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December 20, 2019

Kevin Hambly

Madeleine Gates

Audriana Fitzmorris

Jenna Gray

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Stanford coach Kevin Hambly and student-athletes Jenna Gray, Audriana Fitzmorris and Madeleine Gates.

KEVIN HAMBLY: Obviously we're very excited to be here playing in the championship match against Wisconsin. Should be a great match against a team that I think from afar we haven't played but we've respected and watched all year long.

For me, personally, I'm excited and relieved and glad we can extend this season as long as we possibly can, I get to coach these seniors for two more days. It's going to be tough when they're gone. Going to miss them a lot.

The fact that we can extend their senior year this long and play as many matches as we possibly can, it has some meaning for me. Obviously to end it in the national championship game, it's been our goal all year and to get to that match and be successful. So to have our goal still intact is great as well, but it's more about me hanging out with these great seniors that we get to coach and have in our lives a little bit longer.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. I think it's cool to have three people from Kansas City all in the same room. Audriana, I asked this of Kathryn yesterday. You go against big players all the time, but they're very big, Wisconsin is like you guys are, with Rettke being 6'8". How does that affect you guys? What's different about facing a team like that against maybe a team that doesn't have quite the size advantage you have?
AUDRIANA FITZMORRIS: Regardless of who we're playing, we always try to focus on our side of the net and focus keeping the ball high. That doesn't change against a team with high blockers.

And I think also, in addition to that, in addition keeping the ball high, making sure that we play our game at the end of the day. In practice we face a lot of tall hitters, and I think that prepares us very well for this match.

Q. Jenna and Audriana, take you back to a previous lifetime, your freshman year, you were down 2-0 at Wisconsin and came back and won that match and everything that's happened spun out of that. Do you think back to that, did that experience carry on with you guys as you move forward other than giving you a chance to win that year, what was the long-term ramifications there?
JENNA GRAY: Yeah, I think for a lot of us that's still one of our favorite matches, in my career, my volleyball career, and I think that match instilled a lot of confidence in us and still does to this day and shows you how much you can kind of grit it out and defend and come back from anything, especially in a packed fieldhouse. It's a long time later. It's a very different team, very different team. A cool memory and now it's looking forward to new Wisconsin team we're playing against.

Q. Jenna, Kathryn took a lot of swings last night. How important if you guys get into a tough match tomorrow will it be to distribute and get everyone involved so Kathryn doesn't run out of steam?
JENNA GRAY: It's 100 percent a team effort, and I think even last night we had hitters going up and pulling blocks and they also get some openings for Plummer. And I mean I've said it before, she's the next level so far this tournament, and we really appreciate her. But we know going into this match they're really good defensively and we'll need all hands on deck.

Q. Madeleine, not that volleyball is ever a one-on-one matchup, but I feel like when you guys, with the level that you play at, you have to look forward to playing against someone like a Dana, who is one of the best in the country at her position. How much do you guys look forward to playing a team at this level and another middle blocker of that caliber?
MADELEINE GATES: I think it's a really special opportunity. I mean, Dana has experience at the U.S.A.A. level which is really special. It's kind of pulled going to a match some ways feeling like an underdog against a player at that caliber, but again I think our team is really special and everyone on this continent is really good. So just focusing on the team as a whole and playing on our side as a team as a whole.

Q. Jenna, for the volleyball geek who wants to know about the way you dump the ball, it's pretty deceptive and pretty effective. What are some tips to the juniors out there who want to be able to do some of that on their teams?
JENNA GRAY: I would say number one thing I would say I was taught, keep your hands looking like you're setting the ball as long as possible and drop your right or left hand, whichever you're going to end up with, as late as possible. And sometimes I'll take a peek over, like, mid-rally to see if they're bunched in or not. Sometimes I'll peek over to see who is back there. If the libero is not back there, then I'll probably go for it.

Q. Madeleine, what's it like -- I know you've answered this before, but if you would indulge me, what's it like when you play against these guys, I would imagine you're thinking, oh, God, I don't like them, they're tough, you know and then all of a sudden you're teammates with them. I don't mean not like them, but the competitiveness of Stanford, everybody in the Pac-12 wants to beat Stanford and now you're part of it. What's that journey been like for you?
MADELEINE GATES: I think when you're playing against a team, at least I typically don't focus too much on the other team's personalities. But just I think I would take each game one at a time. So when we would play Stanford, I would focus on scouting them and everything. But it's been really special playing with these girls because everyone's just so supportive and also really amazing players. It's been really fun getting to know everyone and getting to play with everyone for this season.

Q. How much of an advantage do you think it gives you having experience being on the biggest stage in this kind of environment for the national championship game?
AUDRIANA FITZMORRIS: I think we bring a lot of experience, definitely. And I think that's also huge because at this big stage it's just a game of volleyball, the same net, same size of the court, same ball and I think the team that can be comfortable with that idea and kind of get into their level of game the earliest can succeed. So I think experience is really important but again being able to bring it each game and each point of that game is crucial.

Q. Eight years together and now maybe the last time maybe you'll play together, what sort of is the thought? You were little kids when you started and now here you're grown-ups getting ready to play another national championship match, what's it like for both of you?
JENNA GRAY: I hadn't really thought about that. I feel hearing that made my heart sink, made me sad. But we're hoping to go out on a high note. There's so much trust between us, whether she's in the middle or on the right side, throughout these years, I completely trust her in these big moments and it's been nice to have her by my side the last eight years. It's pretty sad seeing the end of an era.

AUDRIANA FITZMORRIS: To think back at everything we've gone together, it's pretty special, a lot of highs and lows together. And being in a relationship with someone like you go through all those things together, I think it's really strengthened our friendship. And it's crazy it's been eight years, and who knows what will happen in the future, but for now just make the most of our last game.

Q. Audriana, you came in with Jenna, Morgan and Kathryn, all four of you were considered the leaders of the team through these four years. What's the bond that you have with the four of you from everything you've accomplished?
AUDRIANA FITZMORRIS: Our class is really special. Each person brings a different personality very much so to our class and I think that's what really does make it so special, and I think again through everything that we've been through, we're very close, and I'm excited because I know after we graduate we'll remain close and be able to spend time together going forward, but it is crazy to see that this is our last game playing together but I'm excited for the friendships that I've built with everyone at Stanford and within our class and excited for the future.

Q. What concerns you guys the most about Wisconsin?
JENNA GRAY: I think just how scrappy they are on defense and especially how hard they work in transition. They're big and they're physical and they work so hard to get out especially their middles, and we know it's going to be a scrap and grind out some points. There's going to be some long rallies.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.

Q. I know you didn't recruit this bunch, but you've coached them --
KEVIN HAMBLY: Recruited them, they just didn't come to the --

Q. That's true. You've done this a long time. Classes like this just don't happen that often, where you have four players, different positions, they all fit in perfectly, and then they have this great chemistry. As somebody who has watched this for the last four years and coached it, it seems to me like it's a really kind of rare and special thing?
KEVIN HAMBLY: I think a lot of classes are highly talented or there's these classes that are ranked really high and they have all the pieces but very few come together like this. And I think people think it just happened and it's really easy. And all of them have worked really hard.

And people get excluded from that class, like Caitlin Keefe gets excluded from that class. And Madeleine Gates joins. That's one of the things she was most concerned joining this class, am I going to disrupt this chemistry, which it hasn't happened at all. It's just added to it.

All of them, including Caitlin Keefe and Michaela Keefe who we ended up redshirting her first year, but all of them brought something to this program to make it better and not all are seen on the court.

But I think for whatever reason this group worked really well together. They complemented each other in things on and off the court and worked really hard to be great volleyball players. There will be other highly touted classes that come through that will have all the pieces that will be great, but very few are able to accomplish what they've accomplished and it's really fun to be a part of it. Especially they had three years with them. And like I said, I'm going to miss it. It's just really unique and really special.

Q. How much is serve/receive going to be a factor? Wisconsin serves really well and you guys at times have had a few passing issues. Is that huge to tomorrow's result?
KEVIN HAMBLY: It's always huge. I think it's the game all the time. And especially with Wisconsin, really middle dominant. The challenge for playing -- you play Penn State, they like to set tight to their setter on their quicks. You get them off on that a little bit, you can take that away. With Wisconsin, get in the ten foot line they're still running the offense from there.

So I think we're better when we're passing it tight and we can get our middles more in front of the setter and tighter to the setter. We have two side attackers. But I think for us it's more important that we're in the system than it is that Wisconsin is in the system, with the way they plan and distribute the ball back to their main attackers, especially Rettke. So I think it's as big as it's ever been. It's as big as every match is kind of the same, but this one's especially more challenging.

Q. From a coaching perspective, Kathryn Plummer is obviously a special athlete. But why is she so difficult to slow down for the opponent on the other side and why is she able to execute at the level she is against the Minnesotas and every other top team in the country?
KEVIN HAMBLY: Great question. I think everyone sees her physicality and she certainly has some gifts and some tools. She's 6'6" and she's really strong and she hits the ball really hard and people get caught up in that a lot. But she's really, really skilled. I mean she's a really skilled player and she has all the shots. If you look at what she did last night she tipped down the line and rolled to the middle of the court, chopped, hit high flat, jammed. She had all the shots and has really worked hard on her game.

If you go back watch her her freshman year it was hit hard cross hit hard cross if you could stop that, great. And if you took it away you might be able to stop her. And she worked hard to add a lot of stuff to her game where she's as close to as unstoppable as she possibly could be at this point and I think she'll continue that. She's not a finished product. She's on the rise and she's getting better. And it's really exciting to see a player really try to master her craft. And I think we'll get in practice today and she'll be working on things.

It's not like she's just cruising into this final. She wants to be better for tomorrow.

Q. Given the fact that you coached in the Big Ten, what's your perspective on Kelly Sheffield and the body of work he's done with with this Wisconsin team to get to this point?
KEVIN HAMBLY: Done a great job. The Big Ten has a lot of great coaches, a lot of great teams, and they're one of the top programs and they have been since he got there. And they make you work for every point. They don't give you points. It's always been the case. And they scrap on defense and they compete really hard.

They talk a lot about being gritty. You see that when you play them. They're going to be gritty. And we have to be gritty back.

Q. Is it a concern that you can't set Kathryn 80 or 90 balls, she might run out of steam?
KEVIN HAMBLY: It's not part of our game plan to set her 80, 90 balls. I think I'll be surprised if we look at the box score and she doesn't have the most swings in the match. But if we can get other people going like the two we had here, the two attackers here, I think we need those guys to balance it out, we'll have a better shot to win, for sure. I don't think any of us like the number of swings she had last night. I think she did an incredible job and was extremely efficient, and we weren't getting as much production out of especially Fitzmorris took a while to get going until the third so we had to rely on her. It's nice to know that we have that. But if we end up in a five-set match relying on her the whole time, I think we'll have some issues.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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