Kansas Holds Fall Olympic Sports Media Day

Aug. 17, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas Head Coaches Ray Bechard (volleyball); Mark Francis (soccer) and Stanley Redwine (cross country) held their annual media day press conferences Wednesday in the media room in Allen Fieldhouse to kick off their respective seasons. All three teams will open their regular season schedules in the coming days.

Entering his 14th year at the helm, Kansas volleyball coach Ray Bechard took the floor first, addressing the media with his thoughts on what he took from the 2010 season and what he sees in this year’s squad. With only two incoming freshmen, Bechard likes what he sees in the Jayhawks’ preseason two-a-day practices that kicked off on Aug. 9. Bechard cited the middle blockers as the Jayhawks’ position with the most depth, while the outside hitters will take more time to fill following the graduation of Karina Garlington. An All-Big 12 honorable mention honoree in 2010, Garlington finished her career second on the Jayhawks’ all-time kills leader board

Bechard also discussed the positives of ending the 2010 season with a sweep on the road against nationally-ranked Oklahoma, but while the Sooners went on to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, his Jayhawks narrowly missed a postseason tournament bid of their own. As Kansas embarks on a new season – beginning Aug. 26 at the Georgia Bulldog Invitational – Bechard made it clear that his team’s goal is doing what takes to earn its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since the 2005 season.

Volleyball Interviews: Coach Bechard | Volleyball Group

Volleyball Head Coach Ray Bechard

Opening statement:

“Thanks for coming out today. We started camp on the ninth of August and we’ve been hitting it pretty hard. We are 12 practices in to this point and we’re pleased with how it has been going. Some major reasons for that include us being a little farther ahead because we have 15 returning players and just two newcomers. Last year we had eight newcomers, which made the process a little bit more methodical. I think we’re helped along in the process by the fact that we were together this summer. We had a week of practice before we went on a 12-day trip to Europe where we competed seven times. Those two things combined: the number of returning players and the opportunity to train and compete this spring and summer has really helped us get ahead of the eight-ball a little bit. We have a lot of work to do and a short time to do that.

“I’m extremely excited about the culture in the gym, the work ethic and what we’re trying to get done. We’re going to count on three seniors. Nicole Tate and Allison Mayfield have been on-and-off four-year starters so we’re excited about that. We feel like we’re probably deepest in the middle from an experience standpoint. We return Tayler Tolefree a junior starter and Caroline Jarmoc a sophomore starter in the middle and Jessie Allen has had a great fall camp to this point. The biggest question mark for us right now is when you graduate (Karina) Garlington and (Jenna) Kaiser on the outside. How do you replace that? We’ve got returners in Marianne Beal, Lauren Hagan and Amy Wehrs who will step in and then we have two newcomers, Sara McClinton and Chelsea Albers. They are both kids from the Omaha area who I think Jayhawk fans will really be impressed with. They will enter into that mix right away. They are freshmen and there’s times where we say ‘wow!’ and times when we say ‘wow?’ Those are two different ‘wow’s for different reasons. Hopefully the good ‘wow’s will take over as we get into this.

“A little bit about how we finished last year. It’s difficult to end your year when you beat a ranked team on the road (Oklahoma), 3-0, and that team advances to the Sweet 16 and your season ends. It meant we had a number of quality wins. Iowa State at home was a top-10 team and we had a couple great road wins. There were some matches that we didn’t take care of and we should have. Hopefully we’ve learned from that and adjust to what we need to do in different situations. We scheduled in a manner that will really prepare us for the Big 12. We have four pre-conference tournaments. We go to DePaul, Georgia and we go to Northern Iowa. Northern Iowa has won the Missouri Valley and was the No. 5 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament last year. We’ll also see Minnesota, who is a top 10 team this year. We lose a Nebraska and Colorado and I have mixed feelings about that. We enjoyed those two conference schools, but they did what they had to do. We are excited about getting this season off to a good start. We need to set the tone for the rest of the sports.”

On what the key factor is to getting those key wins:

“There’s a number of things. We lost in five at Colorado, Texas Tech and Kansas State. We point to key moments in all those matches that you have to make some plays. At Colorado, it came down to communication between two players. With experience, some of those things happen. We’ll put them in some of those situations in practice and hopefully they will react a little bit better.”

On who will fill in for graduated seniors Jenna Kaiser and Karina Garlington:

“It’ll be by committee and once again there are the two newcomers who are physically gifted. They haven’t seen a Big 12 match, the speed of the play or any of those things. McClinton is 6-foot-2 and Albers is 6-foot-1. Garlington and Kaiser had some offensive skills, but these two bring some other skills, physically.”

On if the team has a leg up on the competition:

“Yes I think so. We had a week of practice and seven matches, which is about 30 percent of your season and we got to play some kids that wouldn’t normally get to play. The (Catherine) Carmichael’s, the (Amy) Wehrs’ and the (Marianne) Beal’s who didn’t get a lot of playing time last year got a ton of that this summer. We have to move forward with what we have to work with now.”

Senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield

On if the team has a leg up on the competition going into the season after playing in Europe this summer:

“With the majority of the team coming back, there’s always that experience you gain from the spring of your freshman year. I feel like a lot of our freshmen have stepped up. They’ve done a really good job of learning our style and the offense. It’s nice now that we have all those sophomores that have our style down. It’s easier to transition in two-a-days, so I think it’s going to help.”

On there being an increase in expectations this season:

“Our goal is always to go the NCAA Tournament, and we’ve come up short these last couple years. With so many returners, we know how it felt last year on Selection Sunday to not be picked. A majority of the team will remember that feeling every time it gets hard so we’ll use that and hopefully have a great season.”

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc

On the experience of playing in Europe this summer:

“It was really fun. They have a different style than we do and the rules are a little bit different because they use international rules, but they did a good job of letting us stick to our own. Volleyball is all about adjusting so it was good because we could adjust to different styles and work on areas that we might not be presented with in the U.S.”

On if beating eventual NCAA Sweet 16 team, Oklahoma last year gives them motivation:

“I wouldn’t say that. We just need to focus on ourselves because every team changes. Oklahoma has obviously lost people so it’s a new team every season. I think it’s more focusing on us and how strong we are coming back and with our new additions. We’re all very hopeful and you can feel it in practice. We all have higher expectations and we push each other more.”

On the loss of Colorado and Nebraska in the Big 12:

“The way I look at it is we are going to have two less matches with each team gone. We need to focus on ourselves and performing to our best.”

On the non-conference tournament schedule:

“I love tournaments. They are a great way to work the kinks out because you play consecutively one game after another. You don’t have long day breaks. If you have to make adjustments, you have to make them quick.”

On what area the team needs to work on the most:

“In volleyball, defense is a huge thing. We’re all expected to be offensive and kill the ball, but the hardest part is defending a team’s attacks. That is what we are really focusing on right now.”

Junior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree

On the different playing styles of teams in the Big 12:

“I would say different teams have different areas that we focus on. What we’re going to try and defend. Each team has their own style and, of course, hitters come and go. When some hitters leave you don’t have to key in on them as much and you have to figure out who their new players are and how to defend them. Like Caroline (Jarmoc) said, it’s a game of adjustment so even though you watch film, things change.”

On already starting her junior year:

“It has been a full two years and now going on three. I’m excited and I think I’ve learned a lot because I’ve been on a lot of different teams here at KU. I think we have a lot of drive and energy for this year.”

On how much she has changed since coming to KU:

“Everyone says once you get to college, everything is faster and quicker. In high school and club you think you are fast and can jump high, but when you get here and everyone is faster and jumps higher. It’s all about getting used to it and being relentless.”

Soccer Interviews: Coach Francis | Berry

Kansas soccer enters the 2011 season with several new faces, which has Jayhawk soccer coach Mark Francis excited. In his 13th season, Coach Francis returns seven starters, including top offensive threats senior Kortney Clifton and junior Whitney Berry. Clifton led KU with four goals in 2010 and Berry earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors. The Jayhawks will have a relatively new look this season as two 2010 redshirt student-athletes help make up a group of 11 newcomers, including Liana Salazar and Ingrid Vidal, who both played with the Colombian national soccer team this past summer in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Soccer Head Coach Mark Francis

Opening statement:

“Unlike (head volleyball) Coach Bechard, we are not coming off of a season where we were close to the NCAA Tournament; it (was) very disappointing coming off of last season. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we have a brand new team.

We have a smaller squad. We have 23 players. Last year, we started the year with 29. Having a smaller squad is a lot more manageable. I like that. We have 11 new players, so half of our team is brand new. We have eight freshman, two redshirts and a transfer. Seven of those guys started for us on Sunday (against Butler). The positive to that is we have a lot of talented, new kids. On the flip side, organizationally we have a lot of people trying to figure things out right now, but I really, really like the mentality and personality of this group. I think they’re extremely competitive.

During the preseason, they did not take a session off. Every session, they came out and went after it, and we had to adjust the schedule accordingly because they got worn out because they came out with so much intensity. I think that’s a great trait that’s going to help us down the road.”

On the exhibition game on Sunday:

“We had five kids out. Two of those would have been starters and the other guys would have given us minutes. We were a little bit short, especially in the middle of the back and the middle of the midfield. I think that hurt us a little bit because we had a couple of young guys in there, which was great experience for them. Sunday’s game was great for us. We saw some things that we need to adjust and work on. We did that yesterday and we’ll do it again today in practice.”

On this year’s team:

“We are going to be very good offensively. The biggest struggle for us last year was that we scored 19 goals in 20 games. You’re not going to go very far with that. Offensively, we have a lot of new faces. I think we’re going to be dangerous offensively. Having said that, we’re going to have a lot of new faces defensively. We graduated three of our four starting defenders. We’re going to be young in the back. We obviously have paid a lot of attention to that in the preseason, but there’s nothing quite like getting out there and competing against somebody else.”

On this year’s schedule:

“Our schedule is tough. We do scheduling so far in advance that if I had known we were going to be this young, I would have made it a little easier. The good thing is our guys are going to get into it right off the bat Friday with Tennessee – a very, very good team. We’ll see what we’re made of. When we get to conference (games), we’ll already have experience playing very high-level teams. That will help us.”

On the possibility of increasing the fanbase after the Women’s World Cup:

“That would be awesome. I was talking to somebody about this the other day. The last Women’s World Cup you only saw the United States games, the semifinals and the final. This year, every single game was on. I think I recorded and watched most of them. I think the awareness for our sport was awesome. I had friends that never watch soccer that actually watched some women’s soccer over the summer. For the awareness of our sport, it was awesome. I’d like to think it’s going to help us get some more fans out. It helps when you win games. If you’re winning games, people are more likely to come out. Hopefully we’ll get some more people out there. It depends on how we start. If we start well, which I think we will, people like to come see winning teams.”

On signing Liana Salazar and Infrid Vidal:

“I got an e-mail in November and followed up on it. It was a video of Liana playing in the U-20 Cup last summer for Colombia. She looked really, really good, so I just followed up on it. It ended up working out that she was able to come in the spring. Then I went out to Colombia last February to watch their World Cup team train for about five days. I really liked Ingrid. I met with her while I was out there at the end of camp and she accepted the spot. It was a little bit of a scramble with visas and stuff, but we were able to get her in. they both played in the World Cup. One of them is 18 and the other just turned 20. To be that young and be able to get out in the field and play in that kind of an event, it was a great experience for them. I think that’s going to help us. We’re going to be in some big games this year. We expect those two guys to be on the field. I think that will help the rest of the team when we get into some big matchups.”

Senior forward Kelsey Clifton

On what the team is focusing on this year:

“We learned from the exhibition game that we need to organize our defense. We have a lot of new faces back there this year. We need to focus in practice that we’re communicating and meshing well together on the defensive end. I think that will help us get to our goal this year of getting to the Big 12 Tournament and not falling short like we did last year.”

On the additions of Liana Salazar and Infrid Vidal:

“It’s been fun actually. They definitely provide us laughs and obviously, the language barrier hasn’t been too much of a problem, but it’s exciting. They bring a different level of play. They’re very quick and crafty on the ball so I think they’re going to great things for us this year and I’m really excited to see them succeed.”

On relationship with coaching staff:

“Coming here, the coaching staff was one thing that made me want to come. They were really personable with the players and I just felt like I can go to them for anything. I know they’re always there for us and adding Jess (Smith) as a coach this year has been really cool since she played here. She knows a lot of stuff that we’re going through personally. It’s just been awesome. They’ve always been there for us and been great coaches.”

Junior forward/midfielder Whitney Berry

On having a smaller squad this year:

“I think a smaller squad is definitely a good thing for us as long as we can stay healthy. If we can’t stay healthy, then we might have a few struggles, but other than that, smaller numbers give more people the opportunity to play and show what they have.”

On the additions of Liana Salazar and Infrid Vidal:

“They bring a really good attitude. They’re both excited to play all the time and they are both very good players, so their excitement and their ability just adds to our team chemistry and makes everything a really good environment.”

On improvement of the offense:

“I think our offense is probably the strongest it’s been. We are more of an attacking-minded team and as long as we can get our defense on the same page, we should be really good.”

Senior forward Kortney Clifton

On having a smaller squad this year:

“I like the smaller squad a lot. With the bigger numbers, it was kind of hard to incorporate everyone in practice and even on the road. It definitely gives us more playing time, which everyone likes. The smaller squad is definitely better and the chemistry with the smaller squad is better. Everyone is more interactive with each other.”

On chemistry with 11 newcomers:

“I think so far so good. Everyone is getting along with each other. The freshmen are doing a great job interacting with the upper classmen and asking questions whenever they need to.”

On playing with Liana Salazar and Infrid Vidal:

“Liana came this spring so we got a few games with her before this, but it’s been fun. They’re very quick and tactical minded so they have all their little foot skills and all that, which is fun to learn.”

On offense being a strength:

“Our attack has been doing really well so far. We’re all working together really well and getting opportunities that we should. I think if we continue on this path then we’ll be set.”

Cross Country Interviews: Coach Redwine | Wasinger

The cross country team is primed for a breakthrough 2011 season under Coach Redwine, who is beginning his 12th season at the helm. The women return 10 letterwinners, six of whom competed in the NCAA regional meet last season. Rebeka Stowe (2010 All-Big 12 selection) is looking forward to a memorable senior campaign after leading the KU women in each race she competed in last season. The Jayhawks will once again look to senior Donny Wasinger to lead the men’s team, which returns 11 letterwinners from last year’s squad. Wasinger, who has been the team’s top finisher in the each of the last three conference and NCAA regional meets, is coming off a solid junior campaign that was highlighted by a performance at the NCAA Championships.

Cross Country Head Coach Stanley Redwine

Opening statement:

“I think this season we’re going to have some strong leadership up front. On the men’s side we’re led by Donny Wasinger who ran at the NCAA Championships as an individual and then we have Rebeka Stowe on our women’s side who was an All-American in track last year. The key to our success this year will be the fifth person on both sides. Our fifth person can close the gap between our leaders so if we can get those things down to 30 or 45 seconds on each one we’re going to be pretty good, but we have to stay healthy in order for that to happen. We’re looking forward to the season; we just had our first practice this morning with our veterans and freshmen will start this afternoon with the team. In knowing exactly where we are, we’re learning. We’re watching the athletes and evaluating and we’ll find out who our best athletes are.

“Last year we redshirted some guys to help us out so they will come in a little more experienced than we’ve had in the past so we’re looking to do good things. Dr. (Sheahon) Zenger came in and said hello to the team and was really excited about the team, so that lit a fire under all of us because all of us want to do better. That’s the kind of thing that we need and the athletes see – that there is an expectation – so with that expectation we have to step up to the occasion.”

On what the fire that was lit means:

“Well we just talked about the tradition of kids that run cross country and track and field at the University of Kansas and we need to get back up there. I guess with the fire I mean, he challenged us, and with that challenge we’re going to accept and step up to it.”

On if this is one of the best teams he’s had:

“We’ve had really good teams on both sides where we were placing second and third in the Big 12. We have to see how we gel together and stay healthy at the end of the season. Obviously potential wise this is one of the better teams but potential means we haven’t done it yet. We’re definitely excited about the team and if we are able to stay healthy at the end of the season and do well then we’ll be pretty good.”

On Donny and Rebeka’s development and strengths as runners:

“Donny was really good out of high school. He came in and immediately contributed to the team. I think both mentally and physically he has continued to develop and so has Rebeka. The more mature you are, the better you’re going to be and the more you know what to expect, the better you are. I think that is what both of these athletes have done.

We’re going to look at both Donny and Rebeka and see what their strengths and weaknesses are and do the same thing for the team. If we’re asking those two to be patient at the beginning to help bring the team up. They’re mentally and physically able to do that instead of just running out in the front without a game plan or a strategy and just go out and compete. We’re competing with a purpose and we’re competing with the knowledge of exactly where we want the team to finish. The strategies will change depending on the race.”

Senior Donny Wasinger

On his versatility for different strategies at each race:

“The training that we have done here over the years has prepared me well so I am able to do that. Different meets do require different strategies and the team looks to the front guys and girls to be able to do that. It’s a responsibility that you have to take upon yourself when the team needs it. I’ve had successes in cross country and track and I feel like I have a pretty good range of skills or strategies. Cross country is more of a team sport than track is so we each really try to focus on helping out the whole team while also doing your best individually.”

On his success from last year giving the team a good taste of what could be if they do well:

“I think it does. I think what last year really accomplished was setting the mindset and the expectation that we are here to do really well, that’s where we need to be and that’s where the whole team needs to be. So I think having somebody that’s been there now and has another year to work with the team is important, I think it’s really going to help the team to step up to the same level.”

On his physical development:

“I’ve definitely become stronger. I was not in the weight room in high school at all, so being in the weight room for the last three years doing reps and core strength has helped a lot. When you get tired in a race the first thing to go is your core and then you’re running against yourself so that’s important during a race.”

Senior Rebeka Stowe

On how much she’s changed since her freshman year:

“A lot, my freshman year I was fighting to be in our top five and this last year, and the goal this year, is to be contending throughout the nation. My goals personally are very high so I’m excited to see what happens. From a timing standpoint, I’ve improved probably two minutes which in cross country is a lot of time. Training has been a lot better and a lot different since when I first came here – I had a different coach. Overall, it’s been a huge improvement.”

On her goals:

“To contend consistently with girls on my team and with the best in the country; there are a lot of amazing runners out there. The world championships are actually going on here in a couple of weeks and those are the girls I want to be competing with eventually. It’s harder to do in cross because there’s not as much emphasis on cross as there is in track and we’re just coming off of track season. It’s a little different to change your focus from that to cross country but I’m excited where it’s going.”

On if the heat was an issue for the training this summer:

“No, you just have to get up a little earlier. You don’t get as much of a summer break as you’d like but I know that a lot of the girls either got up early or ran late at night and tried to avoid it. Then there are other girls who want to sleep in and run at 11 a.m. when it’s hot. You just have to deal with it, acclimate and get used to the heat.”