GAINESVILLE, Fla. - On the eve of its first round NCAA Tournament match, head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch and two student-athletes met with the media to preview the contest against College of Charleston. The Hurricanes and Cougars will square off Friday at 5 p.m. at the O'Connell Center.
Nicole Lantagne Welch
NCAA Press Conference
On being in Gainesville for
the NCAA Tournament and the region as a whole:
"We're proud of the opportunity we created for ourselves to be in the NCAA Tournament - one of only 64 teams competing right now. We're excited to be in Gainesville and looking forward to getting on the court."
On scouting Miami's
first-round match-up with College of Charleston:
"College of Charleston has a couple of big hitters. One of them is actually well-known in the NCAA world - Darcy Dorton - she led Penn State to that National Championship and we know she's a big-time, big-game player. They also have an excellent right-side attacker; they have some balance and we're really going to have our work cut out for us. We need to focus on taking care of the ball on our side and taking care of the things we can control, which is our game and how we play."
On Miami's consistency
getting to the tournament four straight years:
"It's great for our program - our program only started in 2001. A lot of people don't realize that and now we've established ourselves as a regular NCAA Tournament team year-in and year-out and each year it's been more certain that we'll be there and in that field. That's what's exciting about the growth of this program."
On Florida head coach Mary
Wise and her career:
"Mary Wise is an incredible coach and she's done amazing things with the Florida program. Certainly going through the coaching cycles and seeing her have that great success - she's obviously done a great job with this program. She's someone that everyone admires."
On Miami's weapons and who
the Hurricanes will rely on in the NCAA Volleyball Gainesville Sub-Regional:
"One of the most special things about this year's team is actually how balanced we are. We have great hitters in every spot - a couple of great middles, a couple of great outsides and a really good right side. The thing about us is any one player can come on at any time and we've had that the entire season, where somebody steps up here and then the next opponent focuses on shutting them down, but somebody else steps up. We really want to rely on that kind of balance (on our team) to keep our opponents off balance when playing us, not knowing who's going to get the ball and hopefully be real effective playing that way."
On being in Gainesville for
the first time since 2009:
"The team is super excited to get out on the court again. I know it's been a few years since we've been back here, but actually myself and Nrithya (Sundararaman) have made that return, so it's a new experience for everyone else. We're embracing being in the tournament, the excitement that the tournament brings and getting out on the court."
On Gainesville native Eryn
"Eryn is an excellent team player, she puts the team first and she really supports us. She works super hard. This is a homecoming for her - we have a Gainesville kid turned Miami Hurricane and we're proud of that. It's great to have her in our program."
On Eryn Croft's contributions
to the team, even when injured last year:
"Eryn puts the team first - that's exactly the kind of person she is. Everything the team does, she's a part of, whether or not she had a physical impact. She impacts us every day in practice and helps make us better. We all know that, she knows that's and she's a part of every win and accomplishment this program gets."
On Eryn Croft's injury,
recovery and return:
"She (Eryn Croft) had a knee injury right before the season started last year and nobody wants to go through that. You look at it as a challenge, you go forward and deal with it. That's the hand you're given; it is what it is. You fight through it and that's exactly what Eryn has done. Every player in our program improves tremendously each year and that's the whole goal - to play at your peak when you're an upperclassman and entering your last year."
Freshman Eryn Croft (Gainesville, Fla.)
On what it means to be back
in Gainesville after going to high school here and growing up in Gainesville:
"It's obviously exciting to be in front of my friends and family, but it's good to be back here."
On being a part of the Miami
"It's really special. I love the University of Miami and I'm really happy I went there. Our whole team is a family and it's a great program to be a part of."
On being back in Gainesville
and having a number of fans supporting Miami from the O'Dome:
"It's really cool to be able to have my friends see us play. A lot of people don't get to travel all the way down to Miami during the school year, so it's good to have my family here and my friends."
On what it means to be a
"It's really special. The tradition is really strong and literally our whole athletic program is a family. Everyone is really close - it's amazing being a part of that tradition."
On battling for playing time
as a younger player and also having been hurt her first year at Miami:
"I just need to work every day to try to get better. It's been hard coming off of an injury, but each day I try to get better and earn my way. I know there are really good players in front of me and I can use them to learn from and get better that way, too."
On her injury and battling
"It was hard. I had been at Miami only three weeks before I got hurt. Like I said, our program is a family and you have support the whole way. I wouldn't have rather been at any other school with the injury. They comforted me, helped along the way and I received a redshirt, so I didn't get held back at all."
On her summer in Vietnam
teaching English and volleyball:
"It was an amazing opportunity because athletics helped me earn that opportunity - it was through the ACC. It's an experience that I would never take back. It made me appreciate my life here. Going over to Vietnam and helping those children was a life-changing experience."
On what Miami has learned
about College of Charleston through this week's scouting:
"As Taylor (Hollins) said, they are really high energy. They have some really good players - we have to be ready and focused for them. They're a really good team."
Junior Taylor Hollins (Long Beach, Calif.)
On Miami being in the NCAA Tournament and getting the weekend started in Gainesville:
"I feel very lucky because I've made it to the NCAA Tournament all three years that I've been here. It's really exciting. I've never been to Gainesville, so that's really fun. We have some really good opportunities ahead of us this weekend."
On Miami's first opponent in College of Charleston and game planning for CoC:
"They are definitely a high-energy team. We're really excited for that because it's fun to play against teams that are really loud and crazy."
On the type of teammate Gainesville native Eryn Croft is to the Hurricanes:
"She's really helpful and she's so energetic during practice. She tells us during games what she sees from the bench and what she sees open for the hitters, so very helpful."
On the type of player she is and what she brings to the court:
"I try to lead by example. I'm not really one of the loudest players on the court, but I feel like I bring a sense of urgency and I feel calm during the game."
On being in the NCAA Tournament for her third year and the program's fourth:
"We're really lucky. Not a lot of people get to experience this - I want to take advantage of every opportunity that we have."
On the other two teams in the Gainesville Sub-Regional (Tulsa & Florida):
"It would really good to match up with either one of them if we take care of College of Charleston first. It will be fun."
On winning 15 of their last 17 matches and how the Hurricanes are playing their best volleyball heading into the Tournament:
"We are doing really well and we are just really consistent right now. We're on a roll."
On Miami playing with speed and how the Hurricanes will use speed to their advantage:
"That's important for us. We can beat people with our speed if they are bigger than us. It's always good to have speed."
Quotes courtesy University of Florida Communications