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March 16, 2018

Amy Vachon

Blanca Millan

Tanesha Sutton

Austin, Texas

THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you'd like to begin with an opening statement.

AMY VACHON: We're really excited to be here. It's been 14 years since the University of Maine has made it to the NCAA tournament. These kids worked really hard this year. We played a really tough non-conference schedule. It was ranked 13th in the country. Played Mississippi State, Duke, Ohio State, Miami. They played tough teams.

They've just done a really good job, so we're really excited to be here. We know how good Texas is. We've watched film on them. We've watched them play. But we're excited. We're excited to compete. We're excited to really show what Maine basketball is all about.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Blanca, Texas is a lot taller than you guys, flat out. Your tallest starter is about 6-1and then you’ve got 6-4, 6-3. How do you combat that part of the game?
BLANCA MILLAN: We know we have to focus boxing out, basically work really hard under the basket. We know they are athletic, so we got to work with that.

TANESHA SUTTON: Basically, like Blanca said, just boxing out, rebounding, really emphasizing that. Just go out there and do what we do, attack the basket, take open shots.

Q. Blanca, how does a kid from Spain end up in Maine and how’s the NCAA Women’s Tournament playing back home?
BLANCA MILLAN: I mean, I always knew I wanted to play college basketball here. After, like, a long process of recruiting, Maine was the best thing for me. So I just came here. Now it's like living a dream.

Last year we lost the championship game so we couldn't come, so right now it's very exciting to be here. Everybody follows college basketball, and even more March Madness, so...

Q. Tanesha, Amy just had the interim tag knocked off three or four weeks ago. Can you talk about her role in bringing this team from last year to this year, to the point that you’re on right now?
TANESHA SUTTON: Coach Amy has done, like, a tremendous job with us over the past few years. She's just been working to get us to where we are now. Even with new people added to our team, we just went out there this year with the same, what should I say, motto.

She did a tremendous job. We love playing for her. She really trusts in us, too. We trust in her, too.

Q. For the players, when you stepped out of your league, you played Mississippi State, Ohio State, some of these Power Five conferences. How do you feel like you guys matched up physically, speed-wise with the programs that are supposed to have those kind of athletes?
BLANCA MILLAN: We know they are really athletic team. We just focus on our game plan and try, like, to run our things so we can stay with them. Work really, really hard, that's it.

TANESHA SUTTON: I mean, basically like what Blanca said. Just go out there with a game plan, work really hard. A lot of teams during the non-conference had a lot of height advantage and stuff over us, but we still went out there and worked hard.

Q. Blanca, what are the biggest challenges that Texas gives you from a player standpoint?
BLANCA MILLAN: I mean, I think basically they are really athletic team. We know that they play really hard basketball. It's going to be a tough game. But we also know we worked really hard, so we are ready to go out there.

Q. For both players, can you talk a little bit about the euphoria of last Friday? Winning the America East championship and now, kind of, having this whole week to process that, put that behind you, and play here in the NCAAs?
TANESHA SUTTON: We won the American East Conference championship, it was quite a day for us. All the hard work paid off. Right after that, we had to get ready for the NCAA tournament, start working on game plans, preparing for Texas.

BLANCA MILLAN: I mean, what she basically say. We had, like, three days to enjoy the wins and everything, then get back to work, so...

Q. One of the things I know about this team is that you guys are really a closely knit group. I mean, it is one of the truly close families I’ve seen in the year’s that I’ve been doing Maine basketball. Talk about how you guys get along so well and it really is that team unit.
BLANCA MILLAN: I mean, we do basically everything together. Like the freshmen that they came this year, they were so close to us. Like the first weeks, it seemed like we were at least one year together. We did a lot of, like, bonding from pre-season.

With that, it really help us on the court. Now we are, like, everything together. I think is one of the best things we have.

TANESHA SUTTON: Yeah, I think it really shows when we play on the court, too, as well.

Q. Blanca, do you guys feel like an international team? You guys have got four starters from outside the country.
BLANCA MILLAN: Yeah, I mean, it's a completely different basketball, but when you are there, like almost all of us is the second year here. I don't know, it feels like we are from here basically.

It's different, maybe because language and all that. But basketball-wise, once you know how everything works, it's basically the same.

Q. Blanca, you said at the very beginning, you said, “I always knew that I wanted to play basketball here.” But when you were in Spain, what drew you to thinking that you wanted to play college basketball in the United States and how old were you at the time?
BLANCA MILLAN: I didn't know. I was really young. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I really didn't know until I came here and saw how everything works.

THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss our student-athletes and continue with questions for coach.

Q. Amy, how does a program like Maine put together such an international flavor to its roster? How does that even develop?
AMY VACHON: Well, it goes back when we first got here, Coach Barron was the head coach. In the springtime, we were in need of players. We had lost a lot of players to not playing any more, transferring down.

In April, March, in the United States, you're not going to find a lot of Division I players still available. We really worked hard. Coach Barron went on an international (indiscernible), per se, and we signed six kids that spring. They were all international.

Since then, that class graduated in 2016, and that pipeline has remained. The kids have a great experience at Maine. Maine is a really special place. They are family. They're supported. We get great crowds. It's a great academic school.

It's hard. When their parents send them halfway across the world, they know their kids are going to be taken care of. That's really important. So the experiences that the former players have had help. We've been very fortunate to continue that pipeline.

Q. It’s one thing when you’re trying to put together, to mesh a roster, that’s put together with different parts of one state or form multiple states. But when. You’re doing it from across borders and countries, is there anything in particular that stands out that’s a challenge for that?
AMY VACHON: I mean, I think Blanca said it. At first, maybe language. They all speak English. People ask that a lot. They all speak English, they all understand English very well. But sometimes using slang terms or that kind of thing can be lost.

But basketball is basketball. No matter where you are in the world, that round ball can unite a lot of different people from a lot of different places. For us, it really has. I mean, you forget that they're all from all around the world. It's just that they're all from Maine, and it's pretty cool.

Q. How do you combat the size advantage Texas has?
AMY VACHON: I mean, it's tough. I'm hoping that the experience we had playing against the bigger teams in non-conference will help us. But you got to mix it up. Like the girls said, you have to box them out. They're going to get rebounds. They're going to get lobs. They're a lot bigger than us, so they're going to get some of those shots.

We want to try to make them take the shots that they're not comfortable taking. We understand they're bigger than us. We're not going to go down and post Nesha up against their big kids. But we'll try and do some different things, so...

Q. If you can define how it’s been for you from a personal standpoint since last January to this March, having done such a great job and them finally taking the interim tag off.
AMY VACHON: It's really surreal. I honestly get kind of emotional thinking about it. The last, I don't know, 14, 15 months have just been a rollercoaster ride. I never would have thought that this was even possible.

But I give credit, complete credit, to those 13 kids in that locker room. They said it. They trusted me and they trusted our staff completely. That's not easy. You're coming with a head coach that had never been a head coach before last January, and they completely trusted us.

It is, it's surreal, it's been an amazing experience.

Q. For those who don’t know, can you talk about why the transition was made? Did something happen with the former coach, or did something happen to him late, or maybe he’s back into coaching?
AMY VACHON: Coach Barron, Richard Barron, has been the head coach since 2011, I believe. Did a fantastic job. He hired me on as an assistant maybe a week after, so I've been with him from the beginning. Just tremendous, turned this program right around.

Then in January of 2017, in the fall he was feeling really ill, but it got to a point in January he had to step away because he was really not feeling well.

Long story short, they found out what was wrong. He had a craniotomy done in July at UCLA. They were able to really cure him. He lost his hearing in one of his ears, but he's doing fantastic.

He took a year. With all that uncertainty, the decision was made to have a year off for him so he could kind of take care of himself. He could leave the program in capable hands while he got better. Since then he's made a complete recovery.

There was a coaching change on the men's side in our school a couple weeks ago, and he was named the men's coach. I guess it's a week, two weeks ago now. He's now our men's coach and I'm the women's coach. Works out for me.

He's down the hall. He's been a great mentor to me. He's healthy and back coaching. That's the story.

Q. Did he want his old job back?
AMY VACHON: You know what, I mean, I don't know. I'll say this about Coach Barron. He's my biggest supporter. He really is. He has always said, even when he first hired me, one of the first things he said to me was, Amy, I want this to be your job when I leave.

I played at Maine. I'm from Maine. When I played, we went to the NCAA tournament every year. We beat Stanford in the first round. There's a lot of history there.

The first thing he ever said to me. I kind of looked at him like, You're crazy, no way. At that point I didn't even know if I wanted to be an assistant coach. I was pretty content with me life as a middle school guidance counselor.

I tried it because I wanted to see what it was like. He would always say that to me. So while this wasn't at all how either of us expected it to happen, when he saw how well the girls were doing, how well this program was doing that he built, I think he kind of said, You know what, it's in really good hands and I'm good with that.

Again, he's been my biggest supporter. I wouldn't be here without him.

Q. Any words of wisdom for your team regarding to how to pull an upset in the tournament? You were there for one.
AMY VACHON: I was. It was a little different. We were a 10 seed (laughter).

That being said, what I've been telling the girls all week is, first of all, to enjoy it. There are a lot of kids who never have that opportunity. So to enjoy the experience of being in the NCAA tournament. Then once you enjoy it, compete, compete like heck.

We have a game plan. I know these kids well. We've said it every game we played. We don't know what's going to happen, if we're going to win or we're going to lose. I know if they compete and leave everything on the floor, they have nothing to hang their head about. Those are the two things that I tell them.

You never know. Stranger things have happened. I really like our team. As hard as it will be for us to guard them, they have to guard us, too. We have some really, really talented players on our team. So I'm really happy for them to be able to showcase their individual skills and our team as well, so...

Q. Do you have any history with either the Texas basketball team or the city of Austin?
AMY VACHON: I do not. Our assistant coach, Jhasmin player, played at Baylor, is from Bay City. She played actually for Karen Aston for a year. Karen was an assistant at Baylor. So she has a lot of history with Texas. She has a ton of family coming.

But personally, I do not.

Q. Baylor is like a fan-favorite around here.
AMY VACHON: I bet they are. It's like a curse word to say (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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