|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
December 14, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Nebraska. We will start with opening comments by coach.
JOHN COOK: Callie Schwarzenbach informed me today there's only two teams practicing, and we're one of them.
We're excited to be in the national championship match. Got to get to practice and prepare. Stanford is a good team. It's going to be a great challenge.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Mikaela and Kenzie, you've watched Stanford. Haven't played them in your career. What do you have to do to win tomorrow night? What about the blocks?
MIKAELA FOECKE: I think the biggest thing for us is just playing Nebraska volleyball, focusing on our side of the net, doing the things we can control. Hopefully we shouldn't have anything else to worry about.
KENZIE MALONEY: Yeah, I know in practice we work a lot on tooling the block, hitting high lines. It's something we're really comfortable with. Hopefully it will be an advantage for us to have a big block up there tomorrow.
Q. Kenzie, can you tell me a little bit about how you saw your younger teammates gather themselves after a little bit of a rough start last night.
KENZIE MALONEY: Yeah, I think coming out, everybody had a lot of nerves, not just freshmen, everyone involved. But, yeah, I thought Nicklin and Megan really stepped up when we needed them to. Megan had a great game, digging everything. Nicklin ran the show. She was just playing her game, kind of took over the match in sets three through five. I'm just really proud of them.
Q. Kenzie, Mikaela is an excellent player throughout the season and an extraordinary player throughout the Final Four. What is about her that allows her to elevate her game at this time of year?
KENZIE MALONEY: Yeah, we kind of talked about it in practice a few times. Mikaela just has confidence. She always trusts her training when she goes into big matches like that. She stays composed, keeps the rest of us composed, as well.
I think the bigger the stage for her, the more confidence she has. She just runs with that.
Q. Was there anything you had to adjust to with the atmosphere, the music between the points? Have you talked about that?
MIKAELA FOECKE: I think there's always a big adjustment when you're coming to the Final Four. It's in a huge stage, in front of a ton of people, not everyone is used to playing in front of. I think the adrenaline of being at the Final Four is a big part of that, as well. The first two sets, we didn't handle that pressure very well. We were able to come back in the third and really bounce back.
KENZIE MALONEY: I don't know, there's a lot of distractions going on like in the huddles, whatnot, on the big screens. I think making sure we stay focused, listening to what our coaches are telling us, focusing on adjustments.
Q. Kenzie, given the nature of last night's victory, how long did it take you guys to calm down and look at what lies tomorrow?
KENZIE MALONEY: Maybe not until this morning. I don't know, we're roommates, we were both really excited. It was hard for us to get to sleep.
Obviously it was a great win, but now we got to kind of put that behind us and just focus on taking care of business tomorrow night.
Q. Kenzie, were you able to watch the replay of the match, video highlights? What plays did you notice?
KENZIE MALONEY: I haven't watched the full game, but I saw some highlights on Twitter and whatnot.
I don't know, I think just focusing on the big plays, the things that we did well is something we should really take into tomorrow night just to give us confidence. Just really focus on making those big plays and not being afraid of failing, just going for it.
Q. Mikaela, coach has talked a couple of times about how he believes perhaps your upbringing on a farm is part of what gave you a good work ethic. Tell us a little bit more about that, the kind of farm your family had, things you might have learned during your childhood.
MIKAELA FOECKE: I think that's really just what the people you surround yourself with. Obviously here at Nebraska, everyone is working just as hard, pushing themselves to get better. I think that just started from a young age for me with my parents, the work ethic they have. I really give the credit to them. They really exemplified what hard work meant, so...
Q. Kenzie, do you agree with John that this team has liked practicing this year? If so, why?
KENZIE MALONEY: We've liked practicing?
KENZIE MALONEY: Yeah, I would say so. The main reason is just because we like being together. I mean, I don't know, I just think the relationships that we have with each other are genuine. It's fun to get into the practice gym, get better, learn with each other every day.
Q. Kenzie, given the reputations of both of these teams, does it feel like a heavyweight match tomorrow?
KENZIE MALONEY: Yeah, for sure. Just because we've never played Stanford, so we're going to have to do a little bit extra scouting probably. Obviously Stanford is a great program. They have a lot of great players, can terminate balls just as well as we can. It will be a really great match.
Q. With the size that Stanford has, there are times tomorrow where they're going to be able to put balls down even if you are in the right spots, block balls. How has the adversity that this team has faced this year developed a mental toughness to withstand that?
MIKAELA FOECKE: I think the biggest thing with that is play point by point. Obviously you can't win every single point. Brushing off the last one, moving forward as quickly as you can.
KENZIE MALONEY: I agree with that completely. Also going through Big Ten season really prepares us for that. Every team that we play in the Big Ten gets big kills and makes blocks against us. We're kind of used to that. Just bouncing back, not really focusing on those kills that they get, focusing on our side.
Q. You're probably sad you have one match left. But how happy are you no matter what you have one more news conference to go, Mikaela?
MIKAELA FOECKE: You guys aren't so bad (laughter).
Q. (No microphone.)
MIKAELA FOECKE: Really I'd stick to my answer.
No, really though, my parents were the ones. I think because it is hard work, I think being an only child, you really look to them. That was a big part of it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We will continue with questions for coach.
Q. Did you have a chance to look at the game film from last night, what you saw with the team blocks?
JOHN COOK: No, no. I just know we're going to work on it in practice today, what we got to fix. It was a short night. We've already had a full day today. This obviously being the highlight.
Q. It seems like every year we talk about more and more parity in the sport. Looked like there might have been some new faces at the Final Four. Here we are with Nebraska and Stanford again. What allows these two programs to keep reaching the mountaintop?
JOHN COOK: It's a great question. I don't have an answer for that. I just know I think both programs have high expectations. When players go to those schools, they know what they're in for. So there's tradition at both those schools. Probably the cultures are a lot different from Stanford and Nebraska.
I know parking and going out to eat is a lot cheaper in Lincoln than in Palo Alto. But yeah, I mean, Stanford is one of the premier programs in volleyball. They are in a lot of sports, so...
Q. It's not like there's any secrets. What is Stanford saying to themselves in their scouting report that they have to do to beat Nebraska?
JOHN COOK: I don't really know how they approach it or how they scout, how they prepare. I think hopefully they're worried about our serve blocking defense. They know this is a team that has won a lot of big matches to get here, a lot of big, close matches against a lot of really good teams.
Q. You've talked about all the things you had to overcome this year. What are the reasons we shouldn't be surprised you're back in the championship match?
JOHN COOK: Mikaela and Kenzie. That's why we shouldn't be surprised. It's hard to bet against those guys, if it was legal in the NCAA. Of course, it's not legal in the NCAA. But if it was, it would be hard to bet against those guys.
Like I said, that's what I've been saying. I don't really know how to explain it. That's the common denominator, is those guys.
Q. On the recruiting trail, how much are you and Stanford crossing paths?
JOHN COOK: Let's see. We recruited Jenna Gray, Audriana Fitzmorris. We were the first ones I think to offer Morgan Hentz. Rest of those guys are pretty much from California or Canada.
I think we do cross a lot. But I think once a student-athlete has a shot to go to Stanford, it's tough to recruit against that. Stanford always makes them wait till they can find out if they get into school. Recruiting has been really early. When they say they're waiting for Stanford, it's hard to hang in there till they're a junior, to find out if they get in or not.
Yeah, the Midwest kids, I think there's a lot of overlap.
Q. You've seen a lot of great classes in your time as a coach. Where does this Stanford class rank?
JOHN COOK: Last year we had to beat what people said was the greatest recruiting class ever at Penn State. Illinois had the number one recruiting class of seniors. We're used to playing against these top-rated recruiting classes.
We had the number one class, which were seniors in 2016. There's something to that. It comes down to it's a team effort. You got to play well on these big stages.
Q. How does it change your team when Lexi is having a good match?
JOHN COOK: Well, it helps us be balanced. She bails us out of system-type plays. Last night we were out of system a lot. It takes a load off Mikaela. Tomorrow night we're going to need to have everybody hitting on all cylinders attacking-wise. We're going to have to be balanced. A couple of people have to have some big matches.
Q. What stands out about some of those secondary contributions you got last night?
JOHN COOK: Like I said, we can't try to think that Mikaela can carry us against these teams. We always promote and try to get our team to understand that everybody contributes, everybody has a chance to help our team win.
We typically, after matches, are giving positive reinforcement to Megan Miller or Capri, what difference they made. We've been building that all year.
They feel like maybe it's one kill, one dig, one ace, but that could be the difference in a match. Last night, if you look at total points, it was a two-point difference. That's the way it is this time of year. Every point really matters. You got to fight for every point. Any time those guys can make a contribution or find a way to get us a point, it's a huge deal.
Q. Now that she's done, Jordyn Poulter, in your time in the college game, where does she rank as a setter?
JOHN COOK: As good as any setter I've ever seen. She's as good as anybody. I think Sam and her are two very elite setters. I think Jordyn has more potential to go beyond college just because of her size. But I'd rank them with any setters I've coached against in the last 25 years.
The thing about Jordyn this year is I saw her leadership with that Illinois team. She willed that team. She got that team to play better than the parts that they had, especially at certain times. I mean, they were phenomenal.
Q. How does your talent on this year's team compare to some of your other best teams at Nebraska?
JOHN COOK: I mean, like last year, I don't think -- by far, they weren't the most talented team. Did we have a first team All-American last year? I don't know.
JOHN COOK: We had one. I think Stanford's whole team is All-Americans.
2007 was the most talented team I've ever been around. Olympians, how many did we have on that team? Three Olympians. If we're comparing apples to apples, I'm not sure how many Olympians we got on this team.
I don't know if that gives you a reference or not.
Q. All things said, how would you rate yourself this year for having taken a team with so many new players, assistant coaches since they seem to leave you every year, talk about yourself a little bit.
JOHN COOK: Well, last year was a magical year for us. I thought, it doesn't get much better than this. I think this year has gone up another notch. We've had so many new players, playing so many young players. Jaylen is a very young coach. It's really his first time in women's volleyball.
To be the number one defensive team in the country, with a 5'9" setter, it's not Poulter up there blocking. Poulter is a great blocker, for example.
I'm very proud of what this team's done. I've really, really enjoyed the process because of Mikaela and Kenzie. Last January as soon as we got back to school, I called those guys in, said, Here is the deal. You guys are captains. They both looked at me like, We're captains already? Yeah, it's by default because we really don't have anybody else. You're going to be the captains.
I don't think either one of those guys were going through their career saying, I can't wait to be a captain. The work we did to develop those two as leaders, the work we did to bring everybody in, build this team, get to where we're playing for a national championship, it's pretty special.
Yeah, it's been a really cool process. You can hear when these guys talk about how close they are, how connected they are. Again, that is not just something that just happens. That is a lot of work. It's pretty cool to be around student-athletes when they invest in that, they believe in it, they trust the process, they work at it.
We had several times to implode the ship. I mean, we lost three in a row. All these guys from Nebraska, all I'm reading about, we never lost three in a row, lost five out of seven. These guys didn't even flinch.
It's pretty rewarding. I think that's what you want as a coach. You want to see your team get better, go through the process, peak at the end. I was looking at I think Mikaela and Kenzie's record now in the month of November and December, remember this is November in the Big Ten for four years, counting those matches, I think they're 52-2. We're pretty prideful about that. It's pretty cool.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much.
JOHN COOK: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports