Volleyball Talks to Media During Fall Olympic Sports Media Day

Aug. 25, 2010


Bechard’s opening comments

Garlington talks to the media

Fall Olympic Sports Media Day

August 25, 2010

Ray Bechard, Women’s Volleyball Head Coach

On the previous week:

“I woke up this week feeling just a little bit different like coaches do when its their week to start competing. There is a certain level of anxiety but a certain level of eagerness, too. We are excited about the opportunity to get going on Friday. We travel to Creighton to open up. We have had what we feel like is a very productive two-a-day camp. We started on Aug. 9 with 19 players on the roster and that is the biggest roster we have ever had. We have a number of returning players but if you count up seven freshman, a transfer, and two redshirts from last year, we have 10 players who weren’t on the floor last year. Obviously, that’s a big number but we are excited about what that number can do for us. We are coming off a year where we were 16-14, our RPI was in the 50’s. It was probably right on the borderline for an NCAA tournament berth so we know that we got to improve on both of those numbers. The way the schedule is set up, and I will talk about that in a little bit, we have every opportunity to do that.”

On this year’s team:

“We are excited about the number of players we have returning, we have a number of starters back in some key positions. Karina Garlington, a senior, and Allison Mayfield, a junior on the outside, are two-year starters in that position so we are excited about that. Jenna Kaiser who has been in and out of the starting lineup the last couple years, I think is finally going to get as healthy as she’s been and we expect great things out of her senior season. Melissa Manda is a returning libero starter, another senior that has been a two-year starter at that position, and Nicole Tate returns as a two-year starter in the setting position. We also have some part-time starters in Lauren Hagan on the outside and Tayler Tolefree here from Lawrence, Kan., in the middle. So we have a number of players who have had some experience. Senior Mel Townsend has had some experience in the defensive specialist role. Morgan Boub in that same role is a returning player. So we are excited about that group and we know that group is going to have to perform on a really high level for us to do the things we want to do.”

On the new players:

“I do want to speak a little bit about some of the new players we are welcoming. Our setter position is as competitive as it has ever been. We have two freshman setters in Kara Wehrs and Erin McNorton who have done a great job and we could open the season with a freshman starter at setter. Our middle blocker situation with Taylor coming back, we feel good about. Caroline Jarmoc is a redshirt freshman from last year who gained a great deal of experience and strength in the year she took off to get ready to go. We think those two will probably start in the middle, but our freshman Jessie Allen, a 6’2 middle from Aurora, Neb., we think is going to challenge that position shortly and we are excited about her. On the outside we have freshman Marianne Beal and freshman Amy Wehrs who are both very competitive and have an opportunity to help us. We have redshirt Catherine Carmichael and we have a transfer in Taylor Manning who also have been practicing extremely well and been very competitive. We also have a couple freshmen new to the defense role with Brianne Riley and Jaime Mathieu. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to have freshmen playing a lot, if not starting at the setting position, a lot at the libero position, a lot at the middle blocker position. I suppose if you told Turner Gill he is going to have a freshman quarterback and a freshman running back and a freshman middle linebacker, all those kind of things, there would be a little anxiety. Which, we are just excited to get them out there and see what they can do. Our roster is going to allow us a lot of flexibility in a lot of different places. We can run a one setter or a two setter system. We have a number of outside hitters who are flexible to go to the right side or the left side so we are excited about that. The newcomers have brought a new energy and a new enthusiasm. I know our returning players have renewed to the fact that we are really excited about taking that next step that it is going to take to get a new banner up in Horejsi Family Athletics Center that has us participating in the NCAA tournament.”

On this year’s schedule:

“We have set up a schedule that we are really excited about. We do go on the road this weekend, we open up with Lipscomb. A lot of people maybe haven’t heard of Lipscomb volleyball but they were 22- 0 in their league last year and went to the NCAA Tournament. They bring back most everybody and they have some new fresh faces. Along with them and San Francisco and Creighton, it is going to be a good test for us to start off. We have eight matches in a row at home after that including two tournaments which we are thrilled about. We have Middle Tennessee State, who has been in the tournament the last four years and the sweet sixteen a couple times, in the middle of the week in September. So we have every opportunity to really do some good things before the conference ever starts. We can really help ourselves from an RPI standpoint before the conference starts. We had five Big 12 teams in the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament last year. We have three ranked in the top eight this year, so it will be a tremendous challenge again when it rolls around to Big 12 play. We are excited about it. I enjoy going to the gym with these guys everyday, they are a lot of fun to be around, they are working extremely hard, and we are excited to see how we can get things started this weekend.”

On the feelings before a conference game:

“I think you try to set up a non-conference schedule that will somewhat prepare you for that and that is difficult to do. I think the difficulty comes when you play those teams back-to-back-to-back and even though you might be competing at a pretty high level, the result isn’t quite like you want it. Sometimes the confidence suffers a little bit. You start to doubt yourself a little bit when in fact, you know you are playing some elite teams at a high level. You can’t allow the last match to affect the next match. I think that is sometimes what this league does, it wears you down a little bit physically, but more emotionally and psychologically because of the teams that come at you every week. We will move on to the next match, I think we will be able to bounce a little bit better. We have some personnel I think that will adapt to that a little bit better. But it is a difficult task.”

On making the NCAA tournament this season:

“I think we have set our self up with a pre-conference schedule that will help us. There are four or five teams that were in the NCAA Tournament that will be on our schedule before the conference starts and, historically, they have taken the top half of our league to the NCAA Tournament. So a top four or five finish gives you a pretty good chance to make that happen. Those two things combined, I think, along with a lot of the statistical goals that we have, we have to lower our opponents hitting efficiency, we have to raise ours, some of those things go hand-in-hand with winning and losing. But taking care of the pre-conference schedule and then, we are going to fight for a top half finish in this league and if you do that you are probably going to be in the top 25 or 30 RPI in the country.”

On players in the back:

“Well, we are going to throw the ball out to those players a lot and they will be ready for that. A lot of times it comes down to, in our league and our level, what you can do on the outside and we have two very accomplished players and some great depth out there also. So we are excited about that.”

On the RPI:

“We felt like we lost a match at home last year that would have really been critical in that balance. The Florida International match is a team that went to the NCAA Tournament and we had the chance here, lost a close match with them. Middle Tennessee on the road was a pretty tough match to open up with. But we did take a few steps to bolster that a little bit. I am following the Coach (Larry) Keating (senior associate AD) formula for scheduling. ‘Get as many of them at home as you can,’ is what he says, so Larry has advised me on that for many years. But it is difficult to host two tournaments because every one wants to do that. We feel like we have set up our non-conference a little bit better, but we know we have to do some damage in our league, too.”

Senior outside hitter Karina Garlington

On having so many newcomers in her senior season:

“It’s everything you could ask for being a senior. The incoming group is so dedicated and so determined. That can be a scary thing. You never know with freshmen how they’re going to be and this group is fabulous. They give a 100-percent effort every single day in practice. They are all on board with our goal. They know how focused we are and how determined we are. Being a senior, there is an urgency every day in practice for me and I try to portray that to the rest of the team. ‘Don’t play like you have four more years. Play like this is your last year and you’ll be able to give the best effort that you’ve ever given.’ It creates a competitive atmosphere and it is fun. I’m excited for this weekend to finally get to play. It has been a long time coming.”

On top 50 recruit Kara Wehrs:

“Kara Wehrs is stepping up in the setting position. She’s done a fabulous job. It’s been very demanding. As a senior and as hitters, we demand a lot from our setters and expect them to deliver. I think that helps them get better faster. We don’t give her leeway because she’s a freshman. We demand from her and she has delivered.”

On the frustration of barely missing the NCAA Tournament last year:

“It was probably the worst feeling ever, knowing that we had a very slim chance but there was still a chance. Then, not seeing your name on the screen you feel regret. You feel mad, angry and feelings that I keep every day in the gym so I don’t ever have to feel that again. Regret is the worst possible feeling you want to feel and we try to explain that to the younger girls, too, so they don’t have to feel it. We work really, really hard not to have to feel that.”

Junior outside hitter Allison Mayfield

On having 19 players on the team:

“It is definitely different. There is a lot more standing around time on the sidelines but with that you can learn a lot from watching people in your position. I think it’s good in many ways. I think with more people there is a lot more competition for each spot. In the past, maybe there have been one or two people in a position so there’s not much competition, but now we are four and five deep for a specific position. I think it’s making everybody step up and work harder, get in the gym more and improve their game that much more to try to be on top so they can be on the court.”

On how to avoid the disappointment of last season:

“Our preseason schedule is going to be huge for us this year because they’ve scheduled really good teams, such as Lipscomb, who went 22-0 in its conference and went to the NCAA Tournament last year. With the RPI, that’s a huge thing in who gets the at-large bids to the tournament. If we pull out some good wins with three or four teams that are going to make it to the tournament at the end of the season, it’s definitely going to make the people making the decision look and ask, ‘What about Kansas?'”

Senior libero Melissa Manda

On having so many players on the team:

“It’s actually really great. It definitely gets kind of crowded some times in the lockerroom but it’s been really awesome. We’ve had a lot of competition in the gym, which is really good for a team. It’s been really fun. The new group of girls has really faced the challenge head-on and they have really had a great attitude about everything. They have been working really hard so it has been good.”

On the difficulty of playing in the Big 12:

“The Big 12 is hard but I also think that it is something that helps us out. We know we play some of the hardest teams in the country so if we can take control of that and really do well in the conference, then we can face anybody.”