Stanford coach John Kosty isn’t worried about any lingering effects of losing in the MPSF championship — his team had already moved on from match before it left BYU.
Kosty said in an interview with Off the Block on Sunday that Stanford is excited to receive the at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and a chance at a rematch against BYU if it can win its play-in match.
The No. 3 seed Stanford will open the tournament against the No. 6 seed Erskine in a play-in match Tuesday with the winner advancing to the NCAA Tournament semifinals against the No. 2 seed BYU.
Check out the complete interview with Kosty as the coach discusses his team earning the at-large bid, its midseason turnaround and his reaction to Lewis getting the other at-large bid over Pepperdine.
Off the Block: What was your reaction when you saw that you got the No. 3 seed and the at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament?
John Kosty: We were excited. I was hopeful for a bid, and I thought our record spoke for itself. There is so many criteria that can be used that we were excited when we got the news and Stanford flashed up on the screen.
OTB: You had a tough loss on Saturday against BYU in the MPSF Tournament championship match. How do you as a coach help your team mentally rebound that conference tournament loss and get ready for the NCAA Tournament?
JK: It’s one of the things that we’re a senior laden team. We understand we had our opportunities last night and couldn’t take advantage of them. BYU is a very talented team, and if we don’t take care of those little plays, just a couple of them, we are not going to win the match. We didn’t do that last night. We know that we can play a little bit better, and if things work out and we can win on Tuesday we’ll have an opportunity for a rematch at Loyola.
OTB: About that possible rematch, are you looking forward to playing BYU on a neutral court instead of Smith Fieldhouse?
JK: Playing BYU is just fun. Smith Fieldhouse is an incredible atmosphere. There’s nothing like it in the country. We love playing there. We’re just looking forward to hopefully having the opportunity to play BYU again regardless of venue.
OTB: Looking at this season as a whole, you stumbled a little bit out of the gate before going undefeated during the final two months of the regular season. What was turning point for that second half of the season?
JK: It’s a handful of things. Number one, as I said before we have a senior laden team, and the seniors really took control of the team and gave us leadership. It takes a while to find your team. That is something we were looking for, our identity, early in the season. I think we found it. It served us well. It didn’t serve us well last night, but over the 13-game winning steak we understood what we needed to do. We focused on us, and not necessarily the opponents.
OTB: This is the first year the tournament has been expanded to six teams. From your standpoint as a coach, what are some of the challenges right now with the possibility of playing five matches in a span of nine days to win the national championship?
JK: Awesome. You know what, I’m thankful there is six teams that have an opportunity to play for a national championship. For the 23 season that I was a part of coaching and the other three that I was playing in, there was a lot of good teams that didn’t have that opportunity to play in the tournament. I’m just excited about the new format. Yes, there is some challenges, but every coach is working through those and they’ll smooth themselves out next year and beyond. We are kind of the Guinea pigs of what’s the best way to do it. We’re just thankful we got an opportunity to play for a national championship this week.
OTB: Coach, looking at outside attacker Brian Cook and the performance he had in the conference tournament can you talk a little bit about his play this season and what he was able to do the last couple of weeks for you?
JK: He’s just a tremendous player. He has the type of personality, and I think it’s indicative of our program that we are team-based. We don’t talk about individuals that much. Brian has truly stepped up his game this season, and he’s playing to his true potential. In the [MPSF Tournament] semifinal match when he is hitting over .600, you know what that is the Brian Cook I know. He is a tremendous all-around volleyball player that has really given us the cornerstone for us to be in this position.
OTB: Coach I have to ask, when you saw Lewis’ name up there instead of Pepperdine for that final at-large bid were you surprised?
JK: The committee has a really tough decision. Every season that I’ve been a part of it’s never been an easy decision to pick that next team. If it’s two at-larges or one at-large there is always a couple teams that are going to be left at home that have or deserve the right to be here. When it comes down to it, it’s the committee’s decision and we’ve got to stand by it.
OTB: You’re playing Erskine in the NCAA Tournament play-in match. Have you been able to see any film on this team and what’s the preparation like for this match?
JK: It’s been interesting. We’ve had statistics and everything. We’ve watched their tournament’s from the webcasts. They played Cal Baptist once in our league. The interesting thing is the video tape from that match was not taped from our normal camera that is in all MPSF gyms. It was a side camera, in standard depth and we can’t even see the numbers on the jersey. So right now that’s the film we are working off of. They are going to send us some film. It’s similar to our tournament. We only have a day or two to get ready for the next team. We are going to prepare like we normally prepare. Video is coming our way, and we are really interested in getting it and digging in and watching it. I know they have some good solid players on their team, and we’re looking forward to a good match.