Men's Volleyball Pre-Tournament Press Conference Quotes
Head Coach Walton and Players Paul Fasshauer and Tom Tegethoff
Opening statement from Coach Walton:
I would like to start off by saying thank you to Penn State for hosting this event. It already looks like its going to be extremely well run and we are very excited to be here. Our team has had a good season. We¡¯ve been led by a group of four seniors that have done a very exceptional job, not only playing but also leading our group and giving them an idea of what it¡¯s going to take to win championships. We are pleased to be here. I think our team is going to represent itself very well. I know Pepperdine is a tough opponent but we are sure going to give it our best.
They saw us in the fall and actually they have a bit of advantage over us in that we were playing more of our starting group in the fall than they were. We beat them in the fall in a preview tournament in Rochester, New York. But we beat them without Keenan on the court, Winters didn¡¯t play at all, we didn¡¯t see him in that tournament and Walker only played a game or maybe half a game. If there is an advantage as far as that goes, they¡¯ve seen us more than we¡¯ve seen them.
We beat Long Beach State at our place. We lost to BYU at their place. I think if you look nationwide, you¡¯ll see that home court advantage is starting to be very important in men¡¯s collegiate volleyball. Probably that changed even more so when we went to the rally scoring system. Matches can now be over very quickly and if you get off to a slow start on the road, you can seal your fate before you even really get started. We did beat Long Beach, we lost to BYU, we¡¯ve seen Pepperdine, we beat them when we played them and yet we didn¡¯t play their starters so I don¡¯t know that there is any kind of West Coast psyche out that is going on on our team this year. We¡¯ve played some very good teams and played extremely well. There has only been one match that we¡¯ve had all season where I felt that our guys didn¡¯t get out and perform and that was against Lewis and that was at the end of a six match road trip. Pepperdine is just one more team that our guys are going to go up against and I¡¯m looking forward to the challenge and I know they are too.
Player: I think people do definitely. I don¡¯t necessarily think that there is any reason for that. They traditionally have won more than any of the other conferences, but I think this year we expect a win and we¡¯ll settle for nothing less.
Aren¡¯t there a couple of Mid-West players on the Pepperdine team? In fact, their freshman of the year?¡ªCoach Walton
It¡¯s always good to have the west coast come out to play us. It gives us an even playing field to play on.
It was a very short process. We let him know we were interested in him, he wasn¡¯t interested in us.
I think so. My assistant coach actually handles the majority of our early contact and we never got through that early contact phase to where I got a chance to really sit down and talk with him or call him.
I think it¡¯s great. I think we no longer have the 3 ¨C 3 1/2 hour marathon matches. It¡¯s a lot easier to play on back-to-back nights. I know my wife prefers it, our facilities people prefer it. I think it¡¯s a good system. It limits the amount of playing time that you are going to have in a match. It also makes every point matter an awful lot more. There were previously a lot of matches you get into that even as coaches were kind of boring and where you knew your guys turned it off for a little while and when it gone down to point 10 and on, people would start to pick up their games again. You really can¡¯t afford to do that anymore with rally scoring. You better go from start to finish or else you are going to get beat.
Tom: Yes, I personally like it a lot more than the old way just because like Joel said, I think for the fans, it¡¯s a lot more exciting and you don¡¯t have to sit there for a three hour match which can sometimes get a little long.
Paul: I think it¡¯s definitely a lot faster with rally scoring.
We have no weaknesses. Certainly none that I¡¯m going to mention today. I think our leadership is strength on our team. The four seniors that we have that we put on the court and actually three of those are in starting roles. Juan Carlos Lopez, our fourth senior come in once a game to serve for us and also gives us a little bit of spark at that time. Probably the biggest strength on our team is our middles and that¡¯s something that the USA National Team programs have noticed. Paul Fasshauer and Matt Denmark have been given some opportunities to train with the USA National programs last summer and they are going to be going back out again this year. Two of the more elite middles in the country and Paul actually were a member of the World University Games Team last year that won a gold medal. That¡¯s probably our biggest strength. The fact that Paul is 6¡¯9", Matt is 6¡¯8", Matt also high jumps and we do vertical testing in the fall and Matt touched 12¡¯1" which the highest we¡¯ve ever had any of our players touch and that is pretty exceptional. As a high jumper for our track team he has also jumped over seven foot and was qualified for the NCAA Indoor Track Championships this year. Was unable to compete because happened to twist his ankle a couple of weeks before that. But we were planning on starting our spring break at George Mason and having Matt jump the day before at NCAA Championships. So our two middles are two pretty physical and are becoming pretty good volleyball players as well. We really like Matt as a freshman and sophomore because of his athletic ability but we like him a lot more now as a true volleyball player.
I got to learn more about the game and learn how to play at a high level. And play well under pressure. You play bad, you go home so you¡¯ve got to play good.
I really liked our team depth all season long and the guys have provided me with a lot of challenges on a daily basis because there are so many players from our team that can get out and perform. Delgado replaced Josh Zuidema in our starting lineup. Josh Zuidema before transferring to Ball State was an All-East Coast First Team member. It¡¯s not like we are moving around a great player to replace a bad player; we¡¯ve got a lot of battles on our team. In our opposite position, Josh Lee is a left-handed 6¡¯5" tall kid that touches around 11¡¯5". He is a great athlete. He gives us a different look than Kyle Weindel does. Kyle is a little more offensive for us but either of those guys can get out and perform and both of those players have put up good numbers.
At a point, I started looking at Jary¡¯s numbers really through the course of the season and started wondering why I wasn¡¯t playing him more. I think maybe there is a biased in my mind and probably everyone else¡¯s because you look at Jary and he is 6¡¯, at least that is what he is listed at, maybe he is 5¡¯10", but when you see this kid play and how he jumps, he is going to earn an awful lot of respect. He just plays with an awful lot of passion and fire out on the court and I think that has really helped our team as well.
His blocking numbers are as good as Tom¡¯s or Josh Zuidema¡¯s so at least if you are looking at blocks per game, he¡¯s going to do as good a job as the other two guys.
Tom: We¡¯ve had some interesting talks with our alumni in the last few months. They¡¯ve actually been kind of heat and spirited discussions and the one thing we just wanted to reiterate to them is that, not that we have anything against them, they are great people and I know they are trying to motivate us, but we wanted to let them know that we still have a chance to advance in the NCAA¡¯s which they never did. And I haven¡¯t¡¯ heard any reason why we can¡¯t. I know a lot of people probably favor Pepperdine and expect them to win, but I¡¯d like to know a reason why.
From the years that I have been around and I¡¯ve been asked that question a lot of times at various points in the season, preseason and during the regular season, I really held off committing to this team until now. I¡¯m pretty committed to this team. I think this is the best team that I¡¯ve ever seen Ball State put together. There are a lot of different indicators. Our depth is one of the reasons. The top level talent that we have and the guys that we have that are getting experience at an international level aside from just playing with our team. We have Paul Fasshauer who is sitting beside me who is on pace to break Phil Etherton¡¯s attack percentage record at our school by nearly a hundred points. Phil finished his career, went on to play for the national team and hit 443 for us, Paul is pretty close to hitting 543. There is just a lot of different signs and the heart that our team showed me in our MIVA Championship match, it¡¯s just something you can¡¯t measure. These kids came out and played a nearly flawless match against Loyola in what should have been a very pressure packed situation. A situation where they hadn¡¯t been and we haven¡¯t even been in our championship match for three or four years and these kids got into that situation and really got out and flat our performed. The indicators are that this could definitely be the best Ball State team. We¡¯ve had a lot of people, and even our alumni as they are challenging us this year, have said that to me and have told our guys that they think they have as good a shot as any team from Ball State.
We¡¯ve had a pretty good year and we plan on playing some more volleyball here. We¡¯ve been pretty steady. I¡¯ve talked to some of you and I think we receive/serve pretty well. We¡¯ve been steady. I think the game today you don¡¯t want to give up bunches of point and pretty much we haven¡¯t don¡¯t that throughout the year and when we have, we¡¯ve had the ability to come back from those bunches and get a few ourselves. We¡¯re just trying to win our fifth.
We lost two good players. Sean Rooney was a little bit of an unknown. We knew he was good. I think in the fall, the weight training helped him and he improved and I think that he was able to fill some big shoes that Scott Wong had held for four years as a starter. And Beau was injured a little bit last year. Not an unknown from a standpoint that he was in our gym, but hadn¡¯t played too much with the lights on. He¡¯s been steady all year. To answer your question, we weren¡¯t sure. I think another thing that helped us is that Clint Olson and Fred Winters both improved the passing quite a bit. I give credit to Jeff Stewart mostly with Fred. Fred was an opposite and hadn¡¯t passed and last year he struggled and this year we can get into an argument over who is the best passer out of those three and I think that really helps our team.
I think it doesn¡¯t make any difference what time it is or where you are. It¡¯s kind of who you are. Not that we like to think that ¡¯86 would carry over to now, but we won it here in ¡¯86 so this is a good place to play volleyball. And I know that it¡¯s a great arena. I think all four teams will be ready to go. My guess is each team could make a case on the right time zone, the right gym, the right whatever. Either we are good enough or we are not.
I had torn ligaments in my ankle last year and I wasn¡¯t really sure what had happened. I thought it was just an ankle sprain. I finally went to a specialist and he had told me that I had torn ligaments. So I just waited until after the season to have it fixed. I wasn¡¯t really sure how able I was going to be at the beginning of the year. But with training and rehab, I just got better slowly all year. I think it makes my job a lot easier that I have five hitters that can go on a 20-30 kill match. I just have to put the ball in the right place. That¡¯s what I credit most of it to.
A little bit. It was pretty surprising to make first team.
I would say it has been easier. I wouldn¡¯t mind doing more but I know that is just not the right call. It is nice to be able to focus on the two things I have to do¡ªhit and block.
I just found out five minutes ago. I was pretty surprised about it. It is a great honor.
I¡¯m not totally sure about everything but this summer I¡¯m going to go train in Colorado with them and then probably once I¡¯m done with school go train with them some more. Hopefully, maybe make the Olympic team and then after that maybe go play overseas.
I¡¯m not really sure. I would hope so.
I think the scoring right now is better than what we had in the past and maybe there is a scoring system that would be just perfect but I think it¡¯s a fan friendly and coach friendly. I don¡¯t know if the players like it, but when I go to scout, it just kills me. I love my daughter, but when I go watch a high school game I¡¯m just there forever and it¡¯s 2-2. I guess two things, one is that it¡¯s much more like a spring than a marathon and I think people like sprints better than they like marathons. Nothing against marathoners.
Chris Van Reusen: I think the transition is pretty tough. I don¡¯t want to say tough, but kind of rough in the beginning. I didn¡¯t like it so much going from regular scoring only because it has changed the game so much. Now after doing it for a couple of years, I like it a lot better this way.
I think he can come up with a dozen things. Like I said early, it could be good for us or maybe bad for them or vice versa. I think it just comes down to who plays the best.
I think a little bit of that would be timing. In the old days it used to be 1-1 then all of a sudden it became 2-1 and now I don¡¯t have a ratio. What I go on is on both sides. Our side out percentage, we like to side out a minimum of 70 percent and we¡¯ve been siding out a little bit better than that this year and then on the other side, we like to score at about 35 percent. So that¡¯s what I look at for rotation.
He¡¯s got the green light.
Yes. One thing I¡¯d like to say once in a while is just think inline when you hit it. I¡¯d rather have them miss by 20 feet than go into the net.
Probably about the same. I think we have just as good a shot as the other teams. It¡¯s hard to go back to ¡¯78 or those years and say how did I feel then. I think everybody plans on winning. That¡¯s what we are planning to do.
You know those player awards that all of these guys got, I think individual awards are kind of funny but those coaching awards are really earned and deserved.
First of all, welcome to Penn State. It¡¯s nice to have everybody here for our hosting this little party this weekend. The men¡¯s volleyball world where it¡¯s a pretty small community and I¡¯m pretty honored to be able to have three great teams at our place this week: Coach Wilton and the Warriors, Coach Dunphy and the Waves, Walton and the Cardinals¡ªgood friends, great teams. It should be a fun weekend and we are looking forward to it.
For this match, you have got to focus on Hawaii. There¡¯s just no two ways about it. We have seen them three times, we¡¯ve have some great battles not only this year but also historically in the NCAA semi-finals. To use any of our energy to look past them in any way, shape or form is detrimental. They would make us pay for that. This is a pretty experienced group. They¡¯ve been to these things before. I think they know what to do when they are here. Hopefully if Dennis are worth our weight, we¡¯ve learned a thing or two along the way too. We are looking at the Warriors right now.
The last match we learned that they are very capable of spanking us really well. The two matches here in the fall, I¡¯m hoping that the weather drops down another 20 degrees because that is what it was in November and we played them very well. Costas Theocharidis is a great player. Dejan Miladinovic is a super blocker. They play with a passion; they play hard. The thing that I think we learned is we have got to play physical against this team. If we don¡¯t play physical, if we try to get cute, if we try to be safe, it¡¯s just going to come back and bite us. We got to take big swings. They are a very good team. The balls that they don¡¯t block Vernon Podlewski is going to dig. They are going to send it back at as. So we have to make sure we are as physical as we can be.
Jose: Home court is definitely an advantage. I¡¯m not going to lie to you. When it comes down to it, when you are in a big match, it¡¯s a matter of playing at the level you need to play to win. Home court is a help, but if you don¡¯t come out and play, it¡¯s useless.
My first couple of years, I would look at the Final Four and say "wow, this is awesome" and maybe I didn¡¯t get that sense of urgency that I had last year and this year. I¡¯ve been through it. Last year we were really close but things didn¡¯t happen and I think this year we have the best team we¡¯ve had my first three years playing the semi-finals. The opportunity is there, it¡¯s just a matter of us making the plays when we have to.
Absolutely. I think with volleyball it¡¯s hard to get a lot of your friends and family there and especially for a Final Four because it was in Long Beach last year and Portland the year before. Having it in Pennsylvania and my university is great. My family and friends are all coming in to watch me play. They don¡¯t really get that many opportunities to see a Final Four and see their son or whoever comes play in it.
Zach: I think this is a great opportunity for the East Coast and volleyball in general. A lot of East Coast club teams and high school teams don¡¯t get to see this high level of volleyball very often and now that it¡¯s going to be in State College this weekend, I know there are lots of different club teams and high school teams coming up to see what college volleyball is all about.
The Final Four isn¡¯t actually as bad as last week. I had some trouble sleeping. Making sure we got here is what worried me more. I talked to Coach Pavlik and this is more like the reward for a hard season right now and it¡¯s crunch time now. But we said all year that we weren¡¯t going to let anybody else in our locker room for the Final Four and that was a lot of pressure to make sure that didn¡¯t happen.
I remember watching that tape constantly when I came here. I think that as a student-athlete whether it¡¯s volleyball, wrestling or whatever, you have the dream of winning a national championship whether it¡¯s at home, away, freshman or senior year. That¡¯s what you play for. The fact that it¡¯s at home this year and we have a good chance is something I¡¯m really looking forward to.
Our offense can be fast if we really want it to be fast. We have Carlos and Zeljko who can hit a really fast ball. It¡¯s a pretty athletic offense. That is the way I would describe it.
Well, you¡¯ve got Costas and Eyal. Costas whenever he wants can bring a 90 mile per hour serve or he can bring a 5 mile per hour serve. He¡¯s got such great control over the ball; it¡¯s unimaginable. Eyal is the same thing. He can bring heat and he has good placement. It¡¯s very much to have a good base, pass the ball to the net, Jose make it a lot easier. It¡¯s just concentrating. They can mix it up well with float serves and jump serves.
Definitely. Personally for me, Costas is one of the toughest jump serves to pass because you don¡¯t know if he is going to bring heat or if he is just going to chop it. You don¡¯t know where it¡¯s going. Definitely they have one of the best serves in the league.
Yes. It¡¯s easier for me because I can see the ball better. I think I have a good platform so it¡¯s easier for me to move my arms. Float serve at the beginning of the year we were having a little bit of trouble, especially at the middle part of the season. So we adjusted our scheme of passing and because of that I think we are better passers right now. Not just me or Carlos, but Zeljko, Kevin or whoever comes in. Instead of having two passers, we have three and it makes it easier on us as well as Jose. It¡¯s basically a lot better right now.
Rutgers has two or three servers and they get on a roll. They are as good as anybody that we¡¯ve seen. Rutgers this past weekend was a very good match.
I think we both have gotten better. The last time we saw each other was in January. Mike bring the Warriors out here in November and they have to go through all of that travel and everything and I¡¯m sure that that was one of the reasons why we wanted to get together. We thought they would be a pretty good shoe in to be here. I think that it was a great move on his part to consider let¡¯s show our guys what this is all about to prepare them. So they had some travel issues then, we had some travel issues in January. I think both teams have gotten better. There is a confidence that you build up through the season. There is certainly a confidence you get getting here. The other factor is, it¡¯s a pretty established group that Hawaii has and we have a pretty established group. These guys have played against them for three years now. Yes, we expect them to be better. We expect Costas to be Costas, we expect Dejan to be Dejan, but we know they have gotten better. And I¡¯m sure they expect Jose to Jose and Carlos to be Carlos and I¡¯m sure they are looking at us getting better. I don¡¯t think that there has anything that has changed except that you expect the team you are playing to be better. I think it helped in the fall, I think it helped in January and now we¡¯ll see how we execute against one another tomorrow night.
I hope so. Lord knows when we go to Mike¡¯s place, he wants us playing at 9 p.m. Hawaii time as soon as we are off the plane. I think it¡¯s a factor but again it¡¯s as big of a mountain as you want to make it. Certainly there are things that effect you coming into this whether you are coming from Hawaii or you are hosting. The more you minimize those mountains and make mole hills out of them, the better off you are.
Costas is by far one of the best players I¡¯ve ever played against in the four years I¡¯ve been playing now. I think he reads the defense very, very well. He has basically ever shot there is. He can take it high off the hands. He can place the ball anywhere in that 900 square feet that he wants. If you guess on him and you guess wrong, he¡¯s going to bounce the ball into the ceiling on you. I think he reads the block and he reads the defenders really, really well.
Yes. He¡¯ll be ready to go. He had a first degree ankle sprain. He rolled his ankle a little bit in game three of the Rutgers match. Our crack training staff has been on him and I saw him about five minutes before I came down here and said he¡¯s fine.
We are real grateful to be here. It wasn¡¯t easy. We had hoped way back, even at the end of last season, that coming here would be a possibility. We knew it would not be easy to accomplish. As I heard Mark say, we did make a trip here in November. He¡¯s been inviting us to come for a long time. He always comes to our tournament, the Outrigger Invitational in January. So we kind of wanted to return the favor and come visit this place and make the trip with the idea in mind that if we did the job during the season, we would get a chance to have made the trip already and it wouldn¡¯t be totally an unexplored adventure. So it turned out the way that we would have hoped and like I said before, it was not easy but we are glad to be here.
It¡¯s not a new drill. Flying East and being around here, getting used to the weather and knowing what the gym is like¡ªthe lights, the playing surface and all of that kind of stuff. We got to experience that already and so it¡¯s helpful. Plus I think it planted a seed in everyone¡¯s mind that they can better visualize where we hope to be at the end of the year. So I think all of that was good for us.
I think it was because of Penn State. We were still trying to figure out some things system wise but we happened to win the first in five and then the next night they spanked us. That was good to though because that gave us some realization. It had been uppermost in our thoughts that we wanted to try to compete for a national championship and that was a good eye opener for us.
We have played each other a lot. We have a tournament called the Outrigger Invitational every January where we try to invite the previous year¡¯s final four participants. That¡¯s a given that Mark is coming. That¡¯s almost an automatic and has been. He¡¯s been there every year that we¡¯ve had the tournament and we¡¯ve had eight of them already. So we get to play that match every year and then the times that we¡¯ve made it to the Final Four in 1995 and 1996 previously and we¡¯ve got to see them there as well. So yes, there is a lot of familiarity. I have nothing for respect for the Penn State program.
Eyal: First of all, I¡¯m sure we are going to have a community from Hawaii here. They come everywhere we go. Other than that, having the crowd against us is kind of fun. It motivates.
There are a lot of superlatives about Jose. He is athletic, he runs a nice offense, he¡¯s experienced, he is left handed and he knows when to ride the hot hitter. He is a handful. He has a nice serve.