Transcriptions courtesy of ASAP Sports.
COACH COOK: Just a great Final Four match and Kansas, I think we got them the first game because of the crowd, the atmosphere and everything. But man they started playing really well. I was really impressed.
They were a lot better in person than they were on tape last week. Payne's a great player, so and a setter. Those two guys did a great job. So feel very fortunate. We had to really play some great volleyball to win that match tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions.
Q. Would you talk about Mikaela tonight, and Mikaela, would you then talk about Mikaela tonight?
COACH COOK: Well, it's her first Final Four and she needed to take some big swings for us and obviously, her serve is a big weapon for us. I think she created a couple really good runs to give us some gaps in games one and two. And had some big swings for us tonight, as well. And got a big block there in game four.
But she's a physical presence on the left and that really, I think, helps out a lot of our other hitters and she's physical.
MIKAELA FOECKE: I think that tonight I just went out and had fun. We all -- that's our goal and we say "Natty now" and we're going after the national championship. And this is just another stepping stone. And I was just going up and going after it, and I think we really did a good job as a team tonight.
I guess I swung big and went up after Kansas. They gave us a considerable amount of line and just kind of tried to use it.
Q. Kadie, defensively, you guys were really good tonight and they only hit 159 out there as a team. That's about half of what they hit the whole season. What were you guys able to do to frustrate them? Servicing? Blocking? All of the above? What was going on out there?
KADIE ROLFZEN: Just one of our focuses as a team, is to be a good defensive-minded team and this whole year we have been that. And whether it be with our block or our defense, we're just able to frustrate teams with keeping balls off the floor and getting good touches on the block. So tonight we just did that pretty well and I guess frustrated their hitters.
Q. (No microphone.)
KADIE ROLFZEN: Coach told us she's like Whitney. She's tall, she's big, she's physical, and she sometimes hits over the block. So we just got to make sure we're disciplined on defense behind the block. And I think tonight, I mean, she's a good player, she's going to get her kills here and there and we started touching some of her balls and so as long as we made adjustments, I think we were able to slow her down a little bit.
Q. CeCe has one of these big matches again in the NCAA tournament. What is it about her that she can play so well on some of these big matches or show her potential, I guess?
COACH COOK: I wish I knew the secret. But I could tell she was excited to play tonight in warmups, and she's a great athlete. And I just think like Mikaela said, I think they're really embracing the moment and enjoying this experience. And CeCe, I think, gets into all that. She's a very happy -- you guys have been around her, she's fun and this is a fun environment. So I think she feeds off of it.
Q. Mikaela, you came out with some big swings in game four after the offense got bogged down in game three. What was your mindset coming into that fourth set?
MIKAELA FOECKE: That we really needed to take it away from them. The weekend before they had been down 2-0 against USC and they came back and won. And my mindset going into the fourth set -- oh, they won in five, but, um, then I think it was just us knowing that they could come back and do something like that.
And we have to take it from them and swinging big and playing with lots of fire is just one of the ways to do it.
Q. CeCe, is this -- I know this, Kansas has never beaten Nebraska. 88 times they have tried. I know that that doesn't mean anything to you because this is the first time you've ever played them but just speaking in general, does that boggle your mind? I mean 88 tries, I can't do 88 things in a row
without making a mistake, so does that just kind of boggle your mind that this happened?
CECILIA HALL: That's insane. That's crazy. Like coach said, it was before he was even born. I don't think that's true, but (Laughter) No, that's just cool that we could keep that going.
Q. John, were you worried about how your team would handle this, this atmosphere and the pressure of this or were you just more concerned about how you would execute?
COACH COOK: I was not worried at all how we would handle it. I think we're very comfortable and we're excited to be here and this has been building for a year. And I think it's just an extension of the Devaney up here. And, so, and I was not worried about that. I was more worried about executing.
And I'm just having a chance to study the stats here. I didn't realize we held them to 159, because -- which it is a good defensive effort, but I felt like we left a lot of plays out there we normally make tonight. And I think, I don't know if we were trying too hard, but their speed. They -- 16, Janae Hall, is very fast. Payne can go fast and then she goes slow. So she's really hard to defend because sometimes she's up there before the ball is set and then they set her a higher ball and she kind of waits and hits on the way down and kept catching us. So she's a very difficult player to defend and, but, and so I was not -- I think they thrive on this.
I think this is what you play, this is why you want to be a volleyball player at Nebraska, to get to play in front of this crowd, these crowds.
Q. John, that play by your setter, the block, the game was even in the fourth game and she made a huge block. How often do you see that from her? And then following up on that, a great serving run that kept Payne off the court for the rest of the match.
COACH COOK: Well, she was ticked off at me because when Havili dumped, did the two shoot on her because she was standing there watching, she got -- she got an encouraging speech at that timeout. And I think it lit a little fire and I've seen her do that a lot, make runs and make blocks. And I was really -- I think she was upset because she kind of let that play get away from her. And so she made a nice comeback there and just willed our team. And that's what she's been doing ever since the Minnesota-Wisconsin weekend in the Big-Ten, which was back in October, some time. But she's really taken this team and has been a great leader and that's how she does it.
Q. Texas has a big, strong freshman also, who had a really big night tonight, Yaazie Bedart-Ghani.
And it's likely that your freshman is going to matchup against that freshman. From your experience of all the years coaching freshmen, getting to a national final, what do you expect to be able to tell your own athlete and what do you expect from two freshmen going at it like that?
COACH COOK: Well, I think it will be a great matchup. In regards to -- Mikaela has been in a lot of huge matches already. I'm not sure about the other girl, how much she's played this year, but I think it's great for volleyball. These are two great players and I know Mikaela's going to do a great job and she's -- the bigger the match, the better she's played this year.
Q. CeCe, what was fun about that match and what you were able to, how you were able to help that team?
CECILIA HALL: Well, just coming out there in front of 17,000 people on your home court, I mean that's just crazy. I think that's what fired us up. Just having that support, too, makes it so much fun. Like when you get a point the whole crowd goes with you and it's just, I don't know, you get so fired up.
Q. You guys were able to win the serve and pass battle early. Kansas, did they swing that back toward their side in game three? What did they do to sort of slow you down and make you predictable?
COACH COOK: Is that Jeff from Omaha World Herald? I just think Kansas is a really good team and they have got some great weapons. The setter does a great job for them. I can see why she's a first team All- American.
They're just a really solid team. And they started serving us a lot tougher after the first game and they made a lot of errors early, so I just think the atmosphere got to them a little bit. But I really feel like games three and four they were really stressing us.
But I'm very impressed with Kansas. I mean, I played against -- I've coached against Kansas a lot and this is a great team. He's got a great team.
Q. You talked a little bit about the serve and actually in the fourth game, tied 8-8, they committed a service error. I think it was Annika that came back and had an ace. You really seemed to get a lot of momentum at the service line. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
COACH COOK: I don't remember. You remember it better than I do. But I do remember them serving a ball in the net. It was -- you could tell the momentum was just kind of rocking right there to go with either team. I think that was a big miss.
Of course, Mikaela had a big miss in the net, too. But it didn't seem like that, because I think we came back and sided out right away.
But serving, I almost feel like telling our team just go for an ace when Payne's in the front row because we couldn't stop her. So they get her in system, she's really very difficult to stop.
But we have been a great serving team all year. It's something we worked really hard on and we know that helps set up our blocking defense. So it's something that we take a lot of pride in.
Q. Kansas got it to like 18-16 there in the fourth set. There was probably a little stress on your team.
Just how did Nebraska handle the end of that match?
COACH COOK: Well, like I said, I think that somebody pointed out it was a big block by Kelly. Kelsey Fien got a big kill. Katie got a big kill in transition. And in game three we were -- we couldn't win a free ball. And a lot of that had to do with how well Kansas was playing.
But we just started executing there, made some big plays and all the pressure went back on Kansas. And Kelly makes a run and we got the crowd into it. So it was a really nice way for us to finish that match. And I just thought all of a sudden we just started playing really well. And we were -- it was -- we played some flawless volleyball there from about that point on.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.
COACH COOK: Michelle, did you have a question?
THE MODERATOR: This will be our final question.
Q. I wondered if you and Texas, you guys seem like both made each other better in all those years in
the Big-12 and you kept this series going. I wonder if you could say historically this is a matchup between two really kind of volleyball royalty in a lot of ways.
COACH COOK: Well, I mean, Texas has set the bar really high. This is their fifth Final Four. And we have wanted to continue to play them because when Bill Burn was our athletic director, he kind of created a rivalry with Texas. And I still think that -- so there's probably a little something there and we like playing each other and they're a great program and so I'm not surprised they're here and, but it's been fun playing them. We pretty much have been going home and away and now we're in this four year deal with them and Florida and Oregon, so, it's been fun and we have had some great matches with them. It seems like every time we play it goes five.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to Nebraska for advancing to Saturday's national championship.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from coach.
COACH BECHARD: I would really like to thank the city of Omaha and the NCAA committee, University of Nebraska and all the hosts that are making this a really special event for our team. They treated us like we were one of the best and it was a really cool deal. I know the players feel that same way. I would like to congratulate Texas and Nebraska for advancing.
Should be a great match on Saturday. We just weren't good enough tonight in a couple phases of the game. Our serving has been up-and-down a little bit all year, but our passing has been pretty solid, and those two things put us in a hole in the first two sets. We managed that better in the third set, but the fourth set got away from us a little bit. Couldn't be more proud to be represented with this group and the work we got done and I guess we can say that the three losses we had are to the teams that are playing for the national championship.
THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions, please.
Q. Nebraska wanted to talk a lot about the performance of Kelsie Payne tonight. Would you talk about Kelsie's performance and then Kelsie, would you talk about your performance, please.
COACH BECHARD: 22 kills, three errors on 33 swings. She hit .576 and everybody knew we were going to her. She was outstanding. And there's a reason while she will walk on the stage tomorrow morning as a first team All-American. I couldn't be more proud of this kid. She, we had her make a position change this past spring from middle to right side and she did an unbelievable job. She's just going to continue to get better. But I thought that performance was as good as any that we saw in either match tonight.
KELSIE PAYNE: Yeah, it was a lot of fun to play in front of that huge crowd and it's easy to play well when you have people behind you that are playing even better and when you have liberos that are digging everything up and setters that are setting up every ball perfectly it's easy to have 22 kills, I guess, so.
Q. What were they able to do defensively against all your other hitters? You guys ended up hitting
0.159 as a team, despite what Kelsie was able to do.
COACH BECHARD: Well, when you don't pass the ball as well as we're accustomed to, we get pretty predictable and we made it tough on Dockery and Rigdon, because we gave them some stuff that was tough to deal with and then when you play a physical team that's organized like Nebraska, Ainise will be the first to say she could have spaced the ball a little better at times. We could have been a little smarter with some shot selection. So, yeah, we just weren't in system enough in system meaning our setter didn't have as many choices as she needed to have. But they did a great job on both our outside attackers.
Q. Nebraska spreads the ball to a lot of attackers, but I don't know that a lot of people would have foreseen CeCe Hall having 10 kills on 18 swings. Where did she factor into your scouting report amongst all the other players that Nebraska puts out there?
COACH BECHARD: We talked about balance all week. She doesn't have the kill per set as others but she's very efficient. And when you get a little bit spread and you get to thinking about number 2, No. 6, then they did a nice job, Hunter did a really nice job of finding her and she created some opportunities for them.
Q. For any of the players in the first set there was 17-18 and it looked like you had them scrambling and then their girl chases the ball down to the scorer's table, cuts it back over the net and somehow it goes in and they win the point, it's 19-17 instead of tied. Do you remember that play and do you think that swung that first set at all, just sort of a deflating moment.
CASSIE WAIT: It was a lucky play by them and it's always a momentum shift when you get the ball to roll your way one time and then that little bit of a difference kind of had us on edge and we weren't passing quite well enough to keep our team in system and point score as well, and then point score as well as we wanted to when we were serving.
COACH BECHARD: I remember that play. I think that was absolutely a huge swing because it looked like it was an impossible angle and everybody that saw it said it was good and that should have been a play that we could have converted on at that point in that first set. That was a pretty big swing.
Q. Ainise, it's still a raw loss that just happened, it's still raw, but give us some thoughts about the ride you guys had this season.
AINISE HAVILI: It's been an unforgettable journey,really proud of this team, really proud of every single person on this team. We got better every day in practice. We got better every team we played. This sucks and everybody hates this feeling, but that comes with the sport and we're going to come back and work hard and comeback next year.
Q. Kelsie, when you rotated out that final time, did you think that there was anyway that you would not be coming back into the match?
KELSIE PAYNE: No, I didn't think that. Our team recently has been really good at coming back when it's late in the game, so I had every thought that we would make a run back in the end. But we didn't, so. Tough.
Q. Yesterday you said that you promised your players they would get a match against Nebraska. Would you like to play Nebraska in the regular season? Would you like to get into a rotation with them?
COACH BECHARD: Yeah, I think it would be a great idea. How scheduling goes, you know, we only have so many weekend that we deal with and we like to be at home and I'm sure they like to be at home. But it would make sense in my opinion because I think playing a team like that only makes you better and gives you an opportunity to work on things, so in situations like this, you might be a little bit better prepared next time around. But we saw Texas twice, we saw some other great teams within our league, but with the proximity with Nebraska, certainly it would make sense.
Q. You talked a little bit yesterday about the need to serve very aggressively in order to take Nebraska out of system. Do you think maybe early you were a little bit too aggressive, seven service errors in the first two sets. You almost could have been taking that first game you would have been right there without all of the service errors.
COACH BECHARD: Yeah, if you follow our team, you would know that we're an interesting serving group. But, yes, we had seven at the break and we only had two after that. So I thought that was a big part of us kind of getting things level in the third set and working into the fourth set. But, yeah, that was huge back to back maybe four in the first set, that when you look at a game that's kind of in the balance, obviously that's a big difference. But we got to go, we got to get people out of system so we got to go for it, but they served tough, too. They served in. So, this spring I'm guaranteeing you we'll spend a lot of time on that.
Q. About the serving again, Nebraska speculated that maybe the crowd was a factor in some of the early jitters for you guys. Is that air, or was it just your own performance?
COACH BECHARD: Crowd was, I thought the crowd was great. I think it's just not only the crowd, the atmosphere, the first time of being on this stage, but you got to adapt to that. We tried to put pressure on them each day in practice, but we don't have 17 thousand people dressed in red in our gym, so but we try to put a level of pressure on them and we'll continue to try to do that.
Q. Kelsie and for all the players, what were the emotions like tonight just playing in front of that crowd and being on this stage as coach alluded to?
KELSIE PAYNE: It was exciting. It's an awesome opportunity and we were pumped to get out there and play and the ball didn't fall our way we didn't play the game maybe we wanted to play, but definitely it's an awesome experience and like we said, I think we can just take this and run with it. We're going to make it a standard, not so much a goal any more.
CASSIE WAIT: We're all really proud of how far we have come as a program and as a team this year, we started 19-0 which was awesome and then we had a loss to Texas and then we fought back and then another loss to Texas and we made a great run after that and made it all the way to the Final Four for the first time in school history so I think we're all just really proud to be here.
AINISE HAVILI: Just what they said. It's been a great year, it's been fun. Really proud of this team. We fight hard and we showed that tonight in front of 17 thousand people, so can't ask for more.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Kansas finishes the season with record of 30-3 and we congratulate them. Thank you for being part of this year's championship.
COACH BECHARD: Thank you.
Transcriptions courtesy of ASAP Sports.