Kansas Holds Annual Fall Olympic Sports Media Day

Aug. 20, 2007


The University of Kansas held its annual fall olympic sports media day Monday. Head volleyball coach Ray Bechard, soccer coach Mark Francis and cross country coach Stanley Redwine all spoke about their upcoming seasons.

Fall Olympic Sports Media Day Quotes
Aug. 20, 2007

Head Coach Ray Bechard

“Our goal for this year is a top-five finish in the Big 12. Any top-five finish in the Big 12, I think, will assure you a spot in the NCAA tournament, which is obviously the ultimate goal for this group this year. That’s something we got done three of the last four years. A little stub of our toe last year, which we feel like the team is extremely excited about rectifying that situation this year. So we’re excited about that.”

“We do have a great environment at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. We have 14 opportunities to play at home and we’re excited about getting as people in that venue as possible because it is a great place to compete and a great place for fans to come watch high-level volleyball.”

“Once again, the Big 12 obviously will be a tremendous challenge for us. I think after the top two spots. Everybody feels like Nebraska and Texas are Final Four teams. I think it’s going to be a free-for-all three through 11. And there’s a lot of teams with a lot of great players coming back but we feel we’re one of those teams. So we think we can fill one of those spots in the top five in the Big 12 and have the type of season that Jayhawk fans have grown accustomed to over the last few years.”

On what you tell your young players about competing in the Big 12 and what you tell them about going on the road to compete?
“Well, you’ve just got to bring it every night and every time you go on the road, it’s another opportunity. You can look at past years’ experience and where you’re pre-season ranked. I know Oklahoma was a pre-season No. 11 last year and they ended up third in the conference and they ended up in the Sweet 16. So a lot of things can happen. They did stay healthy and had some players that were experienced. We do have a number of experienced players that will show us the way; that have been through that before. You know, the Emily Browns and Natalie Uharts, Caitlin Mahoneys. They know what it’s like at Missouri and at Colorado and at Texas A&M. And obviously, they’re going to have to set the tone for us and let the younger players know what the expectation level is when you do go on the road in this conference.”

Senior middle blocker Caitlin Mahoney:
On Coach Bechard:
Coach is very good about getting us to work hard in practice everyday and putting that competitive fire in us. We respect him very much because we know he’s been here a while and is very knowledgable about the sport.

On being the upperclassman this year:
I’ve been here for a while now so I think its easier for me to fill that role. I like having that role of being in charge and having kind of like that mom role.

On the last couple of years and what the team needs to do to get back to the NCAA Tournament:
I think the biggest thing is not thinking about last year that much because its already happened. Knowing the conference is going to be hard and we are just going to have to bring it every practice and every game

Redshirt junior Natalie Uhart:
On Coach Bechard:
One thing I really, really like about coach is he’s very personable. I can go into his office and talk to him about anything. There’s a lot of times when a coach is just a coach and you can’t really talk to him about anything else. I can stop by coach Bechard’s office just to bother him and talk.

He’s very positive, he has a positive outlook on everything. He’s not a negative person whatsoever. He never dwells on bad things and that’s how he has really helped me a lot.

On getting off to good start in preconference play:
It’s a very tough conference, very competitive. I think everyone in the conference is pretty evenly matched, and its just who’s gonna bring it every game, is what it comes down to.

Head Coach Mark Francis

“We just started our preseason practices a week ago Saturday and had our Red-Blue game on Saturday. We don’t compete until a week from Friday, so we’re still figuring out who our starting 11 are going to be. That’s something we have to finalize this week.”

“There is a lot of depth on the roster. I don’t think anybody thinks that their starting spot is secure, and I think across the board everybody is concerned that they’re going to have to bring it every day in practice. We have nine returning starters, but I think legitimately there are five or six positions where the returning players are going to be challenged by the new kids. That’s great for us as a program, but it’s a pain in the neck for a coach. But it’s a good problem to have.”

“I’m very impressed with the freshman class, with how quickly they’ve jumped into the speed of the game. All of them have gotten in stride with it right away and because of that, they’ve put pressure on some of our returning players.”

“Our goal this year is to win the conference. That’s not going to be easy by any means. This is a real tough conference from top to bottom.”

“We open up on the road, we’re actually going to Hawaii. We’re going there to win two games. When I scheduled it, I thought it would be great for recruiting, but the reality is it’s a long trip. There’s a five-hour time difference between here and there. We get back on Monday afternoon and then turn around and play again on Thursday, so that’s going to be a very challenging part to our schedule. There’s no breathing room in our schedule this year, we have to show up every game and perform at our high level and if we don’t we’re going to get it handed to us.”

On the talent level of this year’s team compared to the Big 12 championship team of 2004:
“There’s no doubt that this is a more talented team than that group (in 2004). That group overachieved. Last year we underachieved, and that’s my fault as the head coach. This year, if we achieve what we are capable of, we’ll do very well. To win a championship, it takes a lot more than talent. There are a lot of intangibles there, that we’re actually seeing signs of with this group. Our senior class has done an excellent job and a lot of our freshmen are starting step up.”

On the drive to get out on the field again:
“Our junior class of Missy Geha, Jessica Bush, Julie Hanley and Jenny Murtaugh has been together now for a few years and they’ve been one of our more talented classes, and as I’ve said to them as a class, `You guys have not made the NCAA Tournament as a class, and I don’t think you want to finish your careers like that.’ Our seniors won the Big 12 as freshmen and then they haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament for two years, so I think there’s motivation from them as well. We’ve gotten great leadership from those groups this year.”

Junior goalkeeper Julie Hanley<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

On the freshman class’ progress:

“I think a lot of it is going to come with practice and getting to know each other’s strengths. Right now it’s too early to tell exactly who (the starters) will be. Like Coach (Mark Francis) said, there are four or five girls who could potentially play at a few positions. Right now, we’re trying to work everyone into the mix to see what works well for us.”

On the junior class’ inability make the NCAA:

“That is obviously our goal to make the NCAA Tournament this year. There is no doubt in my mind that we should be in the tournament; anything else would be failure on our part. There is no reason why we should not make the tournament this year.”

On this season’s schedule:

“We always seem to play better when we play a better team. It will be a really great challenge for us to play some top-level teams this year and gage where we are at early on. It will be more difficult to get there, but I think we are definitely capable of beating those teams and making it into the tournament and advancing in the tournament.”

Sophomore midfielder Shannon McCabe

On expectations for the incoming freshman class:

“They might be nervous at first. I was a freshman last year and I know it’s really hard to come in and try to assert yourself with all the other talent and the older girls. They just have to know that they are an integral part of the team and that we need them to have a winning season. They need to step up and pay hard in every tournament. We need them to adapt quickly to college soccer because it is a lot different than what they are used to in high school.”

On setting an example for the freshman class:

“It’s a really hard transition from high school soccer. The college level is a lot faster. When I was a freshman I relied on my teammates and looked to the veterans for advice. They were my example and I tried to play at their level and I expect this incoming class will do the same.”

On the team’s potential:

“I feel that we have a very good chance of winning the Big 12. Last year I told one of my fellow teammates that we’re going to win the conference while we’re here. I think this year is a perfect opportunity for us to do that. We have a lot of talent and are stacked from top to bottom at every position. I think there is no excuse for us not to win the Big 12 or at least be a major contender. Last year we lost in overtime to Texas A&M (when they were ranked fifth in the country). We can compete with the top-level competition and be right up there with the top ten in the country.”

Junior midfielder Jessica Bush

On upcoming opponents:

“This year every game is a big game. Every game puts us that much closer to the NCAA Tournament.”

On the incoming freshman class:

“The freshman class is extremely talented. They have come in and fallen right into place. I know it’s hard for freshmen to come in and adjust but they have done a great job. They bring intensity and are filling the role we expected them to. Game by game I think they are just going to get better. They are going to mature and do great adapting to the level of college soccer.”

On preparing for the season opener:

“The talent is there, it is just a matter of piecing it together. Team chemistry is great for us and the intensity at practice has been great. Now we need to piece all the little things together and make sure everything is cohesive before the first game. But team chemistry is one thing we have always taken great pride in at KU and I think this team has that this year, which will be a huge part of our success.”

Cross Country
Head Coach Stanley Redwine
“We just started practice last Tuesday. Right now we are just working on distance trying to get everyone back into shape and back into the flow of things. We open our season Sept. 1 in the Bob Timmons Invitational in Lawrence. We’re going to have to perform well at the K-State and Roy Griak Invites to get ready for conference championships and NCAA championships.”

On who needs to step up on the men’s team to have another strong year:
“Its not just Paul [Heffron] and Colby [Whissel], everyone needs to step up. Everyone needs to continue to work hard so we can achieve our goals this year.”

On the women’s team:
“We expect to be a lot better this year. Frankly, after last they were embarassed and I was embarassed. We’re going to work a lot harder this year to make sure we perform up to our capabilities.”

Senior Paul Hefferon
On his expectations for the year:
“They are pretty high, especially with Colby (Wissel) and I returning. We are one of only three teams that return two all-Americans from last fall. People are going to be watching us. We have always run close to each other and we have had a lot of success. We were not the most highly acclaimed runners out of high school and we’ve out performed a lot of guys who were. And now that we are seniors and we have been there and accomplished things, we do not have the advantage of going into meets and not having people notice that we are there. The reason we have had success is that we have very high expectations for ourselves and each other. As far as I can tell we are on the same plane as year’s past.”

On preparation for the upcoming season:
“We have a lot of resources here at KU and I’m utilizing every single one of those. In this sport, a lot of mental toughness is required. The training is pretty simple and you just go out there and do the work. It comes down to how you perform on the day of the race, especially at the big Invites. A 10-to-15 second difference in a five-mile race can mean a lot of points for your team. We are working on mental toughness and being able to perform when that time comes.”

On this year’s team compared to last year’s:
“We are not as experienced as we were last year. We lost four seniors, who were our three through six runners. One of them was Benson (Chesang) who was a two-time Big 12 Champion and finished seventh in the NCAA meet. We are missing Erik Sloan who was our emotional and mental leader. Colby and I have stepped into that role, trying to be more vocal and challenging the younger guys to not take any days off.”

Senior Lisa Morrisey
On this year’s team:
“There are nine returnees from the sophomore class which is a big chunk of our team. We also have three new freshmen who came in and as of right now, they are doing really well and staying up there with the older runners. I think we are going to be good as a team. Obviously last year, we kind of bombed at the Big 12 Championship but I think we learned from it and will be improved.”

On last year’s disappointing finish:
“It was a learning experience. We had such a young team and it was a little overwhelming and the conference is really competitive. But now that our top seven runners are going to be older and we all know what it is like. This year, I think, if we just run our race and be smart about it, we’ll do a lot better than last year.”

On the team’s goals:
“Of course we want to be in the top half of the Big 12. That’s our number one goal every year. I think this is the most talented team I’ve been on.”