John Dunning, Stanford
"I think our team is really excited for a lot of different reasons. For me, I rarely get to coach a group of people who start off the season at such a high level of skill. Coaches appreciate that and what it allows you to do. We have health issues, like everyone else, but I think that part is working itself out. We have to be careful with it and a little bit lucky. The level of play has allowed us to have competition at each of the spots. We have at least two players competing in each of the positions right now. We have 13 people on our team. We have two seniors right here [Bryn Kehoe and Franci Girard] who are doing a wonderful job leading and showing our team the way we want to be everyday and how hard we have to work. We have four juniors, maybe five, because the fifth, Alex Fisher, could be a sophomore, and maybe down the line a freshman, because she's been at our school for two years and has had several different injuries and surgeries and has never played yet. For us, we really have five new players in our program. We had a great recruiting class. Alix Klineman, an outside hitter; Stephanie Browne, a middle; Gabie Ailes, a libero; and Cassidy Lichtman, who does many things for us but is competing on the right side for us now. We're going at it everyday in a physical way that we can. I think we are getting better and started at a very high level. We are all excited for it to continue and go from here."
On being ranked #2 in the AVCA Pre-Season Poll:
"Whenever you get ranked, you are proud of it and you want to fight to live up to it or better it. Being ranked number two in the country is an honor, and we have three returning All-Americans, five returning starters, and a new group. Plus, I think we've matured a lot as a group. We were fairly young last year; we're still actually a young team. I think it's a lot to live up to, but I think the group wants a challenge… They are excited for what's ahead of them. Being number two is an honor."
On how the team has matured from the previous year:
"I think it shows up in how you react to things. How you handle situations in games. How you deal with things day-to-day in practice. Because it is a very long season, I think it shows up in the details. We are doing detailed work right now that we weren't doing until the end of the season last year because of the skill level we have at each of the positions. I think it is showing up in a lot of ways. We had players playing over the summer, a wealth of experience of playing against teams from around the world, which really adds up."
On Stanford's starting lineup:
"We are actually having a scrimmage today. We're working on it. We have a lot of people who are competing for it and we want to keep it that way because that's going to help us drive [the level of play] up. I could guess at it and so could all of us here, but we might not come up with the same answer here."
On whether or not freshman Alix Klineman will see a lot of playing time right off the bat:
"I think the players earn what you get in game time during practice. She's worked very hard. She's shown she can play at a high level. She's had a lot of experience. Our intent is to try to be as good as we can be right from the start, and if that includes her being on the court, getting the most sets, then that's what's going to happen. If it doesn't, than it won't. But she's done very well."
On his thoughts on the media exposure for volleyball and how it has changed over the years:
"I think doing this [Bay Area Media Day] is great. I think for me, there's no question. What Kerri [Walsh] and Misty [May] have done for the sport. What Karch [Kiraly] has done for the sport. There used to be a short list of reason why people would cover the sport, but the list is growing. If we keep adding to it, why wouldn't more people want to come and watch us play? This area [Bay Area] has amazing volleyball, and the whole Pac-10 has consistently been great. I think it's happening and [the sport] will continue to grow. Volleyball is a great sport."
Rich Feller, California
"We're looking for some pretty great things from our team this year. I'd like to introduce Angie Pressey and Ellen Orchard, two seniors and our co-captains who are looking to have their best season ever. We just finished double days; yesterday was our last official double day practice. We're going to go to single practice today and tomorrow, and then we host a tournament this weekend. We have Idaho coming in, Northeastern from Boston, and Florida International. It's a very interesting flavorful type of tournament with teams from all over the country. It's a really good kickoff for us.
"We had a great preseason and stayed relatively injury free. We've got 14 players on our squad. We're very deep this year, very deep at every position. For the first time I can honestly say we can put 12 players on the court - any 12 players on the court at any given time - and be extremely competitive. I think that's shown in practice everyday. Along with Angie and Ellen, we have returning starter Morgan Beck, who played middle and opposite. She'll probably play more opposite this year. We have a couple returning subs in Mindi Wiley, a middle blocker, and Kat Reilly, who is returning from a redshirt and is also a middle blocker. Cat Dailey, an outside hitter, is returning from an injury. She had a great preseason as well. Bryte Nielson is one of our returning setters who is nursing a little injury she sustained earlier in the summer, but she'll be stronger. Kristen Kathan, our returning [defensive specialist], will be fighting for a starting spot as the libero. Hana Cutura, our Croatian sophomore, has returned from playing overseas with her national team. She's looking very fit and strong.
"Incoming freshmen - we have very highly touted Carli Lloyd at the setter position from Epic Volleyball Club and will do great things for us. With Bryte's injury during the preseason, she has won that starting position by default, but has shown herself ready to [start]. The players have appreciated her talent and athletic ability every day that she is out there. We have a couple other freshmen who have joined us. Caitlyn Murphy from the Sacramento area is fighting very, very hard for the libero spot and is giving Kristin Kathan everything she can handle. It's very nice to see those two go at it day-to-day. They are both great passers and defenders. We also have Meagan Schmitt from Sonoma (Calif.) that came in as a [defensive specialist] from Golden Bear [Volleyball Club]. She's doing some great things also, competing with Caitlyn and Kristin.
"We also had a surprise setter join us, a young lady who was in Cal and played with Golden Bear Volleyball a couple of years ago. When Bryte got injured, we called her up and asked if she would like to be our back-up setter during the preseason. Maria Zizka is with our team now and doing great. What a doll to come in and postpone her premed for a couple of weeks and set for us everyday in practice. It's been a real blessing having her there because we couldn't run some of the drills without two setters. So we're really encouraged.
"We're looking forward to a great season. We made it to the Sweet Sixteen last year, and we're looking for no less than that this year and get a couple levels farther than that."
On the status of the Pac-10 this year:
"It's good, as always. It's competitive. There are a lot of new faces in the Pac-10. The top teams are as good as they were last year and maybe better. The bottom half of the Pac-10 is very, very competitive. I think everyone improved their teams, from top to bottom. It's always tough. Conference matches mean so much. For us, it's a matter of getting wins and preparing ourselves for the NCAAs. That's what the expectations are. I think it's going to be extremely good."
Jon Wallace, Santa Clara
"We'll play nine kids this year, and six of them will be new to their positions. That's probably the first time at Santa Clara that I've had to deal with that. I'm not going to use the word rebuilding because that's not what we're doing. We're just going to get better, and by the time we get to our conference, we plan on being good.
"I like my freshmen, I like my sophomores out on the court. I like all my new kids who are in new spots this year. They are getting better everyday. They are extremely talented and led by our outside hitters Lindsy Evans and Krista Kelley, who is a freshman from Utah. I think both those kids are going to be unbelievable players in the future.
"I am not going to use the word 'rebuild' because I believe we have the best setter in our school history on our team. When you have someone that dynamic and that special, you are going to win a lot of matches. You're going to be really good and your team is going to be competitive. That person being Crystal Matich, who a year and a half ago, was an All-American. Last year, she kind of ran into some injuries and wasn't able to complete her year out, but she's ready, in great shape, and come back to get up to that level as a player on a national level.
"I also feel we have the best libero that we've ever had in the history of our program. Caroline Walters is about 400 digs away from being the all-time record holder at Santa Clara University. If you go back in the history of Santa Clara, all we used to do is dig because every girl is 5-7, so she's breaking a pretty amazing record held by Lia Young. We're looking forward to Caroline having an amazing year. She'll also be playing a new position as well this year. She won't be in left back, but in middle back. We're expecting her to dig every ball hit, and she's excited for that challenge. We also return Brittany Lowe on the right side, who was the [2005 West Coast Conference] Freshman of the Year. She's a junior now and she has had great practices. Those three girls know success after going to a Final Four, and they are helping out a young and talented group. I feel that by the time our girls go through the preseason, they will be able to go for a WCC Championship and that's the goal of our program."
On who will take over the leadership position since the graduation of Kim McGiven:
"Right now, our leadership is coming from four people. Caroline and Crystal are without a doubt, two leaders on the court. They know what it takes to win. They know how to elevate their level in practices. I am really looking forward to them getting their competitive juices flowing for this weekend. We also have Anna Cmaylo, who is a senior right now and battling back from a shoulder injury. She's one of our team captains and an excellent leader. Another leader for our team is Michelle Luxton. She's a junior from Hawaii. I think with those four, we cover everything that we need in terms of leadership. Again, when it comes down to winning matches, you're looking at the two kids [Matich and Walters] who are going to drive this team and make them successful."
On who has been the most surprising player in pre-season practices:
"I'm really happy with Brittany Lowe. She had a really tough sophomore year, but is back in the gym and practicing well. I think Krista Kelley, who is a bit banged up right now, but I think we've got a gem in her right there. She has the spirit to win and a level that we absolutely love. We did this drill the other day as punishment, and she was the one to step up and say, "I want to go first" in front of all the other kids. So she has the character to be a winner and we're looking forward to that."
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