NCAA championship prematch news conference: BYU vs. UC Irvine

The two teams that opened the season No. 1 and No. 2 in the national rankings will end the season playing in the NCAA championship match.

BYU and UC Irvine both swept its NCAA Tournament semifinal matches to advance to the title match on Saturday in Los Angeles.

Players and coaches on both teams Friday address the media in a prematch news conference. Check out what each team had to say about the upcoming title match.


Chris McGown, BYU coach: We are excited to be playing in the national championship match. I felt like we had a nice effort last night and did a lot of things really well and a few things we want to get better at. We’re excited to be playing a very good UC Irvine team and expect that the match will be one of those phenomenal match-ups.

Media question: Can you talk about the star power that going to be in this championship match?

Chris McGown: It comes down to teams that can execute and teams with good players that can execute in those big moments. There’s a guy from ESPN – Simmons, who talks about fact that the team with the best player in the series tends to win that series. I think that ultimately it comes down to personnel and executions and we’ve got some phenomenal athletes on our team. They (UCI) certainly have some wonderful athletes on their team. I think that’s one of the things that they have that’s unlike any other program in the country, it’s the depth of talent. They’ve got guys that were two-deep on the bench that were all-conference players.

Media question: What’s your thoughts about UC Irvine’s defense?

Chris McGown: John [Speraw], I thought was masterful at getting his guys to play big in tough situations: down two, come back and win in five, down two, come back and win in five. They really had to battle through the conference championship last year to make it to this match. [This year] they’ve strung together a wonderful season, battled through some injuries, and had to put out different lineups and different rotations, so that’s going to be one of their strengths. Kniffin is not afraid to pull the trigger on changing some lineups and getting different guys different looks and it makes them difficult to plan for.

Media question: What’s your game plan against UC Irvine?

Chris McGown: We’re kind of pushing the reset button on our expectations with them just because I don’t know that we will see the same team – different setter, different outside. It’s interesting to see, I think they will be a little bit different than what we saw before. But I think we can take some confidence from the fact that we were in a really tough spot being down in the third and being able to battle and that’s kind of been the theme for us the last half of the season is our ability to come back. Our team understands we can team through some of these tough moments. If we can come together and stay together, we’ll be solid enough to play through some of these difficulties.


Media question: What’s your expectations of being in the championship match?

Chris McGown: It’s interesting you know, I think you never take anything for granted – we talked about it earlier in the week. Lots of strange things happen during the course of a season, but if you look at their bench top to bottom and you look at our bench top to bottom, the players on each of those benches, the players are the broadest depth of talent and experience.”

Media question: What’s your familiarity with UC Irvine?

Russ Lavaja, BYU middle attacker: UCI is an awesome team, they’ve got, like Chris said, a bunch of really good players and they know how to play a long, deep match. It’s not going to be a quick one, I don’t think. I think it’s going to long and I think it’s going to be a good one.

Media question: What’s your familiarity with UC Irvine?

Ben Patch, BYU opposite: Yeah, I mean, prior to this we’ve played them twice so we know a little bit about them but their athleticism and they’re a talented team you know, that match is ours, so I think it’s going to come down to who executes in those moments and who plays better.

Media question: What is it like for you to be playing college volleyball?

Ben Patch: It’s sometimes an out of body experience being able to play with people that are your idols and standing by them. It’s just been a really humbling experience.

Media question: What’s your expectations of championship match?

Ben Patch: Two best teams in the country in pre-season, I think they nailed it when they said it was going to be us and here we are?

Media question: Can you talk about on leaving volleyball to take your two-year LDS mission starting this summer?

Ben Patch: It’s not my last volleyball match, but it is one as a collegiate athlete for two years. I’ve got the USA team in the summer still. The lessons that you learn out on a mission translate into your game when you come back so you just have to work hard again.”


Moderator: Coach can you give an opening statement about the upcoming match.

David Kniffin, UC Irvine coach: BYU is a team that we’ve been planning to play in this moment since last year. What BYU has coming at us right now is a very hot offense. Offensively, they are just a really tough team to stop. Our keys obviously are going to be to slow down their outsides, and slow down their middles. If we can do that I think we will be okay.”

Media question: What’s your thoughts on both these teams teams being in finals?

David Kniffin: Whether these are the two teams that should be playing the finals, it’s the two teams that I envisioned playing in the finals. That’s something we’ve been training for all year. The nice thing about going in and playing BYU this time of year is that we’re exactly where I thought we’d be. We’re the number two seed going in and we haven’t showed all our cards. Part of that is due to injury, part of that is due to circumstance, and part of that is due to the fact that we don’t necessarily want them to see everything we’ve got. If I’m BYU, I’m probably a little nervous. We`re never holding back in terms of competing I don’t think. We’re in a potion we want to be in and that’s all I’m trying to say.

Media question: Can you talk about the talent of the players in this championship match?

David Kniffin: This is going to be a great match to watch. Just speaking [about] the physicality that is going to be on the court. It should be a spectacular level to watch.

Media question: Chris, can you talk about coming back from injury?

Chris Austin, UC Irvine setter: Every situation is a learning process for me, and the nice part about not being able to play sometimes is that you get to sit back and watch. I feel like from sitting back, you can learn sometimes. In terms of my situations personally, as long as I am playing [for] the national championship on the court, that’s all that matters to me.

Media question: What’s your thoughts on libber Michael Brinkley as a player?

Chris Austin: For Michael as an individual he plays every match of his career the same whether it is a national championship or the first game of the season or a pre-season tournament. He’s a competitor like no other competitor I’ve ever seen. For us being defending national champions like I said the other day, it’s not really a target that we hold on ourselves going around. We don’t see ourselves being leaps and bounds ahead of everybody. We go into each match as if the people across the net are as good as us and we’re going to have to compete harder than them if we want to be successful. That’s always been the case.

Media question: Michael can you talk about your style of play?

Michael Brinkley, UC Irvine libero: It’s all pretty much the same in games. We play one point to one point and so we move on quickly and just do the best we can do.

Media question: Can you talk about the championship match last year?

Michael Brinkley: I think we learned a lot from winning the first two games and losing the next three. We have to really fight to finish off the game and that we’re going to have to play our best tomorrow to beat them.”

Media question: Can you talk about the talent of the players in this championship match?

Michael Brinkley: There’s a ton of talent. They all have great hitters. It’s a bigger challenge for us defensive-wise to try to get some of the balls that maybe other teams couldn’t have to see if we can try and stop them and slow them down.

Media question: What’s the team’s confidence going into this match?

Travis Woloson, UC Irvine outside attacker: It goes with the culture we built here over the years with the guys that have been here before us and the guys that are here now. We don’t want anything short of a championship. I’ve learned a lot from the guys that have been here before and I think that’s why we are still here today.

Media question: Can you talk about your role this year coming off the bench?

Travis Woloson: I think when you come in the game, you just have to give what you can and give a little extra push. That’s kind of my role – to keep pushing as much as I can and keep contributing. Being in the position that I’m in – just coming off the bench is something that I’ve had to adapt to and understand how to contribute to that. It’s all about the team, it’s not one guy that’s going to win it and we can all do this together. That’s kind of been our motto right now – to do it together.

[Editor’s note: Transcript compiled by UCLA athletics communications department]