home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


December 15, 2016

Alexis Hart

Hugh McCutcheon

Paige Tapp

Sarah Wilhite

Columbus, Ohio

Stanford - 3, Minnesota - 1

THE MODERATOR: Joined by Minnesota head coach Hugh McCutcheon and student-athletes Sarah Wilhite, Alexis Hart and Paige Tapp. Coach, thoughts on tonight?

COACH DUNNING: Congratulations to Stanford. I thought they played a very good match. And obviously we're disappointed not to continue in the tournament. But as much as it stings in the short term, when you view the body of work, lots to be proud of. And especially with this group, very proud of our season. And we have our heads high even though we didn't get to finish it the way we wanted to finish it.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Sarah, can you talk about the Stanford block? Obvious question, but it's tough to get the ball through on them but they obviously did a good job tonight in neutralizing what you guys do best?
SARAH WILHITE: Stanford is a great blocking team. They played great out there. They played hard. I just think as hitters we really had to mix up our offense and our shots to kind of combat the tall block.

But kudos to them. They played well, and they're definitely a tough team to hit against.

Q. Paige, it was an uncharacteristically quiet match for both you and Hannah. What was Stanford doing against the two of you that kind of took you out of your game?
PAIGE TAPP: I think we both just needed to have more patience on offense. They were taking away our favorite shots, and we didn't switch it up as quickly as we would have liked.

Q. Sarah, you guys obviously rallied back in the third set. What did you guys talk about in between points that really kept you guys going?
SARAH WILHITE: I think in between points we were just taking deep breaths and calming ourselves down and then switching gears from the last point, learning our lesson or celebrating, and then moving on to the next.

And I think we never lost belief throughout the game. We fought back and Stanford's a great competitor. And I just think that we approached it point to point, especially in that third set. Also in the fourth, I thought we fought hard.

Q. Sarah, Paige, you've had illustrious careers here at Minnesota. How would you evaluate the last four years for yourselves?
PAIGE TAPP: I think we're lucky to have finished it in the Final Four. We've had a great time in this program, and we've seen it evolve. And we're very lucky for the four years that we've had here and how we've just grown as players.

SARAH WILHITE: You know, it's been a privilege to play under the coaching staff, to play with the teammates that we have. And it hurts finishing this way, but we did have a great season, and I'm proud of our team. And just throughout the four years we always were fighting and we were always connected and unified, and I think that's something to be proud of.

Q. In the first set there at the end, you two had an incredible battle there with Inky Ajanaku there late, trying to finish off the set. Even though you lost that set going into extra points, talk about what you guys were feeling after that set, if you were confident finding some holes and maybe what changed there in the second set?
PAIGE TAPP: I think the first set we had some success on the pin, and we did have confidence going into the second that they made good adjustments on us, and they blocked well. And I just think that throughout the whole match it was tough. It was hard to hit against them and sometimes we were swinging not super patient on offense and we were swinging for points but not the smartest swings. So I think just learning from that and growing, looking forward.

ALEXIS HART: Yes, going off of what Sarah said, kind of just being patient. It was a big block and they're a great team. So us just waiting and hitting high and us hitting through the blocks.

Q. You're in a different situation than some of your other teammates, you have three more years at the University of Minnesota. How do you feel for your team the next three years?
ALEXIS HART: Sadly we didn't finish the way we wanted to. The seniors are amazing. And I appreciate what they've done -- Sarah giving me advice. I don't know. It's just taking each game one at a time and just playing Gopher volleyball.

Q. Sarah, you guys had talked earlier this week about how you didn't have to play special Final Four, you just had to play Gopher volleyball. Did you feel like you guys did that tonight or did the moment get a little large on you again?
SARAH WILHITE: There were moments where our energy was a little off. But I think overall we fought back, and I think it was just two teams going to battle. And I'm just proud of the way we played even though we came up short. We never lost belief, and I think it was a lot different than last year, and we'll just continue to as the team, we'll continue to grow and learn from this experience.

Q. It was such a tense and thrilling match to watch. Paige, was it a particularly exhaustive match both physically and mentally?
PAIGE TAPP: There were a lot of long rallies and they're a physical team, so they did test us that way. But I don't say it was particularly more exhausting than the Wisconsin, Nebraska or other tournament matches we've played.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. Could you talk about Stanford's freshman class? That's a pretty unusual and maybe almost unprecedented group of freshmen it seems like?
COACH MCCUTCHEON: Pretty special group, I would agree.

Q. Could you elaborate on it a little bit?
COACH MCCUTCHEON: They're all very good volleyball players. It's as good a recruiting class as you could hope for, no question.

Q. How much of an advantage was their height advantage for them, and were there other things you could have done to mitigate that?
COACH MCCUTCHEON: It's one of those things where I think you can talk about the fact that the block's going to be sizable. But we saw them in August. And it had been a while. So there's no other team really like that.

So as much as you can talk about, hey, you need to hit some different shots and do some different things, it sure seemed like it took us a while to adjust to that. With that being said, I thought Stanford was in good spots. Obviously they've done their homework and they played a great match.

Q. What has your senior class meant to you this year; they brought you to two Final Fours now, and what has it meant for your program?
COACH MCCUTCHEON: Well, it's hard to say in summary, but I think there's a number of things they brought. One was a lot of trust, that they committed to a process that initially had no kind of cause and effect to it, and it involved a lot of work and a lot of effort.

But they took that leap of faith, and obviously they've got good return on that investment. But I'm just so proud that they were able to kind of follow that path and commit so completely to what we were trying to achieve as a program.

So I'll look back on this group very fondly and they will represent the foundation of what we're trying to achieve. And to this point they've kind of set the standard of what it is to play Gopher volleyball.

Q. One thing I don't remember so much from the first match with Stanford was I remember the block. I don't remember them digging as well as they did today. Could you talk about sort of the two-headed monster of that sort of on defense, both the block and the digs?
COACH MCCUTCHEON: I thought we hit some good shots and they were able to defend them well in the back court. Now they're forcing us into some other things that we -- some shots that we don't usually have to hit. And I think that's the thing you're describing, is their back court was very clean.

I thought they did a really nice job. Very scrappy. Very disciplined. The first match was pretty choppy for everyone. Remember, it was the second match of the season for both teams. So I don't think either of us would say it was one to remember.

That being said, tonight there was a lot of good volleyball. And it's always a game of inches at this point.

And as much as we wanted to win a couple more points or hit another ball inbounds or get other stuff that was out by an inch or whatever, we just weren't able to get the plays when we needed to. And I think there's some lessons there and we'll get those and continue to weave that into the fabric of what we're trying to achieve as a program.

Q. How did you feel your team managed the moment in the semifinals this year compared to last year? Did you see some growth in your group?
COACH MCCUTCHEON: No question. I thought the energy a year ago was different than the energy tonight. Again, I think everyone would say, hey, it would have been nice to make a few more plays, no question.

But as Sarah said in her statement, I don't think there was a point where the team was out of control. We had to shift some things in terms of energy and execution, but it seemed like they were out there competing pretty well for most of it.

Q. When you first got to Minnesota and saw Sarah, did you think she would be able to take 70 swings in the Final Four and get 25 kills?
COACH MCCUTCHEON: No. No. I didn't know what she was going to do. But I wasn't thinking, geez, here's the kid that's going to lead us, because I think that's a dangerous place to operate.

I'm not one to go in with preconceived conceptions or perceptions about an athlete. Really it's about dealing with who they are right there. And then, as they continue along the process, then you get to expand what they may be capable of.

Certainly at the beginning of this year, no question I felt she had the capability to do that. But if you asked me that four years ago, I don't think so.

Q. Did you feel like one or two more plays in that fourth game right at that point, maybe about 19-17, I think Plummer made a big block on that slide to Paige, and that was a pretty big point. But were you pretty confident that you get to five and we're looking pretty good?
COACH MCCUTCHEON: Yeah, I always thought -- I think in these matches there's a point where it gets big. And I thought we were in it. We were in it. We were in it. And really probably not until the last play or two that all of a sudden our athletes became aware of their mortality.

It seemed that their play, yeah, nice stuff. But it seemed like we got on with the next point pretty well. I called a timeout because I thought more about Stanford's momentum than I thought about our lack of it.

But I always liked our chances. We can score. And clearly Stanford was feeling the heat, too. It was not like it was an offensive battle out there; it was way more about defense. Both teams had a high number of Es and Bs.

I think if we could have made them play, like I said a game of inches, a point here, point there, things might have been different. But at the end of the day it was what it was. They made some plays down the stretch and we weren't able to match it.

Q. It seems like there was one play there where Hentz made about three big digs in a row, one off her shoulder or something like that. But you guys hung in there, made some plays too. Did you feel like you were competing pretty well at that point?
COACH MCCUTCHEON: No question. Down at the end of that fourth set we made some great stuffs that they covered. Balls that were going straight down; they stuck out an arm popped up, good for them.

But as they say, right, in this job you've got to be good. You've got to be lucky. And you've got to stay healthy. I'm not saying it was luck for Stanford. But it's just a play here and a play there, things might have been different, especially when you get to this point in the season and we're talking about two sets.

But in no way does that, I think, detract from the fact that they played a good match. You've got to give credit to them. It wasn't like they lucked out or we didn't have it going our way. I thought to me it was more about execution than it was anything else.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

ASAP sports

tech 129
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297