Fall Olympic Sports Media Day Quotes

Aug. 22, 2006


On Tuesday, Kansas head coach Ray Bechard and student-athletes Jana Correa and Emily Brown participated in Fall Olympic Sports Media Day 2006. The Jayhawks open their season Friday (Aug. 25) at the Academy Sports/Crimson Tide Invitational in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Below are selected quotes from media day:

Ray Bechard
Opening Statement:
“We have had 17 practices to this point and we will have a couple more opportunities prior to leaving for Alabama on Thursday. We did get to run our troops through an alumni match on Saturday which helped crystallize the picture just a little bit. We have a lot of questions to answer as we go through this preseason but that is what preseason is for. Our pre-conference season is something we are excited about.

As is usual, we try to play a pre-conference schedule that will prepare us for what will be the most difficult Big 12 conference season we have faced. Of the 11 teams, there are two teams that believe that they can probably win a national title, those teams being Nebraska and Texas. After that there will be a group of five or six teams that will be fighting for an upper tier finish and we feel like we’re one of those teams.

For us to finish in the top half there are some things that have to take place. We have to replace a couple four-year starters, Andi Rozum and Josi Lima. Katie Martincich was a redshirt last year and she will assume many of the setting duties, as will Emily Brown who is a returning starter on the outside hitting position. At the middle blocker position, we are sad to say that we have already lost Natalie Uhart. She sustained a serious knee injury in the alumni match. It’s extremely disappointing situation for Natalie but we’re confident that a year from now we will be talking about what she can do for us on the floor. Savannah Noyes returns at the position. Freshmen Brittany Williams and Paige Mazour will also vie for that position. We have a junior that has been in the program for three years in Caitlin Mahoney who has had experience in the middle. We are very talented but young at middle blocker. On the outside, Jana Correa returns as healthy as she has ever been and we’re excited that she can have a complete full senior season at an All-Big 12 type level. Megan Hill has much experience on the outside and she will get a great chance to shine at that position, as will freshman Isadora Rangel. The deepest positions we have are the libero and defensive specialist positions. Jamie Mathewson was our libero last year. Dani Wittman has helped us in that position as well as Liz Ingram and Melissa Grieb. We have a transfer from Temple, Linsey Morningstar, that will fill a number of roles for us. She understands the work ethic needed at this level to be successful.

We have a squad of 16 players and, now, 15 that are active. Our goal this year is to be a little bit deeper and competitive at all positions. We feel like we are prepared and the personnel to do that. Our goals are pretty clear. Our senior class wants to be a senior class that has been to three NCAA tournaments. It is unique that prior to them coming here, Kansas volleyball had never been to one, and now that is all that they know. We feel like we if we can get some of these young players some exposure to Division I volleyball and they make that adjustment like we hope they can that by the Big 12 Conference season we will be ready to compete at the highest level.”

On the replacement for Natalie Uhart:
“Brittany Williams seems to have the best opportunity (to replace Natalie Uhart). We were training Caitlin Mahoney more on the right side but now we will give Caitlin that opportunity too. Those two players have as much high school and club experience that will hopefully make that transition smoothly. Paige Mazour will close that gap quickly when she has the opportunity and she is doing it day-by-day.”

On finding a team leader:
“We are going to have a couple players that we think will be on the floor for all six rotations in Emily Brown and Jana Correa. They will be counted on heavily, not only statistically but also as team leaders. It is a shared thing however, but when you are involved in the play as much as Emily and Jana are, then naturally some of that responsibility falls on them.”

On being a favorite, instead of an underdog:
“I don’t know if we have gotten everyone’s best effort in the past, especially with the Friday-Saturday schedule format but now with the Wednesday-Saturday format and every Big 12 match being important, we will receive everyone’s best effort. As a coaching staff we recognize that and it is our job to have the team prepared.”

On the program’s growth:
“The biggest challenge is going from good to great in this conference. It is much easier to go from good to average. The good to great steps are very difficult, they have to be very thought out and you must avoid thunderbolts like injuries. The good to average steps, though, can happen in one night. That is why we know that in the last Sunday in November, if you are one of the top seven or eight teams in the conference, you have a chance to be selected to the NCAA Tournament.”

Emily Brown, Junior Right-Side Hitter/Setter
On the injury to junior middle blocker Natalie Uhart:

“It was a big disappointment. Natalie is a great player and she was very excited to be able to come home and play.”

On making the transition from high school to college volleyball:
“I think it is real tough to come in and play as a freshman. Making the transition from high school to the fast-paced action of Big 12 volleyball is tough. Also, having a specific position is a huge responsibility. We have a lot of good girls coming in who are ready for the challenge, so I think we will be all right.”

On advancing past the second round of the NCAA Tournament:
“We are definitely looking to get past the second round this year. We know what it is like to be in both of those places, and think it would be even better to advance beyond the second round.”

On filling a leadership role on the team:
“We have great seniors every year and we always get a good group of girls together. I do not know if it will be one person, but I think we have upperclassmen who are capable of being leaders. It will be very important this season, especially with all the freshmen and transfer players we have, to have our leadership show through.”

Jana Correa, Senior Outside Hitter
On the outlook for the 2006 season:

“We are very excited. We have been practicing really hard and are looking forward to the upcoming tournament. We want to finish strong in the Big 12 and go to the NCAA Tournament again.”

On the team’s focus on defense over the offseason:
“I think our digging improved a lot over the 12 days of camp we had. I think our defense is going to be better and that is something that our coaching staff has really emphasized to us.”

On upcoming competition:
“We need to play more. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to show what we’ve been practicing on. I think this weekend we will be very confident. I think over the past three years, we have improved and gained the respect of our opponents. People from the West Coast who may not have heard about Kansas are aware that we have a good program and respect us.”