UCLA prematch VolleyFour news conference

Photo courtesy of UCLA athletics

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

UCLA will play the No. 2 seed BYU in the VolleyFour on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.

UCLA coach John Speraw

Opening statement
“We’re looking forward to another practice today so that we can get a little bit better. We’re obviously very familiar with BYU, our opponent, having played them twice in the last month. I think we know a lot about what we need to do, and they probably know a lot about what they need to do. We definitely know that it will be a great match. They’re very big and physical and have a great block. They’ve done a really good job of float serving us. They’ve scored a lot of points with that serve when we were there for the MPSF finals. Our float serve reception will be a very important part of our win, our hopeful win. As always, serve and pass will be a big part of this match.”

On juggling the schedule demands while serving as the Team USA volleyball head coach
“It’s pretty striped down, especially now that we’re in the fifth year of running the national team. I think that so many of the systems and the infrastructure is put into place. It’s pretty automatic. I have a great staff down in Anaheim, and they have handled just about everything during the offseason whether that’s communicating with athletes or scheduling for the summer, planning for upcoming training. Now, we are starting to see an influx of athletes as their professional seasons now are getting dependent upon how they’ve done in the playoffs, so players are coming in, how we manage their volume as we give them recovery time and they’re gearing back up. I don’t think that I’ve had one conversation with them this week. I’m not even sure if I had a conversation with them last week. All that is pretty autonomous down there, and in terms of your reference to everybody that’s here and the convention aspect of it, I think that’s true. I have received a number of texts from people that want to talk, you know, and I’ve been politely deferring that except for a couple special cases. It’s fun to see everybody and it’s great that everybody is coming to see this match here in L.A. It’s a wonderful experience for everybody involved in the men’s game to come together and see this event, particularly here in Pauley.”

On UCLA trying to capture its first NCAA title since 2006
“I think that it’s really not that different than what we ask our athletes to do. We ask our athletes to try and not see big picture, but to stay in the present and to play one point at a time volleyball is very cliché, but I think it’s a good cliché. I think for me, it rolls through my brain and then I quickly put it out. I don’t expect our athletes to be perfect and play one point volleyball. They’re going to hit a ball out of bounds, and they’re going to go ‘Darn it.’ You know, and then they’ll have to get back to that moment, and I think that’s kind of how I’m treating the history here and the hopes of the alumni and the expectation of the university, where we’ve been so good, historically. I was a part of that. I want to be a part of that, and I want to bring that back. That’s certainly a mission of mine. We’ve talked about it. We’re here to win. At the same time, I also have to understand that I have to be process-minded, too, and I have to play my own one-point game as the leader of this organization. So for me, I have to understand that yeah I want to win and I’ve thought about it and yeah I look up at that banner and think, ‘Darn, it’s been a long time since there’s been a number up there,’ and then I think that I’ve got to run a great practice today. I have to run a great team meeting. I’ve got to plan a great gameplan. I’ve got to communicate with my athletes. I’ve got to do the best that I can do with the best that I have in front of me in this moment, and if I do that, then those numbers will come back.”

On how he keeps his team fresh as they prepare for upcoming matches
“I think that the conversation about keeping people fresh is a constant dialogue between the staff, strength and conditioning and the trainers. We had a bye week a couple of weeks ago, and the truth is this team still has some things to get better at today. We’re very much a continued work in progress. So we had a week off, and the message that I was getting from the players is that when we played Stanford University, we were tired because we’d had that week to train. I was like, ‘Ooh, a week, let’s go.’ And I think that we fatigued them a little bit, and so when we had this other bye week, we talked a lot about how that week would look, based upon what we had learned from the week prior. I think we’ve done a good job of understanding what we needed to get in, of what the priorities were for the areas of focus and training, and how to do that in a period of time that allowed them to get better and still keep them fresh.”

UCLA setter Micah Ma’a

On how he balances keeping the hot hand as a setter while trying to keep the defense guessing
“That’s actually a really good question because we have a lot of guys who come from a past history of getting every ball and kind of being the guy or being able to have a rhythm. It kind of gets thrown off when you come here, because all of these guys can go out and change the game on any given night. It’s almost more of an adjustment on their part than mine. For me, I’m still setting a bunch of guys who can put the ball away. It’s really nice. It’s a pleasure. But I’d say that it’s maybe tougher on them to get one ball here or one ball there instead of every ball that they got on their club team or high school team. So, maybe that’s a better question for Dylan, I’m not sure. But I just try and do my own thing and hope that they can put away the balls that I give them.”

UCLA outside attacker Dylan Missry

On the UCLA men’s volleyball program having not won the NCAA title since 2006
“Obviously we want to win, and to do it here would be pretty awesome. But I don’t think that any of us really dwell on that, since we haven’t won since 2006. I mean, I was nine years old. That was a long time ago. That’s not anything in my head that we’re trying to get over the hump. We just focus, really, on our upcoming opponent and doing what we can, not that we need to do something for this university. We want to do it for each other, and of course for the university as a whole. I think that it’s really about us. We’re not thinking like we need to win this year, or something like that. We’re just doing everything that we can, right now, to be at our best.”