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March 18, 2022

Jeff Walz

Emily Engstler

Hailey Van Lith

Kianna Smith

Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Louisville Cardinals

Media Conference

Louisville 83, Albany 51.

Q. Emily, seemed like the pressure you guys got on Albany especially in the first half threw them off. What did you see defensively that was working for you guys and was the point to speed them up most of the game?

EMILY ENGSTLER: Yeah, that's exactly why we did our press for the majority of that game, just to get a quick go so we could start the tournament off right, and I think we executed it perfectly.

We're a lot longer, we're a little bit quicker, and I think we did everything right.

Q. Coming out of the ACC Tournament, how important was it to not just come out with a victory today but to really step on the gas and play that way throughout the entire game.

HAILEY VAN LITH: Yeah, you know, I think the feeling that we felt in the ACC Tournament, we decided after that game that we were never going to feel that again. We had a great two weeks of practice, but at some point you've got to let that game go, and I think we've let it go. It's in the past. We've learned from it, and we've moved forward. I think we proved that in this game.

KIANNA SMITH: Yeah, and with the first game in the tournament, we just wanted to get it started off on a good note and kind of make a statement, and I feel like we did that today.

Q. Kianna, you came out really on fire in the first quarter with a 10-point start. How big was that to get you guys going offensively?

KIANNA SMITH: Yeah, I mean, I just took what the defense gave me. We've been putting up -- me and Hailey specifically have been putting up a lot of shots together these past two weeks, and it's just been paying off. I hope to keep that going these next couple games.

Q. What do you think about playing Gonzaga on Sunday?

HAILEY VAN LITH: I mean, I'm really excited. I know a lot of my people back home are going to be watching hopefully cheering for me. I know they love their Zags out there, but I'm excited. They're a great team, so it's going to be a great game, fun to be a part of. We're going to prepare for it, and yeah, we'll take care of business.

EMILY ENGSTLER: Yeah, I'm excited. I've never been to a Sweet 16 so I'm hoping this is the year to go as far as a championship. But just to even go past the second round for me is something special, especially to do it with this team. I'm just really excited to be playing with them and Gonzaga is a really good team and I think we just have to lock in the next few days and we'll be all right.

KIANNA SMITH: They're a great team and I know our coaches will have us prepared for whatever they'll throw at us.

Q. For all the players, Jeff Walz got an extension today and one of the clauses in it allows him to leave coaching after the fourth year to go into administration. Do you think that's even conceivable that he would walk away that soon?

KIANNA SMITH: I don't see it happening. Administration like as in AD or something like that?

Q. A position that pays him a lot less --

KIANNA SMITH: I think Coach Walz gets a lot of enjoyment out of yelling at us, so I think he'll stay a couple more years.

EMILY ENGSTLER: Yeah, I think he'll stay coaching a little longer than that. If it's a position that lets him talk a little more, he might grab it in a couple years. No, he loves coaching us, and we're lucky to have him.

I don't know, that's a funny question. I didn't even know --

HAILEY VAN LITH: Let's be honest. We know Walz isn't afraid to say controversial things, so I think he might lose his job faster in administration than he would coaching. He loves coaching us, and I can't see it happening, but weirder things have happened, so I guess so.

Q. Hailey, you didn't start off great shooting the ball, picked it up in the second quarter. Was it just a matter of seeing the ball go through the net or do you feel like you were pressing early on?

HAILEY VAN LITH: I mean, we have had two weeks off where we haven't played a game. I personally have been going light in practice just to manage minutes here. So like it was my first time running up and down, and it happens. I had to get my feet under me. They were good shots, they just weren't going in, and I just kept attacking and kept making the right reads and it ended up going my way.

Q. Emily, you made a couple of pretty nifty plays with your left hand today. What do you do left-handed other than that kind of play?

EMILY ENGSTLER: Usually miss a lot of left-handed lay-ups. (Laughter).

I mean, hey, from the beginning of the year, I think I've came a long way with the left hand.

I don't know, I think I work on a certain kind of left-handed lay-up.

HAILEY VAN LITH: I taught her.

EMILY ENGSTLER: I'm still trying to teach her how to make a right-handed lay-up.

HAILEY VAN LITH: I made one today.

Q. I mean other than basketball.

EMILY ENGSTLER: Good question. I eat like fork and knife with my left and I play pool with my left. And I play the guitar with my left hand. I don't know, little random things. Apparently I was ambidextrous when I was a baby.

HAILEY VAN LITH: Since when do you play guitar?

EMILY ENGSTLER: Last year. I was trying to learn.

Q. Coach said yesterday that he thought Albany might be the toughest 16 seed you've ever faced. Having played them, would you agree with that? Where would you rank them?

KIANNA SMITH: I've never played a 16 seed at Cal or here. We were a 2 seed last year so we played a 15. This is the first time we've played --

EMILY ENGSTLER: I don't know yet. I don't even know. I'm going to be honest with you.

KIANNA SMITH: They were good, though.

HAILEY VAN LITH: Yeah, they were good.

EMILY ENGSTLER: Yeah, they are a good team. They won their conference. They gave us a challenge. I just think that we showed up a little better in this situation, like we're at home. We definitely have an advantage. But I think that they put out a fight as best they could, but we pulled it out well.

Q. Emily, talk about what the 1,000 point plateau means to you in your career?

EMILY ENGSTLER: Yeah, that was really surprising. I actually had no idea, and I didn't make it in high school, so that was pretty cool. Coach Walz kind of didn't say anything, so it was a surprise. But it feels good. It feels good to be a part of that club. I'm just really excited to keep pushing on in the tournament?

Q. Will you write a song about it?

EMILY ENGSTLER: I learned one song on that guitar and it was "Our Song" by Taylor Swift, so that's the only thing I could play for you. Hailey can sing it.

HAILEY VAN LITH: I'm a die-hard T-Swift fan so I've got you on that one.

Q. Just real quick, Kenny came to the game tonight. He's had a long day, first day as coach. Is this something that he would come out here to be a part of this and kind of be around, real quick, did that mean something?

JEFF WALZ: Yeah, of course it did. I really appreciate that. Our players appreciated it. He's had a whirlwind of a day, if not two or three days. For him to take the time to come out -- Rick used to do it and it's great because Rick used to sit in the crowd, too, and it's really neat. When you're sitting out there and he's in the second row and everyone was coming up to him, and I'm sure it was crazy, but he sat there and smiled and took pictures and probably kissed some babies, all that good stuff.

It's what this athletic department has been built on and it's one of the things I've talked about being here for 15 years. It's been fun to watch the coaches support each other and then the players start to support each other, and then you get a family atmosphere that's truly that way.

It was great, and I do appreciate it. I told him that. I don't expect it to be a one-day thing. It won't surprise me -- when they're able to come to ballgames. The same way with us. I can't make it to every men's game. I've got a family, too. When you're down here on a Thursday and a Sunday and the men are playing Wednesday and Saturday, I can't be down here four nights of the week. But it really was special, and I appreciated that.

I'm going to put a challenge out to our fans, both men's fans, our women's fans. There's no reason we can't sell this lower bowl out for Sunday's game. We're a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, going to be playing the second round game against a really good Gonzaga team, and why we can't get 12,000 down here, I think we should. I think we can.

It's good basketball. There's no question about it.

I'm hoping -- I know our fans have been as loyal as can be, and I'm hoping they can drag a friend, their neighbor, somebody they like or don't like, I don't care. Just drag them down and come to the game and see what they think, because our fan base has been built on one fan at a time.

I'll get my emails. My email is online and I'll get my coaching critiques from about four different people that are always pretty consistent of what I should have done, what I did bad. Like I told you, there's nothing better when you get one in the first quarter: Pathetic. Worst basketball I've ever seen. And then you come back and win. I always reply, that didn't age very well. But it's part of it. We've built this one fan at a time.

I obviously had the opportunity this morning to be at the press conference and then the gathering this afternoon, and I had about 10 people talk about how good our players are. Not on the basketball court. But I was with my grandson and my granddaughter at the mall, and three of your kids were there and we went over to ask for a picture, and they were asking my grandchild do you play a sport, do you play basketball. And instead of just taking a picture and that's it, they invest in them, and that's what our kids do. That's why I think we have the following that we have, and hopefully we can continue to grow it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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