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NCAA WOMEN'S NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP


December 18, 2013


Dominique Gonzalez

Maddie Martin

Russ Rose

Ariel Scott


SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

THE MODERATOR:  Ready to get started.  First of all, welcome, everybody.  Coach Russ Rose, Maddie Martin, Dominique Gonzalez, and Ariel Scott are here.
First we'll have Coach Rose give an opening statement, and then we'll open it up to you guys.
COACH ROSE:  We're excited to be here.  The season is one that presents a lot of challenges, and you always hold out hope that as you progress through the season that your players stay healthy and they improve in the areas that will enable you to get yourself in a position to get in the NCAA Tournament.  And once you're in the tournament, it's how you play.  It's not who you play.
So I know our players are excited to be here and we look forward to a great opponent and the University of Washington.  I've known Jim for a long time, and he's a good friend and great coach.

Q.  How has your game improved this year?
COACH ROSE:  I think the team has improved as their health has improved.  I think we started at the beginning of the year, we had a number of individuals that were coming off of various procedures that maybe was preventing them from going hard during the summer and coming out of the gate at their best.  So I think a lot of it has to do with health.
We have a number of veteran players.  They know not that it's easy to ever get to the Final Four or win at the Final Four, but I think they had a little experience in knowing what they had to do on their end.
So I think we've improved in some of those areas.  I think we're a good offensive team.  But I think we played really good defense in the NCAA Tournament matches we played to date.

Q.  (Off microphone)?
COACH ROSE:  Yeah.

Q.¬† You had a challenging match against Stanford as (indiscernible) SC.¬† Does it benefit you in any way, help you in your preparation as you come up against‑‑
COACH ROSE:  We had a challenging match with Long Island and then played much better in our next night's match against Utah, had a challenging match with Michigan State, and then had a very competitive match with Stanford.
We played Stanford last year as well and went five games with them and have played Stanford I think 15 times over the years, and I think that's a reflection why we want to play Stanford.
I think they're one of the top programs and a great university with great tradition.  So, I mean, does it help us?  I mean, we're still playing.  So it helps us in the fact that we're still playing.  I don't know if it would have helped us if we wouldn't have won the last game.  So I think when you play good teams, you know that they're going to challenge you.
Everybody in the tournament is good.  Everybody who survives, survives on the strength of certain individual things, whether it's their players or coaching or whatever.  Lucky calls.  All of the things that can impact a match.
So I'm sure Stanford, SC, Washington, those guys have played a lot of matches against each other during the year because they're in the same conference, I'm sure.  They all benefit from playing each other because good teams identify what you're not so good at.

Q.  What do you see in Washington that's going to present a challenge for your team?
COACH ROSE:  Well, I mean, there's a number of things that are going to be a challenge.  Being five miles from their campus is a challenge.  Being a different time zone, three hours, is certainly a challenge.
But I think matches aren't won by one player, but certainly the performance Krista had in their last match where she had 38 kills and 30 digs is an indication she's not only one of the top players in the country that she played a great match at a key time when her team really needed it.
But I think, again, I've coached for a long time, so I don't look at one match and say we have to stop one player, because I don't think necessarily you can stop the Pac‑12 Player of the Year the same as Texas maybe didn't stop Kelsey Robinson who was the Big Ten Player of the Year.¬† You have to try and neutralize people and try and find other ways to give your team a chance to win.
So they're very good.¬† I mean, we got the film on Monday, and I watched our match with USC a couple of times.¬† So that's the information I have on them.¬† I saw them on TV because of the Pac‑12 Network a number of times during the year.¬† And I think all the top teams, whether it's the Pac‑12 or the Big Ten, are teams that are interchangeable and anybody can win on any given day, and we're aware of that.

Q.  Ariel, you played in some very hostile environments, great crowds, Nebraska and Minnesota, just two examples.  It's going to be like that here in the Final Four.  Do you guys feed off of that because you've experienced it so many times?  And can you just talk about what that's like?
ARIEL SCOTT:  We're excited to play in front of a big crowd once again.  Going to Nebraska and Illinois and places like that have definitely prepared us for a home crowd like it's going to be tomorrow night.  So we're excited.
COACH ROSE:  Michelle, you say it's going to be hostile.  Why are you saying that?  You're not stirring the pot, are you?  It's a partisan crowd.

Q.  Ariel and Dominique, what have you learned this week from watching video of Washington and what Coach has told you from an offensive end?  And, Dominique, what have you learned from a defensive end?
DOMINIQUE GONZALEZ:  Washington is a competitive team.  They got here.  They earned their way here like the other three teams as well.
Big hitters and scrappy defense.  And we'll do our best digging balls and stopping them the best we can.
But it's going to come down to whoever fights harder and plays harder.

Q.  Tell me about some of their hitters, something like that?
ARIEL SCOTT:¬† Well, defensively, I mean, we have to just‑‑ we've been playing really good defense, like Coach said.¬† So I think our block's been pretty steady.¬† So we're pretty confident on that end.
And offensively, I mean, it's not really going to change what we do.  They're a good blocking team, but we've been playing good blocking teams all season.

Q.  Ariel first and then Russ.  Most teams will say that at some point during the season, sometimes it's after a big win, sometimes after a loss, they realize who they are.  They kind of say this is what we are, what we can become.  What part of your season, when did that happen for you, Ariel first, and then Russ?
ARIEL SCOTT:  I would say for us, our turning point was after losing to Michigan State the first time around in the Big Ten.  We came out and beat them in three at their place, and that was just a huge confidence builder for us and it showed us what we could do.

Q.  Why did you lose to them the first time you think that you corrected?
ARIEL SCOTT:  We had a hard time closing out games.  That's something we've been working on all season.  We've really improved in that area.

Q.  How do you close out a game?  What specifically did you learn from that game that helped you close out better?
ARIEL SCOTT:¬† In that game I think we were up 20‑19.¬† We didn't side out.¬† We've been working a lot on our side‑out game.¬† It's really helped out.

Q.¬† Russ, could you address that.¬† Do you agree that was a game where this team defined itself for the rest‑‑
COACH ROSE:  I don't know.  I would disagree.  I would say when we lost that match we had a pretty good conversation from the coach to the players, and I identified that I didn't think that we would be unable to win the Big Ten because we lost that match.  I didn't think we wouldn't be able to win the National Championship because of that match, but that a lot of them needed to look at why they were unable to play their best at a key time at home against a really good opponent.
So we improved in a number of areas.  Closing out a match or a game is based on leading in that game.  If you're coming from behind, it's not about closing.  If you're leading.
So for me, I would look at a number of things, but I wouldn't argue with her that the Michigan State match we had a little longer conversation after the match than we might have some other games.

Q.  Maddie, this group of seniors has been at the championship weekend three out of the last four years.  What kind of things as a senior leader do you tell the younger players to help them along because it is a learning curve being at this weekend and all the things going on around you?
MADDIE MARTIN:  It truly is.  It's something we tried to stress to the younger players last night when we were practicing, just everyone needs to be relaxed.  We've gotten ourselves to the Final Four.  That was the hardest part.  Now we're just here to play.  And once we just play our game, just show them it's okay to have fun, it's okay to smile, you don't have to be serious the entire time.
That's when we play our best.  And just showing by example I think is the best way to do that.

Q.¬† You were down 9‑6 against Stanford, mentioning earlier about closing out.¬† What took place during those final points that turned the tide in your favor?
COACH ROSE:¬† I mean, we had three‑point leads three times in the first game and didn't win the first game.¬† So I don't think‑‑ you don't change.¬† You are what you are.¬† I think we relaxed and they knew we could play better and we needed to get the next side‑out and we went on a five‑point run and next thing you know we're winning 11‑9.
You still have to play the game.¬† At some point in time it comes down to playing the game, reducing your errors.¬† And I think young players‑‑ older players maybe know how to do it better.¬† Younger players need to learn how to do that.
And it's really about relaxing, having fun, like Maddie said.  And that's what it is.  If you're in that match, you have a chance to win it.  That's what it's about.  So stay calm, relax, have fun, and in the end just do what you do.  Don't tip for sure.  Don't be tipping at the end of that game.

Q.  Ariel, did you perceive anything that was a factor in turning the game around at that point?
ARIEL SCOTT:  I would agree with Coach.  We stayed confident that whole time.  And Micha and Deja had some ridiculous blocks, so that helps.

Q.  Watching it, pretty good serving team, would you agree?
COACH ROSE:¬† I think they're a terrific serving team.¬† Not just the pressure, but they have five kids with over 30 aces.¬† For their matches in their Big 12 versus us in the Big Ten or the Pac‑12, they're up 52‑plus more aces than we did.¬† So I'm sure the Pac‑12 values passing the same as we do.
So, yeah, they're a very good serving team.

Q.  What challenges does that present them (indiscernible)?
DOMINIQUE GONZALEZ:  I think with a team that serves aggressive, you have to do what you can, keep the ball in control on our side of the net and keep passes off the net and let Micha do what she can with the ball.
They're going serve aggressive.  It's a big match.  We can't be afraid of that, and I don't think we are.  You practice serve and pass every day, so you build your confidence throughout the year and just go out there and play your best.

Q.¬† Is there one area that you think in the match‑ups you've been evaluating where you think you would have an advantage against the opponent?
COACH ROSE:  No.  You could look at it say they have more aces than we do.  I don't know.  It's like saying which conference is better.  I don't think you can judge that.
It's a match we play tomorrow.¬† After the match you can look at some statistics and say so‑and‑so served better, hit better.
I mean, we have good balance.  So I think four out of our five starters, outside of Micha, have led us in kills this year in matches.  I think balance is something that we've looked at, and putting this team together I thought it's more important to have a good team with balance that can make it to the end of the season than set one player an astronomical number of swings and at the end of the season you hope you can still keep her arm on and have some pop at the end of the year.
So I look at things maybe differently than some other coaches do.

Q.  Coach, earlier you mentioned the home court advantage that you will have tomorrow.  Have you done anything specific in practice to prepare for that as far as funneling in noise, that kind of thing?
COACH ROSE:  I've never done that in my coaching career.  No.  I think there's a lot of noise in life, and I think the people that are successful ignore the noise and do what they're supposed to do.

Q.  Further on, the noise in life, as far as the players go on and things like that, what would you change (indiscernible)?
MADDIE MARTIN:  I think it depends on the trust you have with one another.  Yeah, we've played in arenas all across the Big Ten, because the Big Ten Conference we play in hard gyms every single time we're on the road.
It's important when you necessarily can't hear each other you rely on the trust you have knowing ‑‑ I know from a passing standpoint, you know which teams you have.¬† The same with blocking.¬† There's hand signals you can do.¬† Doesn't all necessarily have to be over loud communication.¬† So, yeah, just falling back on one another.
DOMINIQUE GONZALEZ:  I think Maddie hit it on the head with that one.  You have to trust each other and what you've done all season long.  You're going to play in tough arenas all the time, like Maddie said.
We did it throughout the Big Ten and we pulled out some tough wins and grinded together and rely on the training you've gone through all season.
ARIEL SCOTT:  Well, I know it just doesn't get much louder than it does in Nebraska.  So I think we're prepared.  We can scream.
COACH ROSE:  It gets loud over at the football field.  I mean, again, it's noise.  Shouldn't prevent people from performing talents that they have.

Q.¬† Russ, would you be so kind, since it will be so quiet for the Texas‑Wisconsin match, would you assess that match for us?
COACH ROSE:¬† Since it will be real quiet for that match (chuckling).¬† We played both of those teams.¬† Texas is an incredibly offensive‑minded team that has made great strides in their defensive play.¬† They're predominantly an outside attacking team with Bailey Webster and Haley Eckerman, incredibly athletic as well as skilled.
And Wisconsin is a team that plays really hard, that's probably put together a little bit differently than some other teams.  They have two or three really good back row players.  They have a great young freshman setter, and it's a team that's playing really hard.
You can't get here without playing hard.  And I was impressed when we played them earlier in the year, I thought they were just a really fun team, looked like a fun team to coach because they were skillful and they played hard and they had a lot of spirit.  And Pete Waite put together a really fine team and recruiting class, and Kelly was able to kind of reap the benefits of those things.
Him and his staff were able to really bring some additional love to the program.  And they're here.  If you're here, you've found your way to get here.  I think they've done a great job.
I remember we went to our first Final Four a while back.  I don't remember when and where, but I know how exciting it is for the players because it's what you're fighting for during the year.  It's what you should be thinking about during the summer, is getting yourself into a match that gives you an opportunity to advance.
So I don't think the NCAA allows gambling, so I can't tell you what the point spread would be or something, but I think it's a good offensive team and a really good defensive team, and we'll see how those things play themselves out.

Q.  Russ, what do you remember the last time you played Washington, which was the Regional Finals here in Seattle in 2006?
COACH ROSE:  2006.  That's a long time ago.  I think Michelle said it was really loud.  I think they were yelling at me for wearing a vest.  So I got rid of the vest.  I think that's what I remember.
Washington was great.  And I remember Courtney waving her finger at the referee and the referee allowing that behavior and the crowd going nuts.  That's what I remember.
But we had a pretty good run after that.¬† So it was a nice‑‑ I mean, they had a terrific team.¬† Did they win the championship that year?¬† Well they were right in the mix.¬† They had a really good group of kids.¬† They had some talented players.
And it's different.  I would be surprised if it's not different playing at home as it is five miles away.  I really have a feeling that it will be different five miles away.
Although when we played Nebraska in Omaha, I just remember that was the loudest place, because I remember sitting there and the water‑‑ it was sitting next to me.¬† The water was shaking, and I was thinking they don't have earthquakes in Omaha.¬† So look at that.

Q.¬† Coach, last year you had Michigan making the Final Four, this year Wisconsin.¬† I know you don't necessarily want to say what's the best conference, but I think it says a lot about the ‑‑ if you want to say the middle of the Big Ten or closer to the middle than the top making the Final Four, how much do you feel you guys have impacted that because they haven't had to go against you guys?
COACH ROSE:¬† I wouldn't take that as anything other than it's ‑‑ what I would say about our conference is our conference has had more teams qualify for the Final Four than any other conference.
We haven't won more national championships.¬† So that would be a barometer that people might use to compare the conferences.¬† I've never coached in the Pac‑12.¬† So I've been at Penn State for 35 years, so I can talk about us in the Atlantic 10, I can talk about us in the Big Ten.
The Big Ten made us better when we joined the Big Ten because we were playing great opponents on back‑to‑back nights with big crowds, and it made us better.¬† I don't really look at it that we made the Big Ten better, because the Big Ten, there was Big Ten volleyball before we entered.
But certainly joining the Big Ten, we received the most important part of developing a program, and that is scholarships, staffing, and a great administrative support for the support.  Once we received those things, it enabled us to compete at a much higher level.
But everybody's fully funded in our conference as well as many other conferences.  So I'm proud of having other teams from the conference go to the Final Four, and I want them to have success, unless they're playing us.
But other than that, I'm happy for the success of the Big Ten teams.  We had a great run in the NCAA Tournament this year, and yet some people will only judge it if a Big Ten team wins the championship or not.
After we had the run we had a few years back, where we won four championships in a row, if you didn't win the championship and win it big, you would really let everybody down.  Not many collegiate programs have to deal with those sort of expectations and wait, especially for young people that maybe didn't have anything to do with the previous successes.

Q.  Want to ask a little bit about that weight of those programs, since it is such established powerhouses.  Since you guys are seniors, what is that like to step into something that you recognize and then you carry it forward?
ARIEL SCOTT:  I don't know if I would call it pressure.  I think it's more just of a tradition, and that's why we came here.  We were getting recruited right around that time Coach was talking about, all those great players who came through the program, and they just left a great mark for us, and we just want to follow in their footsteps.
MADDIE MARTIN:  I agree.  It's obviously one of the main reasons we chose Penn State, is because of the tradition and because the success they had and Coach Rose.  And obviously he was a big contributor to that success.  And I agree with Ariel, it's one of the main reasons we came here.  I don't see it as pressure; it's just part of the program history.
DOMINIQUE GONZALEZ:  I think they said it all.  You watch these girls when we were younger playing Final Fours and winning national championships.  And when you're a volleyball player, that's what you strive to do.  You want to go to the best programs and play and be the best player you can be.
So I think coming to a program with Penn State with all its tradition and everything and Coach and all that it has to offer was a great opportunity for us, and we wanted to be the best players we can be.

Q.  You mentioned you and Jim McLaughlin are friends.  Can you give me maybe sort of the background of how you became friends and what do you think of him as a coach and what his strengths might be?
COACH ROSE:¬† Well, I mean, I've known Jim for a long time.¬† I think when he was at Kansas State we used to play back in the old days when you were allowed to go play in the spring some places.¬† We played‑‑ we'd go play in North Carolina, and one year I think, whether he was at Washington or Kansas State, we went and played in Reno.¬† So we played against each other's teams for an extended period of time.¬† And we were working together on a U.S.A. staff many years ago with U.S.A. Men's Volleyball.
What he brings, I think what all of the coaches that are here with their teams and a lot of coaches who are here without their teams, they are dedicated professionals that work really hard; that have a game plan; that try to do the best they can with the talent they have.
And I think Jim runs a specific system of play and he's attracted great players to that.  And one of the things about playing Washington, or when he was at Kansas State, was how well skilled and trained they were at the style of play that they produce.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach and players.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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