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December 17, 2011

Michelle Bartsch

Kevin Hambly

Annie Luhrsen

Colleen Ward


UCLA – 3

THE MODERATOR:  I'd like to welcome Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly, followed by senior outside hitter Colleen Ward, senior outside hitter Michelle Bartsch, and junior setter Annie Luhrsen.
Coach, if you would get us started with an opening statement, please.
COACH HAMBLY:  First, I'd like to congratulate UCLA.  I thought they played hard.  I'm not sure that this was the prettiest match ever played, but they made the plays they needed to make at key moments, and in the fourth set they were at 82%.  They played exceptional and we just couldn't stop them in that set.  And we had our chances certainly to go up 2‑1 and that's what happens.  We stole 1 and 2 and they stole 1 and 3 and put themselves in the opportunity to go up 2‑1, and that's the way it goes.
For this team, I couldn't be prouder of this group.  I just‑‑ I've never been around a group of people that were more committed to each other, more committed to the process, more committed to just being, not just great volleyball players, but great people.
It's truly been a pleasure to work with this group.  And before the match I was talking to my wife and Dave and the staff, and I was just saying that no matter what happens tonight I'm going to be sad, because it's over.  It means that the time's over.
And it's hard.  I almost got emotional at practice because of that, because I just love these guys.  And it's been a fun ride that they've pulled us along on.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions for the coach or student‑athletes?

Q.  Kevin, it seemed as if your server seed struggled tonight?
COACH HAMBLY:  We didn't get too much until the fourth set.  But we were out of system a lot.  And I don't think we handled the ball the way we needed to, more so in transition stuff, first and second contacts.
But I thought going into the fourth set we weren't aced at all, we were just passing the ball.  That's tough against a team that can put up a block like they can put up.

Q.  Coach, obviously Zoë had quite a match, 11 blocks.  What was going on that you weren't getting the matchup there that you weren't looking for?
COACH HAMBLY:  Who said we didn't get the matchup we were looking for?  We got the exact matchup we wanted.  She had a great match, blocked well.  Early on we played tentative and swung low and got her going and she felt comfortable.
But I liked our matchup.  We liked putting Lizzy on Kidder.  We had that at least for two of the rotations for most of the time.

Q.  For any of the players, that third set was an awfully tough set to lose under the circumstances.  Do you feel that that was difficult to overcome going into the fourth set?
COLLEEN WARD:  Yeah, obviously UCLA played great the third match.  It could have went either way.  They got the points.  It was definitely hard for us to come back in the fourth.
But we fought hard.  They just got a huge run on us, and they didn't let us get any points.  And we struggled on the side‑out and they pulled the match out.  That's how it works.

Q.  Colleen, I know you didn't get the result you wanted, but could you talk about the journey you've been on, from Florida to Illinois and ending in the national championship?
COLLEEN WARD:  It's tough.  I'm just really grateful that I had the opportunity to come to Illinois.
I couldn't have picked a better team, better coaches, better support from our fans.  I'm really thankful for what we had here and what we accomplished this year.  I'm really proud of my team.

Q.  Is it fair to say that after the other night that you might have got a little tired towards the end and because they didn't have to expend nearly the amount of energy that you had to expend and the recovery time just may not have been enough?
COACH HAMBLY:  I don't know.  Maybe, but we're used to playing Friday/Saturday to have a day off was actually really nice.  We took it real easy yesterday trying to recover.
I wouldn't use that as an excuse at all.  We've gone five sets in tough matches in the Big Ten Friday, Saturday, to pull those out.  I think it had more to do with the UCLA's outside hitters doing a great job and Zoë getting loose on us blocking‑wise and didn't have anything to do with us being tired.  They played better.

Q.  Coach, could you talk about that block for UCLA?  It seemed like even if they weren't getting blocked, they were putting the hand on the ball and really causing a lot of havoc for you guys.
COACH HAMBLY:  They played well.  That happens.  That's going to happen when we pass the ball off the net a little bit.  We're out of system, and they can set up a nice block.
I think, more importantly, when they got the touches they converted them into good swings.  We got touches and didn't convert them or we didn't make the plays.  And I thought Kelly Reeves‑‑ and I'm going to mispronounce her name, but I'll just say Bojana; I won't try her last name‑‑ I thought they were flying all over the place making plays and creating things for them.  That was a big difference.  It was hard to score high flat off the top of the block, because they were taking up that whole end line.

Q.  Annie, seemed like you were really working a lot offensively, more in an attacking way.  Did you feel that was the product of their blocking?  Were you just trying to find holes?
ANNIE LUHRSEN:  Yeah, I've talked about it before this season, with you guys, some teams key in on me and some teams don't.  And they happened not to.
So I saw the opportunity and they used it.

Q.  The ability they have to make a sub like that and bridge Sage in for the fourth set and she was so incredibly effective, could you comment on her as a weapon and what she did.  It was something like seven or eight with no errors.
COACH HAMBLY:  It was a good change of pace for them.  I felt like we were doing a nice job on Mariana.  And all of a sudden with that fast go that they had, that was a good move by Mike to put her in there, because it got some production in the middle going where we couldn't just take off and go to the outside, which is what we were doing and give us chance to score points.
I thought it was a great move.  And she did a nice job of finding her way to get some kills and just keeping us honest.  And certainly there's a reason they scored at 82percent because there were occasions when Aquino was up there we were scoring points and running points, and I thought it was a good move and she performed well, too.  It was a good move to put her out there and she made plays.  She responded.

Q.  What did you say to Coach Sealy after the game?
COACH HAMBLY:  Just congratulations, and we talked before and if we have to lose to somebody, that's the guy I want to lose to, because I care about him.  He's a good guy.  I've known him for a long time.  And kind of exchanged that.  And at the end of the game I said, "Hey, congratulations, great job.  Your team played great."  It's what you normally say at the end of a match, to be honest.

Q.  You guys had 11 service errors as opposed to their zero.  Talk about just the serve today and was there something you saw that was alarming at all throughout the game?
COACH HAMBLY:  No.  I wasn't alarmed.  I thought we had to put pressure on them, because they could get going in the middle and we needed to get them off the net so we can try to trap the outside a little bit.  So we missed more serves.
But I think we needed to.  They're a great passing team.  I didn't want to miss serves.  We needed to serve aggressive and sometimes you make some errors.  That didn't bother me.

Q.  Colleen, can you comment on the resiliency in the second set, able to come back from that big deficit and actually take the set?
COLLEEN WARD:  I mean, it's the national championship match.  We had to have something to come back with.
I think we did a really good job of coming back, though.  UCLA had a great match in every set.  We just‑‑ we just really wanted that match and somehow we pulled it off.

Q.  I know this team had very, very high goals.  Is it difficult at these moments to keep this maybe in perspective that you were one of the two final teams in the nation, even though, again, the disappointment of tonight?
MICHELLE BARTSCH:  We wanted to win.
COLLEEN WARD:  It's been our goal since the beginning of the season to win the national championship.  So, I mean, it's obviously tough for us not to do that.  But we are proud of how far we came.

Q.  Annie, you're going to get another shot at this.  What does that mean to you?
ANNIE LUHRSEN:  I mean, I haven't really thought about that.  That's something that I'll think about tomorrow, maybe.
Our program's got a lot‑‑ we've made a lot of growth this year and we still have a lot of growth we can make, and it's exciting.
So we're going to miss the seniors more than we know yet.  But I think we know what here is now.  We've never been here before.  So now we know it and it's just going to make us want to come back more.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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