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December 13, 2018

Jordyn Poulter

Beth Prince

Jacqueline Quade

Chris Tamas

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Nebraska - 3, Illinois - 2

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Illinois. We'll start with comments from coach.

CHRIS TAMAS: First off, words can't express how proud I am of this group. We have been beating expectations ever since we kind of started this a couple years ago. Two years ago we were picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten, finished tied for fifth, made it to the Sweet 16. This year we're picked to finish fifth preconference, able to have a really great season. I told them in the locker room, This goes down as one of the all-time best teams that I've been around. Continually beating expectations, put the challenge to them every day to just work their tails off. They did that.

I couldn't be more happy for the team. Obviously you want to win. You don't want to go out on a loss. Just really proud of them.

As far as the match goes, Nebraska is a great team. Firsthand knowledge of how they train, how hard they work, as well. I coached a couple of them for multiple years. We knew we were going to have to expect a battle. We knew they weren't going away after we won the first two sets.

Thought we could hopefully close out that third set. They caught a couple big plays on us, kind of took control of the match in the fourth set. Back and forth there in the fifth. It's what we're used to in the Big Ten.

It's a bummer we fell a little bit short. But hats off to Nebraska, the team, their team, for a good match. Again, to my team as well, for making it where we did. Just really proud of their efforts. Happy that I'm their coach and that we've been around each other day in, day out for the last couple years. Really do appreciate it.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the Illinois student-athletes.

Q. Jordyn, one of the best teams in Illinois history. Is it hard to put that in perspective yet after a loss?
JORDYN POULTER: I think this whole season we've kind of been told that we're different than a lot of Illinois teams that have been around in the last seven, eight years. We've been told that by alumni, former coaches, our own coaching staff. I think that it's great that we get to represent the university and ourselves and kind of leave that legacy.

For Ali, Blayke, and I, the seniors, it's awesome that we get to leave this way. You always want to end with a win. I think we were all looking forward to moving onto face Stanford in the championship.

Like Chris said, that's a very good Nebraska team. We were expecting a very good match. That's what we deal with in the Big Ten every night. So it comes with all the emotions. Again, we're happy to be here.

Q. Jacqueline, a career match for you today. Obviously things didn't go your way. Can you describe the emotional rollercoaster of the night?
JACQUELINE QUADE: Yeah, I would say coming out really strong the first two sets as a team is something you always really like to see, coming out pretty fast. They definitely took a hit back at us in the third and fourth. Props to them for that. I think we managed it pretty well. We were still doing really good things throughout the match. Just really came down to that fifth set, and they got us in that.

Q. Jordyn, you fought really hard in the fifth game. It seemed like the consistency of the serving and passing slipped a little bit. Was that the difference?
JORDYN POULTER: Yeah, I mean, I think it's hard when we've never been in such a high-pressure situation before. The lights get a little bigger. I think we did a good job of moving on from the next point. I think it ultimately came down to our execution in those moments.

I think the experience that Nebraska has had, their senior leadership, being in these moments, having been to the Final Four, this is their fourth time, Kenzie and Mikaela, I think that ultimately made a difference. The margin is so thin.

Q. Beth, how hard will it be to say good-bye to Jordyn and Ali?
BETH PRINCE: Yeah, I mean, I don't know college without them. I don't know living in an apartment without them. I don't know Illinois volleyball without them. That's really tough. They're my best friends. Those two and Blayke mean a lot to me as people and as teammates.

It's been incredible to get to do college with them, do life with them. It's really tough.

Q. Jordyn, I don't know if you've had a chance to talk with Ali or Blayke after the game, but when you do, what do you say to them about your time here?
JORDYN POULTER: I'm going to start crying.

You know, Blayke and I played club for two years together before we went to college. She went to NC State, then eventually came here. I think to have played the sport with someone that you've known for that long, it's always hard to say good-bye.

I think you think about the things that we had to go through. Went through a coaching change. We went through just people transferring. We went through people coming in. Ultimately we stuck it out. I think that's special. I think when we reflect on our time here, we're going to talk nothing about the losses or bad things that happened to us. We'll talk about experiences like this.

It's really special to have gotten to do this with them. Beth was in our class originally, too. It's going to be hard saying good-bye to her. Like she said, we're all kind of leaving what's comfortable, moving forward with our lives, so...

I'm going to start crying if I keep talking. Sorry.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Appreciate it. We'll continue with questions for coach.

Q. Talk about Jacqueline's performance. It didn't end the way you wanted it to, but 76 swings, she kept making some big kills throughout the entire match. Kind of a warrior performance.
CHRIS TAMAS: Yeah, absolutely. We said last year she was going partial six rotation for us, which means we had her go one time through for substitution patterns, make sure we didn't run out of subs. After that season was done, we lost to Michigan State in the Sweet 16, close to taking them to a fifth set. We just said, Hey, you got to be willing to go six rotations for us. Oh, yeah, by the way, we're going to set you, 60, 70, 80 times.

She's a real force out there. We're able to move her into a bunch of different spots. You have a great distributor in Jordyn. Obviously good ball control. It's a good recipe for having the year that she did.

We rely on her a lot. Even though everyone knows the ball is going to her, she still find as way to get a kill, keeps us in rallies. Not only that, she's got to do it on passing and the defensive end, as well.

Toughest position as there is on the court. She did a great job, as seen by her first team All-American this year. Very well-deserved by her.

Q. You worked with a couple of the Nebraska players, but not Lexi. Talk a little bit about how she hurt you tonight.
CHRIS TAMAS: Yeah, we had a good beat on her early on. Forced her into some things we didn't want her to do. I've seen Lexi play since she was in eighth grade, knew she was a good player. Not a surprise she had the night that she did.

I felt like we had her blocked, good setups. She's a phenomenal athlete, able to go over the block, go around us. She was hitting shots she wanted as the match went on. Felt we could have dug her a little bit more a few times. She was hitting really good spots. Any hitter that can do that, mix around their shots like she did, makes it difficult to get a beat on what they're doing. That was the difficulty in stopping her tonight.

Q. What did Jordyn and Ali and Blayke mean to your program?
CHRIS TAMAS: Everything. I mean, I talked about the day I took the job, just kind of had nine people in that room. Obviously those are the three of them. Knowing that Jordyn and Ali were the performance leaders on the team, Blayke, I can't say enough great things about Blayke, just accepting whatever role that we put her in. Just working hard. They all did. They all did what I asked them to do and then some.

Taking leadership of the team, great team versus great players helping out with the leading portion of it. Those three, I owe a lot to them. I owe a lot to them. I'm happy they had the year that they did, able to go out how they did.

Q. To have the 2-0 lead, especially after the way you started the second set, what were you thinking at that point? What did you see from Nebraska?
CHRIS TAMAS: We knew they weren't going to go away. You don't make it to four straight Final Fours by chance. They had one of the best outside hitters in the country with Mikaela. We knew they were going to ride her. We knew they're not going down without a fight.

Again, just part of being in our conference, especially knowing her and Kenzie and coaching Lauren. They're a force out there. It's just difficult. You have to execute really well over the course of a match. They came back. We talk a lot about the serve and pass game. You saw that in full force, full effect tonight, where I thought we had a good bead on them the first couple sets, but they came back and got some matchups that maybe they wanted, were able to pick apart some of our serve-receive, which has been a real strength for us all year.

They're a good defensive team. I think they're a top defensive team in our conference. Just makes it difficult to score points. It can get frustrating. I don't think we ever got frustrated. I just think we didn't get a couple swings we wanted to at certain times. You can't force a swing if it's not there.

We talked about putting ourselves in positions to make great choices. I thought we put ourselves in a lot of great positions tonight. I thought Nebraska made a lot of great plays. Both sides made a lot of great plays. You saw a good match because of it.

Q. John called Jordyn Poulter one of the best setters he's ever seen. Now that her career is over, how would you evaluate her career and what she's done for the program?
CHRIS TAMAS: Yeah, hands down the best setter that I've coached, not just because of her ability to distribute the ball, but her competitiveness and her will to get the team to another level. It's a big deal. Kind of like I talked about the player leadership on my team, it's just as important as the one that we provide. Man, she does it. There is not a rep I would have to say that she took off in my two years that I've coached her. That goes for the simple serve and pass to obviously the match that you saw.

It's really hard to work that hard all the time. She does it. So just appreciative of her efforts. She's going to have a bright future. She's graduating, whatever, this weekend. She'll go out and play pro USA. Future is real bright for her.

Q. When you talk to these players, they talked about how they wanted to play Nebraska, Stanford. What can you say about the competitive drive of this team and the fact that they're just confident?
CHRIS TAMAS: Yeah, something I want to instill in them from day one. There's no opponent that I don't think we can't handle. There's always a way to figure out how to score a point in this game. You just have to be sometimes craftier than some teams who we don't match up as physical as some other teams. That's what makes this team so special.

We have some good size, but I think we have to think of some ways to score some points. It takes a team of six to do that. Again, I'm a competitor, want to instill that into my teams. I have developed a bunch of them out there, they're always going to fight. We're not going away. We're not going to let anything rattle us.

We saw a bunch of good plays tonight. But it wasn't like, Oh, my gosh, we're bleeding a lot of points. A point here, a point there, get back in and take a swing. We just fell a little short tonight.

Q. When Jordyn talked about this team being different, she had the perspective of what they accomplished beyond tonight's results, what does that say about her? She can see the big picture in a tough moment.
CHRIS TAMAS: Yeah, her and Ali, Blayke have been here since the beginning. They've had some tough years, they've had a head coaching change, I think they've had a new assistant every single year they've been here. You have an AD change, all sorts of things that happen within the program.

The turmoil can be a problem. But they're just so devoted to the University of Illinois, what the University of Illinois brings to them as people, not just an athletics program, but it's a phenomenal university with phenomenal people there.

I'm happy that they're representative of what that is. Again, I'm happy to be the head coach at a great program. Yeah, they mean a lot to me, so...


CHRIS TAMAS: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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