Fall Olympic Sports Hold Media Day
Aug. 22, 2006
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
The University of Kansas fall sports programs held their annual media day at Hadl Auditorium Tuesday. Volleyball coach Ray Bechard, cross country coach Stanley Redwine and soccer coach Mark Francis addressed members of the media on their upcoming seasons.
Also in attendance were various student-athletes representing the sports. Senior Jana Correa and junior Emily Brown represented the volleyball program at the event. Senior Benson Chesang and junior Lisa Morrisey spoke on behalf of the cross country program and senior Holly Gault and sophomore Jessica Bush appeared for the soccer program.
Soccer has already played an exhibition game against Drake, which it tied 1-1. Soccer’s regular season kicks off Friday when it hosts Furman at the Jayhawk Soccer Complex at 5 p.m. Cross country’s first meet of the year will also be at home, when the teams compete in the Bob Timmons Invitational on Sept. 2 at Rim Rock Farm.
Volleyball hits the road Friday when it heads to Tuscaloosa, Ala. to participate in the Crimson Tide Invitational against Alabama A&M, Miami and Alabama. After the tournament, volleyball will return to Lawrence for its home opener on Aug. 29 against UMKC at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center at 7 p.m.
Stay tuned to kuathletics.com for all the latest Jayhawk news and results.
2006 Fall Sports Press Conference Quotes
Women’s Volleyball Head Coach
“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.”
Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach
“We are very excited about this year. Our goal is to win the Big 12 Championship at our home course, Rim Rock Farm on October 27. We were definitely fortunate last year that on the men’s side we finished third with Benson Chesang winning the Big 12 Championship. He has won the Big 12 title the past two years and hopes to this year as well. With the men, we want to go back to the NCAA Championship. Last year, we finished 12th, but our goal this year is to finish higher, both at the NCAA and Big 12 Championships. To reach that goal, we must stay healthy. We return five of our seven runners in the NCAA meet last year so we do have some experience here. The runners are very excited and now they know that it can be done.
On the women’s side, we have nine new freshmen. We have a young team. Last year we finished eighth in the Big 12 which was tied for our second-best Big 12 showing, but eighth is not good enough. We are looking to get better. The team is young and excited. We have just been doing base work so we do not know exactly where the team is at yet. We have our home meet on Sept. 2. We have a couple of returners on the women’s side that will help the younger athletes. As long as we are healthy, we are going to be okay.”
On the freshmen women:
“They are just going to go out and do their best and that is all we are going to ask them to do. We just want them to do their best. After the first meet, we will then be able to correct their mistakes and go on from there.”
On what makes Benson Chesang a Big 12 champion:
“His desire. He wants to win. He’s a very good competitor. He believes in himself and believes it can be done. It won’t be easy, but Benson loves the competition and he will go out and do a good job.
On the returning men:
“They are more experienced, at this point they have trained a little bit more over the summer but that does not equate with better performance. The best way to do it is to have a meet. Because they have experience they will be more seasoned, but it is about meet competition. It is not about practice.”
On having the Big 12 Championships at Rim Rock Farm:
“There is no better course in the nation than our home facility here so it is really exciting for me, the fans, and the history of KU cross country to have a very good product. This is a great opportunity for everyone to come out and see us. We need that hometown support. The course is in top notch shape right now, so we are excited.”
Women’s Soccer Head Coach
“We have eight returning starters from last year’s team. When you finish tied for 2nd in the Big 12 and that is a disappointing season, it tells you how high we are setting the expectations. In the last four years we have been to the NCAA Tournament three times. We are excited about this group, we have eight incoming freshmen, two walk-ons and six scholarship athletes. Of the six, three of them started on Saturday (vs. Drake) and one more could start for us when she gets healthy. We have another newcomer, Jessica Kilpatrick, that had to sit out last year, but she is back and she is starting too. We have more depth this year which is good for our program. We are real excited about the group that we have and the freshman that have come in. The freshmen have come in and picked up the pace pretty well, as you know the pace at the Division I level is faster than they are used to. The biggest challenge we have right now is offensively we graduated three starters but I think we are going to be better this year than we were last year. We have more depth. We have three freshman forward and Kilpatrick so we have four incoming forwards. We just have to get those guys on the same page. The talent is there, we just have to coach them.
One of the reasons we did not make it to the NCAA Tournament last year is that they said our RPI was not high enough. Our schedule is tougher this year, we play 10 teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last year and several teams that have been ranked in the Top 10, like Duke and California. And of course, the Big 12 is always tough. Our goal this year is to win the Big 12. If we do not go into a season with that our goal then we are not doing ourselves justice. We do not just want to get back to the NCAA tournament, we want to advance. The furthest we have ever advanced is the Sweet 16 three years ago. This group, if they can develop, has the potential to do as well as that team did. The talent is there but it takes a lot more than that to be a champion. Only time will tell if we have those certain intangibles. We have lots of speed which is going to help because you cannot coach speed. We are excited about Friday and hope people will come out and support us.”
On missing the NCAA Tournament last year and the motivation it provides:
“To be honest, I did not have to use it for motivation. The players used it themselves. I could tell this past spring that there was a different mentality about the team. When you sit with your team watching the NCAA selection show and your name doesn’t get called, that’s a pretty good motivator.”
On replacing all-time leading scorer Caroline Smith:
“I don’t think anyone will be able to key on one particular person. Caroline was a great player, but this year we have four great forwards and I think that it’s going to be hard for a team to stop one of them and hold us from scoring. Also, people don’t know about the freshmen we have. We also moved Holly Gault from right back to attacking midfielder and forward and she is very dangerous going forward and that is something people are not used to seeing.”
On Gault’s position change:
“We wanted to utilize her strengths as an attacking player. We also have a couple of freshmen, one whom started against Drake, Estelle Johnson, that did extremely well. She is fast and good going forward from the back just like Holly was, so we felt we had a lot of players who could play the same role that Holly did.”
On the strengths of the goalie tandem:
“It could change week to week. They are so close that we’ve told them that if they aren’t getting the job done, the other will be starting. Both did well against Drake on Friday. If one is starting and doing a good job, they’ll continue to keep starting. They both know the situation and are okay with it. It is good for both of them because it motivate and pushes them to do their best in training.
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.”
Benson Chesang, Senior Cross Country Runner
On returning runners:
“We return so many guys and we have some strong freshmen coming in.”
On having the Big 12 Championships at Rim Rock Farm:
“It means a lot to us. The best thing is that we get to stay home and don’t have to travel. It is always good to run on your home course.”
On being a senior:
“I’ve been in this business a while now so I know what I’m used to. I’m smarter now. The more experience you have, the better off you are.”
On the pressure of winning a third consecutive Big 12 Championship:
“That’s a lot of pressure. First of all because I’m at home so I’ll have to perform well. I’ll have to try hard to win for a third time.”
On being the guy to beat:
“You can tell at meets by the way the runners and coaches are looking at you. Everybody is thinking, `I really have to get this guy.'”
Lisa Morrisey, Junior Cross Country Runner
On being familiar with Rim Rock Farm:
“About half of the girls on the team are from Kansas and the high school state meet is at Rim Rock, so a lot of us have run there before. I think we are ready for it.”
On increasing their finish at the conference meet:
“We should get better because it’s our course, so we always have the advantage. We know when and where we need to penetrate and where the hills are and what we need to work on. It should be a huge team advantage.”
On being the leader of the team:
“I am more of a leader by example. We do have three seniors on the team and some juniors. We are all the leaders and all really good friends. The freshmen look up to the older runners so in a way I am a leader.”
Holly Gault, Senior Forward
On the goals for the season:
“For the team, we didn’t go to the NCAA Tournament last year so we want to go and advance in the tournament. We have never really advanced in the Big 12 Tournament, so we want to do well there. Individually I just want to be there for my teammates and play as well as we can every day.”
On taking on a leadership role:
“I like to lead by example. I’m not going to go out there and be a person who is always talking. I’m going to go out there and do the dirty work, keep motivating people and help them to be the best that they can be.”
Jessica Bush, Sophomore Midfielder
On the team’s depth:
“People are going to be in and out of starting positions. We are all competing to start and each day it could be different. It’s good for the people that aren’t starting and it’s good for the people that are because the starters won’t be content with where they are at and the people that aren’t starting want to be starting.”
On the goalkeeper position:
“They both work extremely hard. They go 30 minutes before practice and work their butts off. There is not a huge difference at all and they are going to be fighting for a starting position.”
On the team’s strength:
“I would say our defense. We have been working a lot on defense as well as our fitness.”