UCLA prematch NCAA Tournament finals news conference

Photo courtesy of UCLA and Don Liebig

Check out what UCLA coach John Speraw and his players said in their news conference on Friday.

UCLA will play the Long Beach State in the NCAA Tournament finals on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.

UCLA coach John Speraw

On potentially winning first UCLA men’s volleyball national title since 2006
“I don’t think about it a ton. It crosses my mind when I look up at the banners and see that there’s a big gap. I think about wanting to fill the gap, but other than that, I feel like from a process view, we’ve done all the right things necessary to get here. We’ve recruited the right student-athletes, we’ve worked really hard, and continue to try to develop a culture that’s healthy and sustaining. Eventually, if we keep doing those things to the best of our abilities, we hope that that’s enough to put some more numbers on that banner. What it would mean to us is that we’re continuing on the right path and that these guys have an opportunity tomorrow to place themselves in the illustrious history of UCLA men’s volleyball. One of the goals of this athletic department is to win championships and win Directors Cups. We’ve done a fair share of that. I think we get 90 points for just being in the final, but we’d like to get 100 and do whatever we can do help the entire department achieve our collective goal. We want to be a part of it, too. If you watch water polo or women’s gymnastics last week, it’s exciting and we want to be a part of all the excellence that goes on at this institution.”

On legendary UCLA men’s coach Al Scates
“It’s great. We talk pretty frequently. I’ve invited him to practices, I want him to stay involved and engaged, but his golf game is pretty demanding, so he doesn’t make very much. He sends me emails and notes, but he’s never ever once been overbearing; I think he’s actually very cautious about doing that. I wish he’d be more overbearing, to be quite honest. I loved his enthusiasm last night. He was so excited and pumped up for our victory. Sue Scates, his wife, came running over — I think she was probably the first person to run up and hug me after I walked off the court. It’s wonderful to see the Scates family still involved. It’s his program and always will be. If we can get a victory tomorrow, it’s 20 [UCLA men’s volleyball national titles], which is so significant. 19 of those were under his leadership. I’m thrilled that he can sit there in the front row and share the continuing good moments of the program.”

UCLA setter Micah Ma’a

On vibe in the locker room after semifinal win vs. BYU
“It’s almost a sense of relief, which is normal, and then today just getting to the grindstone trying to do whatever we can in a short period of time. I think everyone’s refocusing. I think last night, everyone was pretty exhausted, so it’s completely normal to just to be excited and have some relief, to be able to come back and get a good night’s rest and come back and be ready to go 100 percent today and not worry about tomorrow, only worry about today and what we can do today to get better. I think everyone, right now, is just trying to do whatever they can do right now in order to get better and be in a good position tomorrow.”

On how the team has improved since last meeting against Long Beach State
“We were actually just talking about the last time we played Long Beach. Daenan [Gyimah] hit .300 and Grant [Maleski] was in there and Jake [Arnitz] wasn’t in our starting lineup, so I think a lot of things are different. It’s hard to say if that’s better or worse against a team like Long Beach, but we’re going to find out. We have some of our same strengths, but we’re gonna have to see tomorrow.”

On team’s journey this season ahead of National Championship
“When I think about our growth this season, it’s almost all off the court—a maturing process that we went through, that we needed to go through because the last time we were in the Final Four, we ran into some maturity problems. I think almost all of our growth that has been really influential in our success has been off the court: team, camaraderie, selflessness, things of that nature. Those are the biggest things I can think of and things of which I am the proudest and our team is the proudest.”

UCLA outside attacker Dylan Missry

On Grant Maleski’s ace to win the semifinal
“It’s just working hard in practice. I think Grant found something. Somebody told him to work this serve out last week and he’s just been ripping it out in practice. He’s got ice in his veins and we put him in and two aces, one error, that’s a pretty good percentage. That was awesome to see. I was super stoked for him to come in and get that opportunity to get the ace at the end of the game. It had me almost emotional—I was almost getting choked up. It was just amazing to see for me.”