UC Santa Barbara coach Rick McLaughlin along with outside attacker Jeff Menzel, libero Andy McGuire and middle attacker Scott Slaughter conducted a news conference Wednesday heading into their NCAA Tournament match.
The No. 4 seed UC Santa Barbara will play the No. 1 seed USC in the NCAA Tournament semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday in University Park, Pa.
The Gauchos (17-14, 11-11 MPSF) defeated three top-five ranked teams in the conference tournament to become first No. 7 seed to ever in the MPSF Tournament and advance to the Final Four.
[Editor’s note: Transcript courtesy of the Penn State athletics department]
Rick McLaughlin, coach: We’re excited to be here and we’re playing good volleyball at the right time. We want to keep that going the best we can.
Q: How can you recapture the magic of last Saturday night?
McLaughlin: I think it’s just the drive of our guys. They’re more competitive. They’re improving. They keep believing more and more and it’s not magic anymore. It’s just the way we are.
Q: What do you think has changed about your team in the last month of the season?
McLaughlin: Having our backs against the wall for sure is what is making the difference. These guys are all seniors or at least eight of them, six out of the seven starters, and they don’t want to stop and I don’t want to stop coaching them. It’s a group effort. We want to extend it as long as it will go.
Q: With Penn State and Ohio State playing each other that will insure that a West Coast team will make it to the Finals, what does that say about West Coast volleyball?
McLaughlin: It’s great. Those two programs have been great for a long time. The hope is it keeps expanding and that those two leagues get better. The MIVA is really competitive right now. The EIVA needs to get a little more competitive, but its on its way so that’s great for volleyball.
Q: Coach, how much easier is it to do your job considering you just played USC?
McLaughlin: It’s fresh in our guys’ heads. It’s fresh in their heads. It goes both ways. You don’t have to focus so much on reviewing film from way back and we’ll do a little of that still.
Q: What do you think about Penn State’s efforts overall with everything going on here this week?
McLaughlin: Awesome job. Mark (Pavlik) does an incredible job and promotes the sport well and gets the growth going. That’s what we need for men’s volleyball. It’s a great sport and there is a ton of interest at the younger level and we have to get it going on our end.
Q: What were your thoughts when you saw the draw and that you would get a rematch against USC?
Jeff Menzel, outside attacker: We were pretty happy. We sort of looked at it as USC is not really happy. I think they wanted a sweet ride to the finals, but with us they’re not going to get it so we’re just excited to get a shot at them again.
Q: How would you guys assess your progress from the first day back in the fall up until now?
Andy McGuire, libero: I think we’ve kind of had a rollercoaster year. We would win one, lose one. I think we won three in a row at one point then we didn’t win two in a row other than that, so it’s been win-lose, win-lose. We kind of clinched the playoffs then we were just waiting to get here and since then we’ve just been playing with our backs against the wall. This is it for eight seniors. That motivation, just not to lose and not go home, has really been the motivation that has driven us these last few weeks.
Q: As seniors, what does it mean to be back here and for this to be your last chance?
Scott Slaughter, middle attacker: It’s pretty awesome to be honest. Our redshirt freshman year was the only year we had made playoffs before this and none of us actually had an opportunity to play in that. So it’s kind of going three years without doing anything then it’s like the pieces finally came together and we’re putting one last try together. We’ll just see how far we can take it.