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December 20, 2013

Dominique Gonzalez

Maddie Martin

Russ Rose

Ariel Scott


THE MODERATOR:  Coach, if you could start with an opening comment.
COACH ROSE:  There's not a lot of new information since I saw you yesterday.  So we went back to the hotel.  The girls went out to eat, had an All‑American banquet today, and we'll have practice after meeting with you.
I don't have any new information.  We knew we were playing Wisconsin last night.  We know they're a great opponent.  We played them twice during the year.
They're playing very well.  And as they did both times we played them, they played very hard.  And we respect that a great deal about not just their team, all the teams in our conference that have a commitment to play that way.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  Ariel, would you tell me about Micha, both as a setter and maybe as a person?
ARIEL SCOTT:  Micha is a great setter, obviously.  She brings a lot on the court.  She has a good serve, which we benefited a lot from last night, especially.
She's just a tough girl, for sure.  I mean, she's a great player.

Q.  What do you mean she's tough?
ARIEL SCOTT:  Personality‑wise.  She takes a lot from Coach, obviously.  She's a setter and one of our captains, one of our four captains.  So she takes a lot and she has constant feedback and takes it really well.

Q.  Coach, there isn't much new.  So how do you kind of maybe approach this?  It can be kind of dangerous, continually playing the same team.  Especially on this stage, it's going to be a more important match?
COACH ROSE:  I think I'll point out two things.  I'll point out the fact they beat the No. 1 seed yesterday, and two years ago at Wisconsin they beat us.
So I don't think there would be any possibility of us not taking them seriously or looking past them when the players are well beyond that position.  They know that Wisconsin's playing great.
They're the hot team right now.  And it's a number of factors that make them really good, and you're going to have to match how hard they play if you have a hope of winning.

Q.  People who are not familiar with them, do they look different right now?  Do you notice anything different with them?
MADDIE MARTIN:  They're just playing really hard right now.  I mean, they played hard throughout the entire season.  But watching them last night against Texas was ‑‑ it was fun to watch because it means a lot from the Big Ten, teams succeed this much.
There's no reason to take any team in the Final Four lightly because there's a reason they're here.  So that's pretty much that.
DOMINIQUE GONZALEZ:  Yeah, I think Wisconsin always plays hard.  They may be a little bit smaller than some other teams, but they sure play hard with a lot of heart.  You could see it yesterday out on the floor.  They didn't care they were undersized at all.  They wanted to win and they fought for it.
I think that's notable in our eyes, and we're going to have to go strong and compete tomorrow.

Q.  Russ, first let's talk about Micha, and are you harder on her than you were on other setters or any other players, or are you just tough on setters?
COACH ROSE:  I think I'm tough on all the players that are important.  I think I'm tough on Micha.  I think I'm tough on Dom.  When Scott decided she wanted to become a great player, I became tougher on A. Scott.
Part of the coaching component is you want to get the best out of every player that you can.  And you only have limited amount of time to do that both on a day‑to‑day exposure and during their career.  So it would only make sense that a direct approach would be better than trying to beat around the bush with where we're trying to go.
And I thought Micha played great yesterday.  I thought it was one of her better matches for sure this year.  And if I had a better memory, maybe I could compare it to previous years, but I don't.
I liked yesterday's match by her.  I thought she served well.  A little sloppy at the end, but she set well.  She was with the game plan.  And when A. Scott refers to her as being tough, she's a tough kid.  Not to play with.  She's just tough.  She's not going to back down.  She's going to compete.  She's not going to shoot her mouth off, and she's going to play the game the right way.

Q.  You remember we talked the first week of September you said maybe in a couple of months you thought your team could be pretty good.  Is that a good assessment at the time by you, and is your team really good?
COACH ROSE:  I thought we were really good last night.  When I talked to you, it was after we lost to Texas at Texas.

Q.  You said it before then.
COACH ROSE:  It was before the tournament.  And then we talked right after that, maybe before we played Florida and I thought we played good against Florida, who is a very good team.
So, yeah, I thought‑‑ I mean, we had all the tools to be successful.  But you never know how players are going to develop.  You never know how just the wear and tear of a season can take kids down.
Certainly at the beginning part of this season when you had three or four kids that were coming back off procedures and certainly that didn't allow us to come out of the gate as strong as we maybe could have.
And certainly the players are tired.  It's a long season.  Some of them have taken a lot of swings or hit the floor a lot of times or been challenged to make good decisions a lot.
But if we're judging us on our last match, we were really good last night.

Q.  Ariel, what does Wisconsin do well to make up for their lack of size up front?
ARIEL SCOTT:  I just think they have a great setter who mixes it up and keeps it tough for the blockers.  So, I mean, if the setter's stringing us and we're not there, then they can have one‑on‑one opportunities.  And I think they do a good job with that and they play with a lot of heart as well.

Q.  Coach, I know the entire sport has evolved athletically, but could you speak specifically how the setter position has evolved athletically and maybe in your years what's more demanded of setters now, especially if they aspire to be, say, National Team players?
COACH ROSE:  That's a great question.  Karch would probably be better to see it, as the new National Team coach.  But certainly the evolution of setters over the course of let's say the 35 years I've been at Penn State, there for a long time there were a lot of smaller‑sized setters that were really quick.
There was the smattering of big setters that were a little bit better blockers.  But I think with the growth in youth sports and club volleyball, we're seeing setters now.  And Carlini is probably the best example of that who has played in a great program that's developed 100 DivisionI college setters.
She plays in power leagues.  They go to Japan.  So she's way further along in her development as far as handling the distractions of being a college volleyball player.  She's not just the average volleyball player.
Micha is an example was the Player of the Year in Oklahoma, but it was based on her serving and hitting.  And so she's learning the setting position.
So even though if Micha is a junior and Carlini is a freshman, I'm sure that Carlini has set 20 to 50 more times balls than Micha has just because she was in a club program that they would set 10,000 balls a summer.
So certainly you want a player like that.  So she has a great deal to do with the improvement of the Wisconsin team throughout the season, as she's becoming more and more aware of the college game and doing what she can do to impact the game.
So she can make good sets out of bad passes.  That's one of the great complements of a good setter.

Q.  Russ, when you came into the Big Ten, Wisconsin was a nationally competitive program, and then in the last few years it slipped off of there.  Tomorrow night notwithstanding, how important is it for the Big Ten to have Wisconsin as an elite program?
COACH ROSE:  I don't know if it's important for the Big Ten because all the other schools are probably disappointed that Wisconsin is in the national championship match because it will have a significant impact on recruiting and confidence of their players against the other teams.
I know I talked with Kelly before they came to the tournament just about the Final Four and about things.  And he was just asking me questions.  And I was answering him in a mentoring way that I do with a lot of people.  And I'm sure he was milking me for as much as he could get.
But I do think it's good for the conference when the conference is good.  I don't think it's a specific school, X, Y, or Z.  I think there's a few coaches in the conference might think it's that way.  But I recognize that every match in the conference has the same value.  Every team is good if you don't play‑‑ like I said, we lost at Wisconsin two years ago.  So I've seen a lot of coaches come and go.
Every school in the conference has different coaches from when I started when we joined the Big Ten.  So the fact that Wisconsin is good just makes it all the more challenging for everybody, not something that the conference office should be excited about.
Certainly everybody recognizes in the conference that if you don't come ready to play every night, you have a good chance of getting beat.  And Wisconsin has always posed that.  They've had great crowds.  They hosted a Final Four there a couple of times that we were fortunate to play in, and the ‑‑ Wisconsin wasn't in the Final Four, and the fans embraced us as the home team.  And it was an incredible thing.
It was like playing last night.  Even though we didn't beat Long Beach in the match, the greatest thing leaving was we were new in the Big Ten and the fans‑‑ we felt that Wisconsin was welcoming us as a team and they weren't booing us as the outsider jamming them up.  It was everybody cared.
So I think that's maybe too long of an answer to your question, but we want‑‑ I want everybody to be good.  I want them to play great when they're not playing us.  But I want everybody to be good.  Every time a Big Ten team beats somebody who is a power team in a different conference, I'm happy about that.  Before Nebraska joined the conference, I was a Nebraska fan because I have a degree from Nebraska.
So I was a Penn State fan and then a secondary Nebraska fan.  Now I'm thrilled that there's a Big Ten team, two Big Ten teams left in the finals.  That's great for the conference.
That's great for the conference, whether it's Wisconsin or Ohio State or North‑ ‑‑ you know, plus we'll have two new teams next year in the conference.  It will be a new experience for them as well.

Q.  Did you convert Micha to setter or did she come to school anticipating to play set?
COACH ROSE:  No, she knew she was going to play set.  She played a little setter in club volleyball.  But if we weren't practicing and she was in the gym by herself, she'd be hitting.  She'd have A. Scott setting her a little bit just to work on her swing.  She likes to hit.
She's embraced the position and she's improved a great deal.  She could be a hitter in a lot of conferences.  She's got a terrific arm.  The way she serves the ball, you could see that she can give it a pretty good stroke.

Q.  But you did recruit her as a setter?
COACH ROSE:  Yeah, there was no gray area on that.

Q.  Any recollections on your previous two matches with Wisconsin this season, anything that was annoying, troublesome, easy?  Is there something you need to be on guard for for tomorrow night that you might recall from the previous two matches?
MADDIE MARTIN:  I would just say if you don't come out ready to play, they're a team that can surprise you.  And they can come out and beat you if you're not ready to come out and play, because they play so hard.  That's one of the struggles with a team that plays so hard on any given night; if you're not on top of your game, they can put a beatdown on you.
So I think it's important for us tomorrow to come out strong and relax and not take them lightly because we played them before.
DOMINIQUE GONZALEZ:  They're an aggressive team.  They're not afraid, and I think it's something they've always played with, and we're aware of that.

Q.  Coach, they have these short players.  Doesn't seem‑‑ it sort of defies conventional volleyball logic that they would excel as well as they do.  I know you're loathe to divulge game plans, but can you give me an sort of idea how you plan to either take advantage of or counteract Morales?
COACH ROSE:  Well, I mean, the beauty of Morales and Strickland in my mind is they have no conscience to the last swing.  So if they get blocked, that's okay.  Set me again, I'm going to hit it hard again.  I think that's what makes a player a great player is they have the ability to move on from the past play and make the next play.
So I don't even have a real game plan yet, because there hasn't been a lot of time to even get the film in place.  As the players identify, and I would agree, they play really hard.  And Dom said they don't have any fear, and they certainly came out ready last night and there was no‑‑ they weren't in fear of Texas.
They played a great schedule.  And that's what I said when I talked to Kelly, when we talked earlier.  It's like Texas is really good.  Texas is a different team than we have even in our conference, because they're so athletic and they bring a little different component to the game than some of the other Big Ten teams do.
But I thought Wisconsin came out and they had their heads high and their shoulder blades back and they went after it.

Q.  Coach, you had a lot of success now for three decades.  You won a championship in'99, but it's been in the last, what, seven years, six of seven Final Fours, you're going for a fifth championship.  Was there something in terms of the level of player you were getting or anything you can pinpoint that really started within‑‑ I know you probably hate this word‑‑ but kind of a dynastic run for you guys?
COACH ROSE:  When we went to rally score, I was a little late to the party on being stubborn about it.  I like the Strickland and Morales type player.  I like the small kid that play all the way around, that had a lot of courage.
And the first few years of rally score we didn't do so well because the teams we were playing were so much bigger than us.  So I transitioned to a larger player, and I think winning in'99‑‑ we had lost in the finals in '97 and'98 in five games, and I thought we could have won three championships that year, that little stretch.
And then to win four in a row was a lot.  Those players were really good.  Those players were committed to being the best they could be all the time, even though I worked them really hard and challenged them both physically and mentally to ask for more, to do more, to set the bar so high, do things that no teams have ever done before, if you want.  And if you don't, then you're entering into the other people's zone, where they might be able to trip you up.
So this group, the seniors, Maddie and A. Scott at least up here, they were part of the team that won in 2010.  And they were on the team that was in the Final Four last year.  And they've been able to navigate with the help of their teammates to get back again this year.
So I don't look at things as a dynasty, because I don't look at it from a historical perspective.  I think Wisconsin's here with smaller players.  If they win the championship, then people will embrace the fact that you can win with smaller players.
You might not win your conference championship, but you can win a six‑game tournament.  You can get hot.  You can host.  You can‑‑ you might have the benefit of not having to play certain teams that match up with you.
But, I mean, I always look at scheduling, as I'm responsible for the preseason, the Big Ten's responsible for the regular season, and the NCAA is responsible for the postseason.  So I take the two‑thirds that I'm not responsible for and we need to play as hard as we can.  And we look at every team seriously.
There's never a time where I say we're playing only so‑and‑so so we don't have to worry about them so let's focus on somebody else.
I brought information on Wisconsin and Texas.  I didn't come into this tournament saying I'm going to leave my Wisconsin file at home because they're playing Texas.  No way.  I respect what Wisconsin can do.  And I've been in the game long enough to see it done, and I'm smart enough to know it can happen to us as well.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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