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March 18, 2023

Alisa Kresge

Emma Utterback

Catherine Gilwee

Storrs, Connecticut, USA

Gampel Pavilion

University of Vermont Catamounts

Postgame Media Conference

UConn - 95, University of Vermont - 52

THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from coach.

ALISA KRESGE: I'm extremely proud of this Vermont group. Once again, we showed why we're sitting here, and that's toughness and grit. So I couldn't be more proud of this group. They worked extremely hard to get to this point. We've talked a lot about it, but 17 games in a row to get here is pretty hard to do.

So I'm really, really pleased with the performance today. Obviously, it didn't end the way we want, but that's a really talented UConn team. But there's some really good things that we can take from this game and stuff that we're going to build off of as we continue to build our program. As we say, you've got to play the best in order to continue to get better. I think today showed that there's things that we are able to do that's going to help develop our program even further. So next year hopefully when we have an opportunity to make a run we have a chance to be back in this situation and maybe with a different outcome.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student athletes.

Q. You heard Coach say that you hope to take some of the lessons from today's game into how you build the program moving forward. What do you think a game like today could help Vermont as y'all continue to build the program?

EMMA UTTERBACK: I think the biggest takeaway that we can get from this game is that in big pressure games how to remain ourselves. None of us have been in that experience before. We played Indiana earlier this year, but it was both of our first games, and March Madness is completely different. It's a completely different ball game.

So we'll go back to the drawing board and we'll work in this off-season on staying true to ourselves when the pressure comes and staying confident in what we bring to the table. I think that's probably the biggest thing.

CATHERINE GILWEE: Yeah, I would say playing against UConn where all the players are super talented and they're very athletic and they're big and strong. Obviously we don't have that athleticism to our advantage, so we got to be super locked in on all of our rules, all of our fundamentals on defense.

I thought we had a couple slipups, but those are the things that we're going to learn from and hopefully next year we're back in this same position and we don't have those slipups.

Q. I know this was a game you guys came to win, of course. Now that it's over, what is your biggest takeaway from this season?

CATHERINE GILWEE: Honestly, this season, I'm just so proud of this team and the UVM program as a whole. We came so far this season and we didn't start off conference how we wanted to and the fact that we were able to bounce back and go on such a long win streak just shows what we're made of.

I'm just really proud of how we were able to come together and we never folded or started pointing fingers at one another. We leaned on each other and we just came together as a whole and we were able to be successful.

EMMA UTTERBACK: Yeah, I totally agree with Cat. I think this is a historical group with a bunch of special girls. We made a lot happen for this program. We really made our community proud, and a lot of people in our community are now big UVM women's basketball fans. We made that happen. We brought the Madness back to Burlington, and we're going to keep bringing that back. We've got a lot of people coming back and we're going to grind.

And I'm just so thankful for the hard work that the girls put in each and every day and the way that they believe in me just as much as I believe in them. Trust is huge and when you have all 15 girls trusting in one another and in the coaching staff, special things happen, and that was this season. It was special.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, ladies. We'll take questions for coach now.

Q. Just wondering what your take on Aaliyah Edwards was. She had such an impressive game.

ALISA KRESGE: Well, we couldn't match her athleticism, strength, explosion. We didn't have an answer for her. The game plan was to try to double her some, but she's ready for stuff like that. I thought she did a great job getting us really deep in the paint, and then when we kind of played off her from the perimeter, she hit a couple perimeter shots.

But she's just such a worker. She works so hard. She never gives up. She's really talented and that was quite a mismatch for us. Got to give 'em credit. They know how to take advantage of the mismatches.

Q. Just similar to what I asked your players, but what do you think this experience -- you mentioned that you hope the team will be able to take things from being able to play a team like UConn, but between being able to play in the tournament in the first place to playing a team like UConn's caliber, what do you hope that can kind of translate into as the program continues to build?

ALISA KRESGE: Yeah, I think it's a lot of stuff in the off-season that we can buy into even more. Our strength and conditioning coach is excellent. But I think our players need to buy into that area even more. Obviously we're never probably going to match the athleticism, but I think we can get stronger, we can get smarter. I think there's definitely things in the off-season that we need to buy into a little bit more.

I say that with a remarkable group that bought into everything we asked of them, but we can do better, I think. It kind of set the bar for us and now we know what the bar is and now we want to move that bar up higher and go reach for the stars. So the off-season's going to be huge for this group. Conditioning levels, things like that, I think we got to do a better job, and that's really the off-season because when the season comes, it's too late.

Q. You had such a great defensive team all season, I think giving up 53 points a game. UConn had that at halftime. So A, what was the defensive plan against UConn? And B, how did they just manage to do that?

ALISA KRESGE: Yeah, I mean, UConn's pretty impressive. They know how to read defenses really well. They share the ball excellently. But I did think we kind of left each other out on an island. I think everyone was so worried about their man scoring that they forgot to play team defense.

Cat mentioned it, but those are things that I thought that we could have done better in the first half. I thought we did a decent job in that third quarter kind of cleaning up some of that stuff. But, again, you're playing a really talented team that's really smart. They know how to share the ball. They all can score. So any little lapse, they took advantage of.

But half the game I was pretty pleased with our defense, early we were leaving each other out on an island and you can't win that way.

Q. Similar to what I asked the girls as far as the takeaway for the season, but also for you, just as far as what it could mean for this program going forward, whether it be the girls that are coming back next year, but also I know you've mentioned in the past recruiting too.

ALISA KRESGE: Yeah, well, you know, getting Vermont back to this level is really important for the growth of our program. We talk a lot about it. But we want winners, and winners want to come and they want to work hard and they're going to do everything they can in their power to help your program win. So when we're out in the recruiting trail and we're talking to players, like do they have the dream of playing in the Big Dance? But what are they going to do behind the scenes so get there. Like, a Catherine Gilwee, she works so, so hard.

So we want those young women that want to work extremely hard and understand it's not going to be easy. Nothing's going to be handed to you. I thought this group for the most part really did a good job of realizing they were going to have to dig deep and find a way, that nobody was going to look at Vermont like they could just walk in a gym. They were going to give their best.

So for us, obviously, it's really exciting to get Vermont back to this level, and we've talked to players about wanting to do it and what it's going to take to do it. So I think this is only going to help us. I think it's wonderful that we can give this back to our community. The excitement around women's basketball has been incredible this year. The biggest thing is I want our players to stay hungry. They got a little taste of what this is like and now they're going to have to work twice as hard to get back here, and I'm hoping they will stay hungry and our recruits coming in, they want to do the same thing, kind of you don't want to be the group that drops the ball kind of mentality, and I'm hoping that that's what this kind of turns into at the University of Vermont.

Q. Obviously you've taken over the program about four years ago now. Did you see yourself here in this game four years ago? With this program, obviously.

ALISA KRESGE: I mean, I hoped for it. You know, we really tried hard to steal a couple really talented players in our first class and we were actually in an interim tag. So that was a little tricky trying to get players to understand, like, you could be coming here and never play for us, but you'll be coming to an incredible university, high academics, it's the right community behind you. But if you believe in us like we believe in you, we could do something special, and that's Emma and Del really bought into that.

So I thought we stole a couple really nice players in our first class. Obviously, they're really talented, and they come from a family background that no matter what, they're going to do it together. I think that's why we're sitting where we're at, because, as Emma said, there was no pointing fingers. We just lifted each other and when things didn't go well, we found a way to pick ourselves up and do it harder or do it stronger, whatever it may be.

So I don't know if I necessarily saw this, but we sure hoped for it and I think we got the right people in place that were going to work hard to try to get us here, and they did. They worked really hard and found a way.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, Coach.

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