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NCAA WOMEN'S NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP


December 20, 2013


Lauren Carlini

Annemarie Hickey

Taylor Morey

Kelly Sheffield


SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

THE MODERATOR:  We're going to start with an opening statement.  Coach.
COACH SHEFFIELD:¬† We're excited about being in the national championship match obviously being here in Seattle, people here have been great.¬† We're‑‑ we're really happy to be representing our university and the city of Madison and the Big Ten conference.
Wow, what a great‑‑ what a great thing for the conference, having two teams going at each other.¬† It's two teams very familiar with each other.¬† We've been on the short end of the stick both times that we played them, but it's been pretty competitive matches, individual games.
We're on a nice streak right now.  Our team is playing with a lot of confidence.  We're looking forward to tonight, looking forward to showing the volleyball world and country our heart and our tenacity and our skill and we're going to give it our best shot.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  Being in Dayton alone and being that close to Penn State and then being a student of the game, have been around for so long, what does Penn State volleyball mean to you, just as someone who loves the sport and has been in it so much?
COACH SHEFFIELD:¬† I like to‑‑ I think a lot of people like to tear down success.¬† I'm somebody that I appreciate excellence, because that's something that I aspire to have and be surrounded with.¬† And they've been ‑‑ year in, year out they've been the program that's consistently been either at the top or right there at the top.¬† And that's what we're trying to build.
What they have done, anybody can be a flash in the pan.¬† You see a lot of that.¬† But are you able‑‑ the thing I value is consistent greatness.¬† And I think Russ has been great for the sport of volleyball.
That Penn State volleyball has raised the standard, raised the bar for a lot of other programs that sit there and say you're either in or out if you're trying to beat those guys.
And it's given us somebody to go after, following great fan base.  I don't have anything negative to say but I think they've been up there too long, though, and hopefully we're the ones to knock them down.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  Both matches last night involved great work by the winning setters.  How do you compare and contrast the setters that will be going up next, will be facing each other tomorrow night, and who has the better one?
COACH SHEFFIELD:  Who has the better one?  You're a troublemaker, man.  Russ didn't fall for that, did he?
I don't know.¬† One's a senior; one's a freshman.¬† Both are extremely talented.¬† One is from Oklahoma; one is from Chicago.¬† City girl and‑‑ I don't know.¬† They're both unique talents.¬† I mean, they're both unique talents.¬† Both very confident.¬† They're different skill sets that they both have.
Which one's better, I'm not going to get into that.  But I will tell you this:  There's no way you could pay me enough to trade my setter for anybody's.
But Russ might say the same thing.  He's had a long history with her.  She's bummed out she's got three more years with me, but I'm pretty excited about it.  Is that about right?
LAUREN CARLINI:  That's right.

Q.  Wonder if Lauren and Coach can talk about this, forgive me, I don't know all the details, but when Pete resigned and Kelly came in, did you think at all about changing your commitment?  Did you guys talk about that then, or what was your thought when the coaching change happened?
LAUREN CARLINI:¬† I never really wavered in my decision just because I knew I wanted to go.¬† And I had made‑‑ I made a statement and I wanted to stand by my word and what I had said.
So I wanted to see who the coach was first and kind of get a feel of how he wanted to run the program and things like that.  So when he first made that call, kind of talked about where he wanted to take the program and if I was still on board, I couldn't be more excited.  It's been a great fit this year.

Q.  One thing that Coach Rose said, you're not the average freshman because of the amount of club volleyball you've played, the level you've played at.  How did that help you?  And I know a lot of people played that, but he feels you played at such a high level it helped you coming into DivisionI a lot.
LAUREN CARLINI:  A lot of people don't get 11 years club experience at one of the best clubs in the country.  So Rick does a great job of developing players to play at the college level, and especially his setters.  He trains them to be great.
So I've kind of just used the mentality over the years and focused on certain skill sets that kind of made me the setter I am today.

Q.  Coach, you mentioned the setters have contrasting skills or skills are different.  What do you identify as Lauren's most (indiscernible) skill?
COACH SHEFFIELD:  Jiminy Crickets.  She's got a lot.  She's got great big hands.  I think that helps swallow the ball up.  Very great athleticism.  She's got fire in the belly that says any moment is not too big for her.
She's crafty.  She's got moxie.  She's got a really, really high motor, and that motor is always on.  No matter if she's burying an opponent or whether she's getting it taken to her, that motor is still going.
I think what she's done a great job, she's a learner of the game, she's an active learner.  She wants to figure out ways to get better.  She's constantly searching.  And I think not just in sports but all walks of life, people that are searching for things to be great, when that's their main drive, they usually end up there.
And so all of those things.  And you can have parts of those things and still be really good, but when you put that whole package together you have an opportunity being special.  That's what I've got here.

Q.  Annemarie, when you looked back to last night, did you impress yourself at all as far as helping to keep the balls alive?
ANNEMARIE HICKEY:  Sure, I mean, being the libero and being the leader in the back court, I would definitely say I was impressed with myself and the rest of my back court.
I have to give a lot of credit to my other defenders too.  My girl right here, Taylor, she was making great plays last night, and Lauren was making great digs with her hands, and our blockers are setting up a great block for us to dig around them.
I was definitely impressed with our defense last night, and we're going to carry that over to tomorrow night, too.
COACH SHEFFIELD:  Play of the match was probably that last dig by Taylor Morey down there, just flatten out on that ball.  And that was sick and it was critical and it was huge.

Q.  Taylor and Annemarie, how important do you think the back row defense is going to be against Penn State on Saturday night?  How important is that going to be?
TAYLOR MOREY:¬† Well, that's been ‑‑ especially for Annemarie and I, that's kind of the heart of our team.¬† That's what we pride ourselves in.¬† And so I think against any opponent we go into the mentality of being the best defensive team to step on the court.
So it's a special part of our game and the Badger team, along with not only just us two, but the whole team.  We take pride in that part and we take pride in the fact we show every ball, trying to keep it off the floor, whether that's a dig, whether that's a pursuit ball, whether it's a cover ball.
It's just important that we take pride in our court and the ball not hitting it.
ANNEMARIE HICKEY:  I agree with Taylor.  Having experience with Penn State, we know that we're going to have to step up our defensive play.  And they're just as physical as Texas was last night, so it's going to be a big part to our game plan.
I think we're just going to have to execute that and really give all the effort we can to really dig out these balls and keep the defensive mentality in our minds.

Q.  Coach, Russ was talking about how you called him before the tournament, kind of picked his brain.  And just can you talk about your relationship with Coach Rose and just kind of the conversations you've had before the tournament?
COACH SHEFFIELD:¬† I'm not afraid to ask anybody any questions.¬† And so the fortunate thing is we've got a profession that people are‑‑ they've been really open and helpful for me.¬† He's been one of those guys that has been great.
Yeah, he's seen some of the opponents that we saw.  And last year he's in the Final Four and he calls me to ask about Oregon because that's who we played in the second round of the tournament when I was in Dayton.  We played them last year.  Open book, let me give you what I can, I want to help you out.
So I called him earlier in this tournament and said, all right, time for paybacks.¬† You give me what you know here.¬† And so he was very willing to do that.¬† He's pro‑conference.

Q.  We all know on the defensive end, are you guys maybe even as a team different so there can be a change this time when you play Penn State?  Are you guys different?  Do you find yourselves different right now as opposed to the last times you played Penn State so that there can be a change?
ANNEMARIE HICKEY:¬† Yeah, I think that we've evolved so much since the last time we played Penn State.¬† And we've come a lot closer as a team.¬† And I think we're just more of a well‑oiled machine now, and we can‑‑ we know all of our parts and what our jobs are individually, what we need to do.¬† And I think that, like they're saying, our defenses are the heart of our team.
I think we just need to use that for Penn State, because I think that we are‑‑ since the last time we played them, we were completely different, like I said.¬† Yeah, we just worked on our defense a little bit more.
ANNEMARIE HICKEY:¬† I think it's going to be a little different with‑‑ there's two completely different teams.¬† Texas, they have a really physical row, and I think Penn State has a really balanced front row.
So I think there's going to be a different game plan how we go about our defense, where people are hitting, where we need to be in those type of situations.  Obviously they're both very, very physical.  But I think there is going to be a change in where we need to be in certain spots and what kind of shots they hit, too.

Q.  In recalling your previous two matches against Penn State, was there one thing that you need to change most emphatically to produce a win this time?
COACH SHEFFIELD:¬† We weren't able to finish.¬† I think that was key in a few of our games.¬† Errors piled up at the wrong time for us.¬† They're good.¬† I think to kind of ‑‑ with both of those questions, I think Russ has gotten his team to play a lot harder the second half of the season to what I thought they were the first half of the season.¬† I think they're playing the game much harder than what they were earlier.
I think they're also serving at a really high level for six rotations, where earlier in the year I think it was one or two rotations.  So that's what I'm seeing out of his team.
Our team, I think it's accumulation of us getting some work together.  I mean, we literally have two kids that are playing the position that they played last year and quite a few players that didn't have much of a preseason.
So our progress has happened during this season.  We've had to gel as we've kind of gone on.  It's really a hard thing to do when you're in that conference, because it's easy to take a lickin'.
But we've battled.  We made our way through.  That league can either tear you down or build you up, if you can survive it.  In our case, I thought it brought us together, that collective toughness, while also allowing us to work through some of the connections that we needed to do with a lot of young players and a lot of people in new positions.
I think we're a lot more confident of a team because of that than what we were seeing earlier.  That's how I would say I'm seeing the differences between the two programs from earlier in the year.  Both teams have really grown, which is hard.  You don't see that.
There's a lot of teams, they get to a point in the season and they start to dropping.¬† Both of our teams are‑‑ they're playing their best ball at the end of the season.

Q.  Lauren, so much made about you as being a freshman and being ready and all that.  But early on in the year, through the course of the season, has there been a tough adjustment or just an adjustment period to setting so many hitters at different heights and jumping abilities?  There can't be a setter who has to deal with the disparity in difference of hitters from your middle to the two short people and everything.  Was that hard at first and did it get easier, or was it just easy at first?
LAUREN CARLINI:  There's always that transition period you have to go through as a setter.  And, I mean, really any position when you enter college.  And especially the setter, you have to learn connections with all the players and things.  You kind of just have to go by trial and error.  You can't really get reps with some things.  You just have to learn by making errors.
That's one of the big things I've had to learn, just because I hate‑‑ I want to be perfect the first time, but I know that that's not a possibility all the time.
So kind of going throughout the season, connections have gotten better.  Every setter has to go through that.  And everyone has different setting heights and what makes them tick.  And certain balls that they need.
But, I don't know, personally I love setting my hitters, just because I know that they always want the ball.  I know that they're going to take their best swing at it and they're going to be smart about it.

Q.  Was there ever a point like during the season where you go, oh, we're getting this, it really started clicking more?  Maybe there was a match or stretch of matches where you felt like you and them are finally in tune, not just a couple of them, but all of them?
LAUREN CARLINI:¬† I think our back‑to‑back wins against the Michigans were just a huge win for us, and then when we beat Michigan State and Minnesota on the same weekend at the very beginning of the season, I think then is when I really started to get my connections down.
The hardest connection is the bigger middles, just timing‑wise, and especially if you're running off the net or along the net, sometimes you just have to trust your hitters that they're going to be there and they're going to put it down.
So just building that trust throughout the season was really important, and obviously it's paying off for us right now.

Q.¬† Lauren, with your size, athleticism, I'm assuming you probably could have played other positions in volleyball.¬† How did you evolve as a setter?¬† How did that‑‑ is it a personality in some ways that you enjoy the different challenges that being a setter presents?
LAUREN CARLINI:¬† I used to hit when I was in club.¬† And I just‑‑ I never really enjoyed hitting as much as I do setting.¬† Setting is just‑‑ I love it.¬† I love being a leader on the court.¬† I love being able to make everyone around me better.
So I kind of evolved into a setter just because that was my natural type of role.¬† So it's I feel like‑‑ and people started getting better than me at hitting and so I was done with it, I was over it.
I just love being a setter because I just love‑‑
COACH SHEFFIELD:  She's a control freak.
(Laughter).
COACH SHEFFIELD:  Go ahead and say it.
LAUREN CARLINI:  There's no other better way to put it.

Q.  Ellen, I notice you have the Rose Bowl shirt on.  Did you guys know that Russell Wilson has been out on a tweet last night in support of y'all?
ELLEN CHAPMAN:  Yeah, I mean, when we found out that we made it to Seattle, I know people started talking about Russell Wilson.  I'm like start tweeting at him so he can come to our game and everything.
I saw the tweet last night.  Did you guys?
(Laughter).

Q.  Is there a hope he will come?  Has he tweeted y'all back or anything like that, or is the tweet enough?
ELLEN CHAPMAN:  I don't think he's made any huge shoutouts to any of us.  But I know that him being an alum and coming from our school, he's giving us all the support that he can, whether he's there, if he's not.  I think that's all we really need from him.  We don't really need a lot more.
But it's great to hear from him and great to get a shoutout from him.

Q.¬† And the other thing I wanted to ask y'all, what's on the playlist with you guys right now?¬† Who‑‑
LAUREN CARLINI:  Just one song.  Ke$ha, "Timber."  We listen to that every day in practice, every day in the locker room, like five times.

Q.  Can you say it again?
LAUREN CARLINI:  "Timber" by Ke$ha.

Q.  That's it?
LAUREN CARLINI:  And Kelly's playlist.
COACH SHEFFIELD:  I can play it for y'all if you want to hear some great'70s music.  Was that your hand?  You want to see'70s music, or you had a question?
ELLEN CHAPMAN:  We've actually got a lot of compliments.
COACH SHEFFIELD:  We're getting jiggy with it.
ANNEMARIE HICKEY:  Even the staff are dancing with it.  I think the staff like it more than us.

Q.  Coach, you, I think one could say, have paid your dues to get to this point, with high school, club, being an assistant at different parts in the country, being a head coach.  Can you talk about that process of how you grew to this point of taking over a program at a major conference, and was that always in the back of your mind, that some day you wanted to be at a program like this?
COACH SHEFFIELD:  Early on, no.  I don't know.  I lucked into coaching.  Some silly comment that I made to somebody who was coaching, some cute girl that just said, Hey, did you see my boyfriend out last night with another girl?  And we ended up talking about coaching.  I said, Hey, if you need help, let me know.
And I had never played the game.  I didn't really mean the comment.  I was flirting with her.
She called me back the next day and said, Were you serious about what you said?  I said, I don't know.  What did I say?  She said, About coaching, helping me.  I could use some help.
So I said sure.¬† I don't know, 20‑some years later I end up coaching the National Championship match.
Which is probably how most of us men in this room end up, some silly comment to some girl.  Away you go.
I was fortunate at the time when I got started in coaching, I was around some amazing, amazing people.¬† I got an Ivy League education from the get‑go.
So I'm a product of the people I've surrounded myself with.  And a lot of people, when I've asked questions, when I've picked their brains, they've been really, really fortunate.
We mention Russ.  He's one of so many people that have kind of done that along the way, and I've probably been maybe smart enough to listen to some good people.  It's been good.  I've been fortunate.

Q.  Was this cute girl a high school coach?
COACH SHEFFIELD:¬† Somebody I graduated with.¬† We were a year out of high school.¬† I was a junior high cross‑country coach my first year out of high school.¬† She was the JV coach at Muncie Burris, which is where Taylor graduated from as well, and her career ended with an elbow injury.¬† This was right before Tommy John surgery.¬† She was a JV coach of probably one of the best varsity programs in the country.
And, yeah, got tagged into that.  Doing that for years.  Club and high school.
And another college coach, I used to do the camps, I used to do a lot of the camp circuits, one day he came up to me said, What are you doing with your life?¬† I said, I don't know.¬† What do you mean?¬† What are you doing?¬† I thought I was coaching club.¬† I was coaching high school.¬† Bartending on the side.¬† Life was great.¬† 20‑whatever‑year‑old guy, 26, 27.
And she said, Hey, if I get you a college job, what do you think of that?  Have you ever thought about being a college coach?  I said no.  She said, You're really good.  What do you think about that?  I said, I think that would be about the coolest thing in the world.
So she gives me a call back a day later and says, I got you an interview.  I went and interviewed.  Guy called her back said, There's no way in the world I'm hiring that guy.  He's horrible.  What are you doing bringing him to me?  She forced him to hire me.  True story.  She forced him to hire me, and I packed my car in two hours and drove down to the University of Houston, was there in time for the second practice.
I've had a lot of people that have gone out of their way for me for things like that.  And you get those opportunities, you take them and run.

Q.  (Off microphone)?
COACH SHEFFIELD:  Bill Walton.

Q.¬† With your victory last night, just based on (indiscernible) consider it an upset.¬† I know Jim McLaughlin said he wished he had managed his players better after they had a big win the week before against USC.¬† Didn't appear he had them on the proper mental track.¬† Is there a way you need to keep your players‑‑ do you need to try to help them keep their edge coming into this championship match?
COACH SHEFFIELD:¬† I think as coaches you keep your eyes and your ears open and you let the players tell you where they're at.¬† And as a coach it's up to you to be able to‑‑ you've got to watch.
They coach me in a way at this point of the year.  And I think a lot of coaches would say that as well.  I think I've got a group that's really, really locked in.  I think I've got a group that's really hungry.  I don't think they're satisfied at all.  I think a lot of people think they've been satisfied for a while now.
And I think the depth of their hunger is surprising some people.¬† We got in today and they seem like the same group that they've been the past few weeks, and that's‑‑ they know the opportunity.¬† We all know the opportunity that's in front of us.¬† We're not shying away from that.¬† We're not pretending that's not there.
But this is a group they're relaxed, confident, they're hungry.  That can be a potent mixture.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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