NCAA semifinals postmatch news conference: UC Irvine vs. Loyola

It took two overtime games, but the No. 2 seed UC Irvine was able to sweep the No. 3 seed Loyola in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in Los Angeles to advance to the national championship match.

Following the match, the coaches and players from both Loyola and UC Irvine addressed the media in a postmatch news conference to discuss semifinal. Check out what each team had to say about the match.

David Kniffin, UC Irvine coach: Thanks for having us. We came in and we didn’t know a whole lot about that team so we knew that it was going to be a feeling-out sort of plan. When we stepped on the court we knew that they had the ability to serve fastball at a very high level. When you can serve a fast ball at a high level and they can run that fast offense and that fast offense gets going they are hard to stop. So you saw a lot of action from their outside. It took us awhile to adjust to that. As far as the serving part, obviously we didn’t put a ton of pressure on the service line early. Once we dialed in our spirit a little bit and made them play the game and slowed down the pace a little bit it, became a little more our style.

Media question: Can you talk about all the match points your team had but couldn’t connect on before finally winning it in overtime?

David Kniffin: It was getting irritating more than it was getting nerve racking. I think we were finding our way of settling our style of play and being aggressive in spurts. I don’t feel like it was really something that we did continuously throughout the match we talked a lot about separating point of points.”

Media question: Before the match there was talk about Kevin Tillie being injured. Can you talk about that injury?

David Kniffin: Tillie doesn’t seem to be injured at all which is nice. I know that was a concern for some people coming out. Obviously he stepped up and took a bunch of swings for us.

Media question: Can you comment on the play of Connor Hughes?


David Kniffin: You know, the Condor every year just seems to come through in the clutch for us. Connor has been clutch for us throughout the year. He’s been clutch just like many of the other guys on our team have been clutch and honestly at that moment it was more of a feel than anything else. Going into this, I think we are a tough team to scout because we do have some depth.

Connor Hughes, UC Irvine outside attacker: We were very good at playing point to point, but I think every team here at the tournament is pretty good and when they get backed in to the corner and the last couple of points and they scored, they start playing a lot harder than they did the rest of the time. They stepped it up when they needed to and they put the pressure on us. We managed it and played our game.

Media question: What’s it like playing in the NCAA Tournament and being returning champions?

Connor Hughes: I didn’t feel that (pressure). I don’t think I felt that the entire year. Each year I think we play point to point in-game and we just had a good year. I think it’s a very loose feeling we have, we always talk about playing loose and that it should never be that tight. This game today was like every other game — that’s what I tell the guys.

Media question: Can you talk about the pressure of being in the Final Four?

Connor Hughes: I don’t think there was too much pressure, obviously it’s a high intensity game. At this point it’s basically win or go home, but I feel like we have a lot of experience. I think just having that experience and being in the final four and know what we have to do to get the job done really helped alleviate the pressure, for me at least.

Media question: What was it like facing Loyola?

Colin Mehring, UC Irvine middle attacker: Loyola came out strong and we didn’t really know what to expect from them because we hadn’t seen too much of them yet. I feel like it was managing the game for us, like things got hard for us like you said in game one, but I feel like we were able to play point-to-point and just play our style of volleyball. When we do that, it’s hard to beat us. I feel like that’s why we overcame Loyola and beat them.”

Media question: What’s it like playing in the NCAA Tournament and being returning champions?

Colin Mehring, UC Irvine middle attacker: I think we haven’t talked a lot about finding a new way to win every game this year. It’s not forcing ourselves to change to do it right, it’s just that we have a different squad every year just by the nature of people graduating, and it forces us to change the way we do it. I think that reworking our systems in that way every year forces us to treat each year differently.

Media question: Coach what was it like playing UC Irvine and specifically not having an answer for the bid?

Shane Davis, Loyola coach: They passed very, very well tonight. Set two, they really came alive and we weren’t putting a ton of service pressure on them and after they just kind of livened it up and kind of gained confidence. I thought by the third set our guys were working hard to do a better job of at least getting three guys in front of them. We weren’t slowing it down too much but we started adjusting a little bit better.

Media question: Can you talk about going punch-for-punch with defending national champion?

Joseph Smalzer, Loyola outside attacker: Yeah–they were a really good team. It was a really fun battle. It seemed like it was going back-and-forth the whole match. Overall, it was kind of heartbreaking, but it was a good match.

Media question: What does it means to bring Loyola to this point?

Cody Caldwell, Loyola outside attacker: It’s incredible for the program. It’s really great just to have being in a championship under our belts. It’s great to be here but we can only learn from [it] and hopefully we can do it more and more now that we’re here.