. You go to those time-outs, and you see how they're talking to each other, how locked in, and the strength and just the determination, you're like, yes! Can we all just be great for them? Can we do things and communicate in a way that brings out their best.

I'm just happy they get one more day at least.

Q. It's kind of a two-part question. What's the toughest part about the turnaround, and do you have any concern that they used up a lot of emotion in this one?
COACH SHEFFIELD: I'm not worried about it at all. They'll be excited in a couple hours or whatever. Hopefully, they're down there and setting a cold tub and stretching and getting some food in them and a whole lot of liquids, water. We'll watch this match and have a couple of hours off, and we'll get back in here and turn our attention to a really good opponent.

We'll watch some film, show the team some film tonight, and get back at it early in the morning and watch some film again. I don't think it's going to be an issue getting locked back in because, like I said, you get this close to making a Final Four -- you know, that's their dream. That's their goal. We'll have their full attention when it's time to have their full attention.

Right now, the next few hours, they're going to be doing a lot of smiling, I'm sure.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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