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December 19, 2019

Hugh McCutcheon

Stephanie Samedy

Alexis Hart

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Stanford - 3, Minnesota - 0

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon and student-athletes Stephanie Samedy and Alexis Hart.

HUGH MCCUTCHEON: First of all, congratulations to Stanford. They played a great match tonight. And for our group, obviously disappointing for this season to come to an end after so many adventures that we went on together.

But at the end of the day, they were the better team tonight, and we gotta own that. That being said, I think for me personally so much pride in our team and it was one of the greatest seasons that I've got to be a part of. So I told them a lot. I told them often what a privilege it was to work with this group.

So while the sting of tonight will last a little bit, I think it will probably fade at some point and we can look back at the body of work and feel pretty good about it.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Could you talk about Kathryn Plummer, how hard it is when she's just swinging like she was tonight, just bashing it all over the place, how do you game plan for her? And then in the course of a match, how do you try to adjust to stop her however you can?
STEPHANIE SAMEDY: Yeah, Kathryn is a really great hitter. She had a lot of range. Hitting high hitting from the seams, hitting away. She had a great match. We tried to adjust. And as you can see, the game is what it was, but she's a great hitter.

Q. Alexis, you had some good runs tonight. Were ahead in Game 2, were right in in Game 3. Did you feel you were just a couple plays here and there from kind of getting over that hill and if you got in the game you could have got the momentum you needed?
ALEXIS HART: I think both sides made good plays. So kind of going back and forth. And I just think they probably made a few more better plays, but I feel like we never lost confidence or anything. I just feel like we fought and that's all we can give.

Q. What do you feel like this year's legacy is going to be? What qualities did this team give the group this year that can last into next year?
STEPHANIE SAMEDY: I think definitely our sense of unity -- I think, like we've been saying the whole entire year, we were playing for each other, with each other. And every time we were in practice, we were trying to get better to playing hard, working to make each other better. And I think that will continue to carry on.

ALEXIS HART: Going off Steph, I feel like the team gave all our all every match.

Q. You got better hitting as the matches went on. Did you think that any were maybe tentative, maybe some nerves in the beginning? Was it an adjustment to the way they were defending? What changed from the second set to the third?
ALEXIS HART: I think every team, they scouted us, so they were aware of our deficiencies. I think as the game went on, we had more range and started hitting, I don't know, probably more confidence, as it were, just hitting high and hard.

Q. This has been a season where you guys have bucked a lot of odds and kept things going and stayed on a roll. How difficult is it tonight to face the end, when you've been able to pull out, so many times pull out wins?
STEPHANIE SAMEDY: Yeah, it definitely hurts right now. But like you said, after the sting goes away, we can look back and say, yeah, we had a good season and we were able to do some great things and be down and come back and win matches and stuff like that. So, yeah.

ALEXIS HART: I'm just really excited how the season went. I'm just really proud of this team, and I can't wait to see the team next year.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.

Q. You've obviously seen a lot of very high-level teams in your coaching experience, but just how good is this Stanford team playing right now? It seemed like they're playing well in every facet of the game.
HUGH MCCUTCHEON: Yeah, I think tonight they were really clean, yeah, I'd agree. And I thought we had some chances certainly in the second to maybe pull out a set here, and then it's hard to know.

I think in our experience with most teams, if you can get them to start thinking a little bit, then it gets a little tougher. But they were just swinging away, and they're making a lot of really good plays.

So, yeah, they're playing really well. And, again, hats off to them. If they're going to play like this tomorrow or in two days' time, they'll be tough to beat.

I guess, just to clarify, my comment was we probably weren't able to exert enough pressure on them to get them to come back down to earth.

Q. Facing a player like Plummer, how do you plan for that? What were you trying to do tonight to at least mitigate that a little bit?
HUGH MCCUTCHEON: Yeah, believe it or not, there's some patterns there, and we tried to defend in the patterns. I think probably the biggest difference tonight was that they leaned on her way more than I think usually. And maybe that's just a function of she was hot, so why not. Right?

In the first set, she was hitting .800 at one point. So when you look at a team and you look at distribution, I think generally she's about eight and a half swings per set, but tonight she was clearly 16 per set, or something like that. It's three sets, 51 swings. So a little bit different distribution.

So you've got to adjust to that. And we tried to work with some matchups that would be favorable for us offensively because we thought that was the biggest space, but in turn that gave them some matchups that favored them offensively as well.

So that ended up being kind of a wash. But she's good. She had a great night.

Q. Seemed like Alexis had some success; hence, made some great digs?
HUGH MCCUTCHEON: Yeah, she's a great libero. I thought Lexie had some great rhythm. When she gets going, I think she's as good as anyone out there on the left pin.

And obviously still hit for a pretty nice number. It's not like she was chopped liver out there. But a few balls that maybe would have been kills against other teams were not tonight. We won't know. Speculative at best.

Q. Playing Stanford, sort of a pick-your-poison type of thing, because you actually did pretty well against Audri Fitzmorris seems like for most of the match, but you get someone like that and make some plays on her, then you have to deal with --
HUGH MCCUTCHEON: The key for them is clearly Plummer. If she's good, then that creates space for everyone else. Everyone else can take a little breath. If they have to lean on everyone else, it gets a little bit different.

I don't mean that with any disrespect to the other players, because obviously they did fine without Plummer there. But that changes the nature of their offense, and the expectations for everybody within their system gets to be a little bit different.

When she's having the kind of night she's having, probably doesn't matter too much about what other people are doing. But they were fine. There was lots of spaces that got created because you had to look for her in the front row and the back row. And even if she was on the bench, I'm sure she still would kill it from over there. It was tough.

Q. Could you elaborate a little more on how much you enjoyed the ride with this group this year, how much they grew?
HUGH MCCUTCHEON: Happy to. I mean, our group, obviously, coming into the season was really enjoyable to be around. They worked hard. Practices were good. Preseason goes along, like I've told you, Rachel, everyone is undefeated, all the hopes and dreams intact, everything is pretty good.

But then we get into some significant things that happen. We actually got to beat Stanford at one point in the preseason. We had some results that were pretty good. We had a pretty gnarly preseason. I was thinking at the beginning if we could come out at .500, we would be pretty well. We ended up 6-2, at then in the season -- and then we have injuries we're dealing with, and now all of a sudden all bets are off.

It was crazy. First of all, with Ky, it's day to day, but at one point CC was out for a while and Rachel had to play libero, and she was a DS in club. She never played libero in club. And outside hitter for high school.

And then Adanna also got injured at one point, so we had to play with Claire and we had Ellie in the middle at some point. Lots of true freshmen. Lots of people just accepting their role today.

And even though at the time, I get it, those things, having to make those adjustments aren't particularly enjoyable, there was so much pride we could take from just having the depth but also having the competitive maturity to adapt and evolve to the situation and really focus on the things that we had to go to bat with today versus worrying about the things that we did. To me that's what made it enjoyable.

And of course this great little run in the tournament kind of capped it off. Finishing second in the conference, tied for second with the 17-3 record in the Big was certainly beyond my expectations going in. And came to the Final Four, getting back here for the third time in five years, pretty great.


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