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December 13, 2017

Kevin Hambly

Audriana Fitzmorris

Jenna Gray

Kathryn Plummer

Kansas City, Mo.

THE MODERATOR: We welcome the Stanford Cardinal who advanced out of the Stanford Regional and come into the Women's Volleyball national semifinal matches with an overall record of 30-3 under the direction of head coach Kevin Hambly. Also joining us today are student-athletes Kathryn Plummer, Jenna Gray, and Audriana Fitzmorris. We'll remind everyone that we'll start with opening comments from Coach Hambly, followed by questions for the student-athletes.

Coach, first off, your thoughts on the upcoming match-up against the Florida Gators?

KEVIN HAMBLY: We're thrilled and excited to be in Kansas City. It's really nice to have Jenna and Fitz out here in front of their home crowd. I knew that was a goal there when they were 10, 12 years old. How old are you guys? Yeah, 10 years old when the Final Four took place here to be a part of that. I'm glad that we could accomplish that for them, and for this group of great athletes and great players.

I think the team has been playing at a high level, and they're excited for the match-up with Florida and they're excited to be here and kind of show what they're about.

Florida is going to be a very physical, very good blocking team, a very good defensive team. From a match-up standpoint, there are not a lot of teams that can match us, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out and how the matches play out. As always, it always comes down to serve-pass, and I think in this game like every other one, it's going to be a big key for the match.

Q. For Audriana and Jenna, I know you guys have been playing together for a long time, and when was the first time you guys played together and is that how you met and began your friendship?
JENNA GRAY: Yeah, was it high school? High school came first. It was our freshman year of high school. We met in 8th grade a little before that when we were deciding because we went to Catholic school, so it's like you kind of decide regular high school. But, yeah, that was our first time together.

Q. How does it help you at this level when a lot of girls enter college and are trying to get used to new teammates and when you've already played with your setter for four years how does that help you guys?
AUDRIANA FITZMORRIS: Yeah, it makes the transition so much smoother on the volleyball aspect. Going in and playing volleyball at Stanford is an incredible opportunity, and I was really excited to be playing with a teammate from high school and club, and excited to share those next four years together.

Q. Audriana, three of you guys being 6'6" or taller, Kathryn too, what's it like having that big front line and being effective like you guys have been?
AUDRIANA FITZMORRIS: Yeah, it feels incredible being up there and having so much faith in the teammates beside you, and having other tall girls up there too. It really helps with our blocking I feel like, and yeah, it's helped us quite a bit. But we're also a lot more than that, so, yeah.

Q. Audriana and Jenna, can you summarize when you landed, what has happened since you've landed? What's your day been like? What has all the time here been like? What kind of restrictions are you under while you're here?
JENNA GRAY: We landed late on Monday night, got back to the hotel, started studying for my final. Took a final Tuesday morning, went to practice, went to dinner, came back, started studying for another final, took a final this morning, and then came here.

AUDRIANA FITZMORRIS: Same schedule, same finals.

JENNA GRAY: Same classes.


Q. Following up, because of your finals schedule, emotionally has it been tough not having a chance to mingle with those who would like to welcome you back?
AUDRIANA FITZMORRIS: Yeah, I think being here for two years is really cool and being able to see all these people that I meet and I've met before from one of my past club coaches is one of the greeters coming in, so that's been really great. However our first focus was on the finals, to get those done, and done hopefully well. Now we're just really excited to be looking forward to our next match and how we can do to prepare.

JENNA GRAY: I think the distraction has been a little nice too. It's kind of easy to want to go see your friends and family, but right now we are more focused on the team, because obviously we have much bigger things on our plate, and I can always go and hang out with them afterwards.

Q. When you guys were deciding college decisions, how important was it for you guys to go to the same place, and what lured each of you to Stanford?
JENNA GRAY: We didn't really talk a whole lot about it before because Stanford, the process is a little different with having to get in academically. So I don't know when she knew she wanted to go to Stanford, but when I knew, the only other person that knew were my parents.

I had to wait to get in. I got accepted the summer going into my senior year, and so did she. We kind of had an idea we both were going there, but it was like, I don't really know. But we definitely were excited when we found out we were going together.

AUDRIANA FITZMORRIS: We found a lot of the things that we valued in Stanford and the community and the culture of it. It was a really an incredible process that led us to Stanford, so I'm really thankful for that.

Q. Kathryn, for yourself as well, you guys are a pretty young team. What's made you guys click the past two years? To make a second straight Final Four run with being such a young team?
KATHRYN PLUMMER: I think being a young team, our freshman year we kind of relied on the leadership of Inky, she kind of showed us the ropes. Told us what the Final Four was all about being here kind of all throughout the season, she led us on this journey. This year, I think, sophomores, our class is pretty big, and we kind of have taken leadership roles that sophomores don't really have to take, but we accepted it with open arms.

I think that being sophomores and being some of the key components of our team has helped us learn and helped other people learn, and I think we've learned from upperclassmen and they've learned from us. So I think it's a really good mix.

Q. Talking to Coach Dorsey, what's she really meant to you guys and not only leading to Stanford, but she went to last year's Final Four, and obviously going to be here this year too?
JENNA GRAY: Yeah, I'm really excited. I've been talking to her about this for a really long time. She's on the board or she's helping with the AVCA. But she's been a huge role in my volleyball career. She was there even before I played there. So I'm excited to come back. All of her kids are coming this time, so, yeah, I'm really excited.

AUDRIANA FITZMORRIS: I'm so excited. Miss Dorsey had a great impact on my life in volleyball, but also outside of volleyball. So it was incredible to see her last year and to be home and be here with her kids. We're really looking forward to it.

Q. From taking Illinois to the Final Four, what did you learn that you wanted to apply to this year's team as far as loosening them up, pulling the reigns or what you want to accomplish here?
KEVIN HAMBLY: I think, first off, this whole thing, coming to the Final Four is different than any experience you have anywhere else. I'm not sure that I was prepared for what this is, the show that it is. Not the volleyball match, but the event around it. I actually reached out to Denise and she gave me a lot of great advice once we found out we were coming to the Final Four and talked about a lot of things.

So we followed through with the same kind of plan, but I wasn't prepared for everything that there was. So I'm glad that I had been through that. So then I could help kind of prepare the players and talk to the players about it.

Them going through it last year, a lot of them are prepared for that as well. From a coaching standpoint, just trying to get better and getting them to play the best volleyball you can this time of year. I'm not sure that we did at the end last year. We had a nice match against SC. With Illinois, I'm not sure we played our best volleyball. I think we peaked a couple weeks too soon. So I've tried a couple different things to get us going in that direction as far as how we trained and all that.

Then the thing that I took away from it, you mentioned being loose, but I make sure they are themselves all the time and they are loose. That's one of the biggest keys in this Final Four. I thought that going into it, and it just confirmed it when I was there. This group is pretty good at that.

They're pretty good at being loose. Goofy at times. I think most coaches might be frustrated with how goofy they are. I've embraced it, because it obviously worked for them and that's who they are. Being loose, it would surprise you how loose this group is in some of the biggest moments. It's actually really fun to be around. They know who they are, certainly, and that's that part's not hard for them either. I think that we're pretty fortunate to have these kids that have a great understanding of that and naturally want to play in a kind of loose manner.

Q. When you came here the last time and got to the final, what personally are you drawing upon from that as a coach this many years later?
KEVIN HAMBLY: Yeah, I think it's a little different than what was just asked, because I think the one thing I did is I grinded really hard on the teams as far as the scouting, and we are now, don't get me wrong. But the minute that we won the final, we found out we were going to the final, I removed myself from the team and spent a lot of time focusing on UCLA. I'm not going to do that this time. I felt disconnected when we got to the final from the group.

I felt like we went to practice, but the rest of the time I skipped out on the dinners and all that stuff and I just worried about volleyball. That wasn't what I did the rest of the time with the team. We were around the team a lot, and I felt like that had an impact. I won't do that this time. I'll just do the same as it always is and treat it the same and trust the amount of work we've put in.

The thing you realize with that quick of a turnaround, certainly the scouting and game plan is important, and we'll do a great job of that and I have a great staff, but how the players are connected and how the staff is -- the mentality that all of us go into the match with, and us staying loose and being ourselves as well as a staff, I think, is just as important.

It really comes down to the individual performances of the athletes more than the game plan in that match. Every match I've watched it feels more that way. It's about how do you perform, not how well do you execute your game plan because of the quick turn around. That's what I've learned and that's what I'm going to try.

Coaches that have all been here, they've done it a lot more than I have. I only have one experience with that. So if it doesn't work, I'll keep trying it out and see how I can be better, and hopefully I'll have a lot of opportunities to be back here.

Q. You obviously knew what Audriana and Jenna could do on the floor from seeing them as an opponent in the past, but when you got to know them as people, what did you learn most about them?
KEVIN HAMBLY: They're very different, so I'll talk about them individually. Audriana is one of the best learners I've ever been around, and most eager learners I've been around. Every single day at practice she just wants to know what can I work on individually, here's the drill, what do you want me focusing on, and we have that conversation. She just wants to get better and better and better. And we want to say, we want to try this little wrinkle, she's going to do it until she figures it out. She's very special that way. She's a great human being on top of that. But I just love the way she wants to learn and grow.

Jenna, she's very athletic, and she's a great setter and she can block and she can serve and she can do all these things. But the thing that I had no idea until you start working with her is what a great leader she is. I think our success this year has a lot to do with that, of her development as a leader and embracing that role of being a leader.

It's hard for a sophomore to take over a team, especially when you have Merete Lutz, who has been an All-American four years in a row now. There is an assumed leadership that's placed on Merete, and Merete has taken that on. Jenna had to kind of force her way in there to be one of our leaders, if not our (primary) leader, and Merete had to step aside and lead with Jenna. When that happened with the group, I saw us take off.

The more Jenna embraced that, the better we got as a team, and I think that's a huge key. Her emotional quotient and her awareness of what the team needs in each moment is as good as I've been around. She's very special that way. You couldn't know that from watching her set a ball and block a ball and serve. You just don't see that. Being with her day-in and day-out and seeing the impact she has on others and making others better is fantastic.

Q. I know Jenna and the Elite Eight match had a couple of big aces early on and shifted momentum in that first set. She leads the team in aces. Is that another area of her game that's really kind of blossomed along with, obviously, setting?
KEVIN HAMBLY: Yeah, she throws a javelin. She's an All-American javelin thrower. Went through the spring, and to be honest, we didn't focus much on her serve. We were more worried about her tempo. She's a setter, so it was much more about how we want her to run the offense and things like that, and how we want her in transition and those kind of things.

During the summer, her and I were talking and just said in the fall, you've got this great arm, how can we use it? The one place I think we might be able to is on the service line. Because we're not going to set you balls. You're not going to be our transitioned attacker, which maybe we can do some of that, but where can we use this great gift that you have and how do we maximize all the gifts of the team?

So she started messing around with a different serve over the summer camp and when we got in fall, she started working, and we started working with her on it, and she's developed a weapon, which is great to have. At times it's as tough a weapon as any serve I've seen. Bricio's serve is probably better, and that's one that comes to find with a hybrid serve. She can score points and make a run, and she's got a great lineup where she makes a run, and we've got 6'8, 6'6, and Tami Alade or whatever is blocking, and we can sneak some points.

I think that's been huge for our team, her ability to score some points and her developing that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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