Lewis coach Dan Friend and several Flyer players participated in the men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament media day on Wednesday.
The No. 3 seed Lewis will play the No. 2 seed USC in the semifinals on Thursday. Check out the transcript from Lewis’ news conference.
Dan Friend, Lewis coach: Weʼre excited to be here with the opportunity thatʼs in front of us. The guys have worked very hard this year to put us in a position to compete for a national championship. Itʼs the culmination not only of these guysʼ hard work, but the hard work weʼve been putting in in the eight years Iʼve been here rebuilding the program. Iʼm not sure I can express with words how excited we are to be here and have the chance to compete.”
Q: Can you talk about what itʼs taken to return Lewis to among the elites in menʼs volleyball?
DF: Itʼs taken a lot of sweat and hard work from a bunch of coaches that have been involved and the administration has been really supportive of what weʼre doing. They could have said we donʼt want to keep menʼs volleyball. But theyʼve been really supportive. But all the guys and all the effort theyʼve put in. Not just the guys here but the guys we started with. I brought in 15-16 freshmen in 2006. This group has been really special because theyʼve been able to break through the wall. They older guys are sharing their experiences and weʼre getting better every year and making our schedule tougher. … I think we have a combined about 300-400 games played between the starters which is immense when it comes to experience. Theyʼre not as nervous and they know what to expect when theyʼre on the court. Theyʼre able to translate that to wins. The team has been very resilient.
Q: Do you think Lewis is under the radar nationally?
DF: I would agree. Thatʼs the neat thing about menʼs volleyball is that culture. If you ask anyone outside, basketball or something, they wonʼt have any idea about Lewis. But in the world of volleyball, in the small little niche, they do know. Theyʼre aware and that weʼre a top 10, 15 program. In Chicago, there are a lot of people who know about Lewis when they won and got it taken away. But at the same time, they know about the success now thatʼs been happening.
Q: What do you tell recruits about Lewis?
DF: I think the big thing is you can play a Division I level sport in a small atmosphere. We talk about how weʼre the cream of the crop in sports on campus. Weʼre a tier one sport at Lewis. Where at some other schools, menʼs volleyball might be tier two or three. Everyone is going to know youʼre name on campus. At the same time, it puts a little bit of a target on your back. But itʼs a neat atmosphere to be able to sell it like that. Weʼre going to play a national schedule and go out east and west because our ultimate goal is to win a national championship.
Q: Thoughts on playing USC in the fall?
DF: The idea for coming out in the fall was to be here now. Getting some games on the court here was key to that. We competed with them so the guys know weʼre in a good spot. I think our guys are really grounded. I think theyʼre excited and having fun, but at the same time, they know theyʼre here to compete and itʼs a business trip.
Q: What do you think about people who havenʼt heard of Lewis?
Jay Petty, outside attacker: Iʼm from Downers Grove, Ill., which is about 20 minutes away, so Iʼd been to a couple games before. But at the same time, thereʼs a lot of volleyball that doesnʼt know Lewis and doesnʼt know the whole story. For me it was a great opportunity. I came in a little as a risk to coach, but it was a lot of fun and Iʼve been here four years and I wouldnʼt have wanted to go anywhere else.
Q: How is your fan support going to be for the Final Four?
JP: I think weʼll have about 100 people here. But no matter how many people we have, weʼll use the energy of the fans there for us and the ones cheering against us.
Q: Do you have confidence from earlier success this year against West Coast teams?
JP: Having those teams, at their home gyms, and having fans cheer against us or try to rattle us, itʼs great preparation. In the Midwest, itʼs a little different atmosphere. But out there thereʼs a lot of people talking trash to try to rattle you. Itʼs great preparation.
Q: Thoughts on people who havenʼt heard of Lewis?
Aaron Flick, middle attacker: Iʼm from Cleveland, Ohio, so when I tell people Iʼm from Lewis University, they think Iʼve either went to Saint Louis University or to Lewis and Clark. I think itʼs a great opportunity at Lewis. Our fan base has grown immensely over the past few years and itʼs great to see how many people we can reach in a small community. We have the best fans in the country and they support us every single day. Iʼm so glad Iʼve chosen this university. Theyʼve supported me from the coaching staff to the administration, all the way up.
Q: Thoughts on USC?
AF: Weʼve been scouting USC all week and are really excited for the opportunity. Itʼs the team we want to play against. The opportunity to play the host team for the final four is incredible. We played them in the preseason tournament here and had a blast. Weʼre enjoying the moment, but weʼre up for the challenge and really focused for the match Thursday.
Q: How is your fan support going to be for the Final Four?
AF: I think whatʼs most important is that we know we have the entire student body behind us. After the Ohio State match, our twitter page and facebook page was going nuts with people congratulating us. We know we have thousands of people supporting us back home.
Q: BJ, how have you improved this year as a setter?
BJ Boldog, setter: Coach has done a great job with helping me out and our womenʼs coach, too. Everyone else has helped me out. The passers have been great and the hitters have been great.
Transcript courtesy of USC Sports Information