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December 12, 2019

Dani Busboom Kelly

Austin, Texas

HEAD COACH DANI BUSBOOM KELLY: Just like the start of the NCAA Tournament, we're just really thankful to still be in it and have the opportunity to play in the Sweet 16, especially at a storied program like Texas. We're just real will I excited. We worked really hard to get here and had a lot of adversity this season, so I think that makes it even sweeter, too, to be here, one of the last 16 teams standing.

Q. At this point in the season, what do you like about your team? What are you doing really well at this point?
COACH DANI BUSBOOM KELLY: I think our edge is just our mental toughness. We've had some adversity. We lost Melanie, who was arguably one of our best players midway through the season. We struggled with that for a few weeks and battled back and started playing great at the end of the year when it mattered and it's given us confidence to be good at the end of the season.

Q. Can you describe how big of a deal it was for you guys to lose Melanie?
COACH DANI BUSBOOM KELLY: It was a huge deal. She was our only senior, captain, she led us in kills. She statistically was honestly our best player in every category. When you lose somebody like that, you think about the kills, but that wasn't even what mattered to our team. I think we had to adjust to everything else that she did and figure out ways to block balls, dig balls, pass, serve.

It took some adjusting, and I'm just really proud that we were able to adjust and when it mattered and now we're here.

Q. What did you do as a team to make up for her absence?
AIKO JONES: We had to think about the energy level brought on the court. Even though she was still off the court bringing that energy, on the court she had a really big role in terms of leadership and in terms of in tough times, we've looked to her because she always knew what to say and she always put the ball away when we needed a point.

So we all had to step up in our own roles to fill that big role that she had and each one of us had to find a new sense of leadership in ourselves to figure out how can I help the person next to me to be better what they are doing, because Mel had such a big role doing all of that as well.

TORI DILFER: Yeah, her presence was a big deal.

Physically she helped so much and we're a very different team without her but also just her presence was important to us and. It led us. It created a sense of comfort on the court, so that was really, really hard at the beginning. But she did a great job of encouraging us to everybody take on that role, not just look at one person, not just look at Aiko or Lexi or somebody that's in a leadership role, but everybody step up and take it upon yourself to do a little bit more for the person next to you.

Q. What did you learn about your players after your five-set win last weekend?
AIKO JONES: I learned we had a lot of grit, more than I already knew that we had. I learned that we want this and that we love the game so much and that we just want to see how good we can all be and that each game just means more and more to us.

It was fun, just seeing that come out in each player, yeah.

TORI DILFER: Yeah, I think it showed that we didn't need it to be perfect. We just needed to compete hard and trust and know that we were the better team and we were going to come out on top if we played like it. It was super fun like she said. It was awesome compete against somebody that we got to play previously. Both of us were super different teams early in the season, but yeah, showed a lot of grit and just showed that we really want to be in that position and we're just here to make a statement.

Q. And blocking was a pretty big deal for you guys in that match. What makes you such a good blocking team?
AIKO JONES: I think when things are pretty physical, or we like to think that, at least that, it helps.

Yeah, we have really good practices where we focus on our training and technique and stuff, and we trust that when we're playing. It comes down to the training part.

TORI DILFER: Yeah, we don't try to do too much. That's a big emphasis that our coaches put on in blocking training in practice. We are physical enough to be clean, and focus on one thing and execute really well, so don't think about it usually produces good results.

Q. What's it like taking over the setting duties as a first-year student at Louisville?
AIKO JONES: It's been fun. It's always different and hard adjusting to new players and tempo and all that, but I got to be here all spring in training with Danny and that helped having a whole spring and summer to get ready.

It was really just about like putting in the work when it really mattered, but my hitters make it real easy. They all have big window which is awesome, so I don't have to be perfect all the time. I wish I was, but you know, it's been really fun and awesome to be placed in that position and have trust for Danny and from the other players.

Q. Tori, you obviously have familiarity with Texas, so what do you know about them and what do you expect to see?
TORI DILFER: Yeah, I do think they are a very different team this year. They are more physical than I think I've ever seen them be, and just obviously a really well-rounded team, but I guess having experience against them helps. I competed with them hard. Obviously it's a different program, but they are really fun to play. They are going to bring their best, so you have to match them. You have to respect them and respect yourself to give everything, every point and really play clean volleyball. If you play clean volley pull and put pressure on them, you're in a good position.

Q. Is there one thing you pinpoint with Texas?
COACH DANI BUSBOOM KELLY: I think we focus on our side of the net and we know Texas is going to make great plays. Probably the mindset to have a next-point mentality and know that each point is just a point. You don't get extra points for bounced blocking and bounced killing balls which we know they are going to do. We have to hang in there and make sure we don't get caught up in emotion and the crowd and everything that comes along with playing Texas.

Q. How has your experience with Nebraska help you guide this team through the tournament?
COACH DANI BUSBOOM KELLY: I think just expecting to win. We talked a lot about that in the first and second round. It's just winning in our mind first and expecting to be here, and that doesn't mean we're arrogant. It just means we're looking at expectations as positivity. I think that was big at Nebraska. We expected to be in the second week every year, and I'm building this program and our staff is building it to have those similar expectations. It just means that we believe we can do it and we believe we've earned right to be here.

Q. How do you think you matchup against Texas?
COACH DANI BUSBOOM KELLY: They are very physical like we've said a few times, so we are not going to be able to match that at every position. But I do think we can play some really good volleyball and I think we are mentally tough, and so I think we're going to have to figure out a way to win and compete different than being physical.

Q. Tori, you never went to school here, right?

Q. But your family is around the area?

Q. What do you know about Austin? Are you going to have a lot of family here tomorrow?
TORI DILFER: Yeah, I'll have some family and friends. It's nice to be back in a city that's somewhat familiar. It's an awesome place and I've loved playing here the last couple of years. Yeah, I'm just really excited about it.

Q. How much did red-shirting help you become the player you've become this season?
AIKO JONES: I think it helped me a lot. I was fortunate I got to get to travel, so I got to see games and warm up and kind of feel parts of college volleyball I guess, so that helped me get a feel for the game-like situations. Just getting to focus on practicing for an entire season without worrying on playing or messing up in a game helped me so much. Helped me refine my technique. Helped me improve my vertical and just work on different things, and then putting it all together in spring, finally getting to touch the court. Yeah, I think it just helped me develop a lot of things that I needed to work on before I actually hit the court and I think I'm definitely reaping the benefits right now and I just can't wait to see how much better it gets in the years to come.

Q. Was it tough to have to watch from the sideline and not be able to contribute last year?
AIKO JONES: Absolutely. It was tougher maybe in games we were down or didn't win. It's hard to not want to contribute; okay, maybe I could go in and score a couple points. But I was surrounded by the team, and our coaches and support staff really helped me understand and be okay with not contributing at that time because of how much I'm able to contribute this season and next season and the next two after that.

But it was definitely tough watching some things happen and not being able to go in and try to help the team out.

Q. You have a young team. What are the advantages and challenges of that?
COACH DANI BUSBOOM KELLY: I think one of the advantages is, you know, we have an open mind, and we're not worried about who we are playing against or who is on the other court, or, oh, they beat us previously.

So sometimes ignorance is bliss, and we're just going to play hard and work harder to be here. So I think that's one of the advantages.

But the disadvantages, the experience. It's kind of like this team, I don't know what to expect from the mental side of the game, and in a big crowd and big situation because we haven't been there. It's a little bit tougher to prepare mentally I would say with a young team.

But they are fun, and they don't take advantage of any opportunity, and that's a huge part about having a young team is they enjoy every minute. That makes season that gets long not feel very long.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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