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March 22, 2014

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson

Megan Craig

Shereesha Richards

Sarah Royals


KATIE ABRAHAMSON‑HENDERSON:  We're excited to be here.  We're excited to be in Louisiana, excited to be at LSU.  It's a great place, and we're really anxious to get playing.  We haven't played for two weeks because our conference championship was a while back, so we're really hungry and humble right now.  So we're excited to be here.

Q.  Sarah and Megan, you've been to two of them, Shereesha, you went last year.  How valuable is NCAA Tournament experience where you take the long flight and it's not foreign to you.
MEGAN CRAIG:  I think it's very important.  Obviously many of us were here last year so we have great experience on our side.  We've provided some great advice to our freshmen so they know what to expect, they know what they're coming into.  I believe it's very beneficial, as well.  We know coming into a space where we're not confused, we're not nervous, but we're excited, and we're ready to work hard.  I'm excited to get back on the court again.  It's been a long time coming.
I think I can speak for everyone else here and all the veterans that we've provided some great advice for our younger ones.
SHEREESHA RICHARDS:  Like Megan said, it's very important for our school that we are here.  A lot of teams don't get this opportunity to be here, so it's very exciting for us to be here.  Having this experience last year and coming back, we know what to expect.  We know what to go out and do and we've informed our freshmen what to expect, as well.  So they'll be prepared and be on the same page with us, and just ready to go.
SARAH ROYALS:  Well, for me and Megan, this is actually our third NCAA trip, which is a blessing.  We've played these kind of games before.  Our coaching staff puts our schedule in the preseason, we play teams like Duke, we've played Michigan State, we've played Iowa, a bunch of those teams just to prepare us for these moments so when we do get to the NCAA Tournament that we are prepared and we're not nervous and we don't feel the same pressure.  Obviously our team is led by our upperclassmen, and when we get in this situation I think we're going to be fine.
KATIE ABRAHAMSON‑HENDERSON:  Yeah, I just‑‑ just with these three and the upperclassmen, I always say to them just so they understand it, that there's recall in their bodies, in their brains, and so they've been here before, and that's huge.  I mean, experience, it speaks for itself, but once you get out on the floor, it happened in our conference tournament, their recall of experience of winning a championship, a conference championship and now coming back to the NCAA, I just think their recall is incredible, especially with these three.

Q.  I know West Virginia or this coach has always been known for its defense and playing pressure.  What's stood out to you as you've looked at some tapes of West Virginia as far as their defense?
MEGAN CRAIG:  Personally we watched a lot of film.  We know they're a very athletic team, very defensive team.  But I truly believe that we can keep up with them.  We're a great team, as well.  We have a lot of talent, and we can use that to our advantage, and I truly believe that this will be a great game tomorrow, great fight, and whoever comes out on top comes out on top.
SHEREESHA RICHARDS:  We're a great defensive team, as well, so we're ready to handle their pressure.  It's not pressure we haven't been used to, so whoever they bring we're ready for, and we will bring our pressure, as well.

Q.  Coach Carey earlier said that they have to adjust to you guys' 2‑2‑1 zone.  What do you think you have to do to take away some of their opportunities?
UNIDENTIFIED PLAYER:  I mean, West Virginia plays‑‑ obviously they're a very high‑caliber team, but they have some of the same playing styles and some of the techniques that we use against teams in our own league.  Obviously, again, it's more high caliber, but they're obviously all very athletic, very aggressive, strong, physical.  But if we can make them take outside shots or we just need to make sure that we keep them on the paint and play the kind of defense that we're capable of, we have very unique zone and hopefully it'll give them a lot of trouble.

Q.  This is actually for the players, please.  If you could just give me a word or a phrase that you think really well described this year's team, I'd appreciate it.
MEGAN CRAIG:  I truly believe it's talent.  We're very talented.
SHEREESHA RICHARDS:  I would say a chip, playing with a chip.
SARAH ROYALS:  I think coach Abe said it best:  Hungry and humble I think describes us best.

Q.  Shereesha, can you elaborate on the chip, the chip that you play with on your shoulders?
SHEREESHA RICHARDS:  Well, coming into this, a lot of people won't expect us to win.  Hopefully a lot of people are rooting for us to win, but you know, we're the underdog, so we really don't have anything to lose and we're just coming out ready to just play hard and fight to the last minute.  As I said, like playing with a chip, that's what we want to do.  We want to show West Virginia that we're not just another team who's not going to come out and fight.  We're going to come out and fight for the win out there, play our game and play hard.

Q.  This is for all three players:  You guys have talked about the experience or mentioned it.  Where do you feel the cumulative effect of that shows up in a game like tomorrow?  Is it the ability to stay focused for 40 minutes or where do you feel like that shows up the most in a game like this one?
SARAH ROYALS:  To be honest, I feel like it shows‑‑ you always look at the first five minutes of a game, and it's very hectic, it's very aggressive, and I always say that that's like the hurricane at the beginning of the game.  But once we settle down and we adjust to the game and we all know what to expect, then I think that's where that experience comes in.  It's just another game.  We can easily play with them and we can handle the pressure, as long as we play our style and go and play our game plan and stick to it, then we'll be able to execute and hopefully come out with a win.
SHEREESHA RICHARDS:  Sarah said it best.
MEGAN CRAIG:  Just piggybacking off Sarah, I think the experience we have on our hands, us upperclassmen have the ability to stay poised, especially in high‑intensity situations, and that poise and control will help with the game plan that Coach Abe provides us and the other coaches.  As long as we keep in control, stay poised, stay calm but play our game, play hard, I truly believe it will be a great game.

Q.  Katie, you've coached against Mike Carey before in the WNIT Finals.  Has anything really changed?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON‑HENDERSON:  Well, I remember us winning a national championship in the WNIT, and he does, too, because he made a little comment to me today about it.
But he's a great coach, and he's been there for quite a while, so he's got a lot of staying power, so obviously he's a great coach and they love him there.  It's the same style.  We don't change much as coaches.  We're kind of stubborn in that sense.
I just think that his team is a little bit more athletic.  They've got a little bit more height on them than they did back then, and the funny thing about their team is they've got a lot of kids from New Jersey and New York on their team and Connecticut, so it's kind of like a New York‑Connecticut final game again, but great coach, great coaching staff.  I know them all well and respect them totally.

Q.  Coach, when people talk about West Virginia they talk about the balance they have.  You might be able to shut down one player but they can do it with somebody else.  What kind of challenges does that bring in trying to prepare for a team like this that goes nine deep?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON‑HENDERSON:  Right.  Well, I think that because we play a match‑up zone that we don't have to necessarily worry so much about individual style of play.  We're just going to play the way we play in our zone, and we don't have to worry about this one goes left, this one goes right, this one shoots a three, this one does this, this one does that.  They have one unique player in No.20 that is their big, best post player and their biggest size they have, and the rest, I always say they're all like Shereesha:  Very athletic, six foot and up.  We all know they're deep, but we don't have to match up with them man‑to‑man.  That's kind of a blessing on our part.

Q.  I noticed half your roster is international players.  Is that something by design or just something that came to be that way?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON‑HENDERSON:  I couldn't find any more Sarah Royals up in Connecticut.  It's really just my coaching connections.  I played professionally in New Zealand.  That's how I found Megan.  I have a little bit of a Jamaican connection because my husband is Jamaican, and a lot of people that the international connection that we have, the only one that really came from a different country is Megan.  Everybody else was in the United States.  But now Shereesha is from Jamaica, and she is, and Tammy Phillip went to junior college in Arizona.  But it's just my connections of a lot of places I've been.
I really want to recruit high‑caliber players, and sometimes when you come to a new program and it's in a different league, some kids are like, I want to go bigger time, and so I kind of steer away from those kind of kids.  I want kids that want to come to a family situation, are great academic students and are great basketball players.  So if I can't get them right away in any of the States, I'm going to go look elsewhere because I want high‑caliber players on our team.
So we've been really fortunate, and I'm old so I have a lot of great connections out there.  It wasn't really by design, it was just kind of who I knew, and I kind of went after those type of kids that want to be involved in family, academics and basketball.

Q.  Shereesha, what do you remember about last year's NCAA Tournament, and how is it different this year?
SHEREESHA RICHARDS:  Last year everything was definitely new because that's my first time being in the NCAA Tournament, but it was a lot of excitement.  I wasn't nervous, I was ready to play, ready to go.  At the same time I'm taking what's going on around me and enjoying the moment while I'm there.
And this year there's no nervous, no nothing, just ready to go from the start, from the get‑go.  It should be a lot of fun this year being this my second time around.  I'm just ready to go play hard, have fun, get my team ready to go.  That's about it.

Q.  Shereesha and Megan, talk a little bit about the net ball that you played growing up and how that did or didn't help you going into basketball?
MEGAN CRAIG:  Well, obviously net ball is a sport played in our countries, and it's a very disciplined style.  I compare it to basketball a little bit.  It makes you be more accurate with your shooting, you hold your space with your defenders to create space and get away from them.  Your passing is more accurate.  It's a more accurate version of basketball.  I played for over 10 years, 15 years, and so it was a big sport in my life.  Pretty sure Shereesha can say it was in hers, too.
SHEREESHA RICHARDS:  Yeah, I pretty much played net ball all my life until I was 16.  It's a lot of fun, definitely a lot different from basketball.  But in my opinion it helped me with my vertical jump.  I have a great vertical jump I like to say because we actually did a lot of jumping stuff and running, so for me it helped on that part.
But transition, mostly for me was learning to juggle because net ball you pass, you move.  Basketball you're dribbling and running and doing so much stuff, so many different stuff.  Yeah, it's just a whole different sport from basketball, but at the same time it's like fun.

Q.  The height of the goal is different?
MEGAN CRAIG:  There's no backboard, you can't shoot with a backboard.  It's just straight in the hole.  It makes you really think more about your shot and more about accuracy and discipline.  That's what I learned.

Q.  Were you guys inspired by the play of your men's team, and do you have those exotic‑looking uniforms that they had?
KATIE ABRAHAMSON‑HENDERSON:  No, obviously we're proud of them.  They went out there and they fought like‑‑ I love it because it's always the underdog, and the whole time it was like what's wrong with the other team and not how good our team was doing.  We watched the game.
No, we don't have those uniforms.  We get to choose our style of uniforms and stuff, but those are a little unique.  But obviously you noticed them, so that's a good thing.  I see that as a positive thing.  They went out there and they played their hearts out.  It was really neat to watch, and I know it inspired our players a lot.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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