Colorado volleyball head coach Liz Kritza was joined by senior outside hitter Kerra Schroeder and freshman setter Nicole Edelman at the Colorado Fall Sports Media Day.
Head Coach Liz Kritza
"Thanks for coming here today. We are currently between practices in our first two-a-day. We started practice last Wednesday, but the kids were still in class, so we have really started our split practices today. There is a great enthusiasm, great energy, and great buzz in our gym. We are highly talented, but we are young. That is something you will hear consistently, we will talk more specifically as we get into questions.
Kerra (Schroeder) is our returning senior, captain, and leader, and we are going to count on her a ton. She is used to it, she is ready for it, and she has had to deal with that her entire career. Nicole (Edelman), is one of our promising young players coming in. We have a top-20 recruiting class, which is the highest rated class we have had here in the last eight years or so. There is a lot of promise and a lot of excitement. Now it is time to do the work, and that is what we are trying to do right now."
On Playing in the Pac-12:
"The Pac-12 is arguably the toughest conference in the country. A lot of people say that it is tougher to win a Pac-12 Championship than it is to win a national championship, and after my first season in the Pac-12, I definitely agree with them. Having that first season under our belt is really important. The players that are returning that were expecting to lead us in a run through the Pac-12. But the big thing we learned about Pac-12 volleyball is that there is very little discrepancy between the top portion of the conference and the bottom portion of the conference. If you go back and see what happened last year a lot of teams in the bottom half were upsetting teams in the top half of the conference. Take UCLA for example, they are the reigning national champions and they lost twice at the tail end of the season to Arizona, who finished right around the middle of the pack. You really have to not just be a talented team, but you have to be well prepared. The best coaches in the country coach in this league. We are excited about having great players with great athletic ability that have prep and club experience, and then you put them in this league and they can only get better. It is very advantageous for our players to play night in and night out against the future Olympic Team. Right now as I speak, the USA Olympic team is playing for the gold medal, and most of those players are from the Pac-12."
On drawing inspiration for the USA Olympic team:
"Definitely. Just for the overall growth for the sport, the casual fan or the casual observer doesn’t tune in to women’s volleyball. They will now because of the success of our Olympic volleyball team. We have a gold and a silver in beach play, and a potential gold in the indoor game. It speaks volume to the sport, in our countries ability to progress and promote itself through international games. And at least at the beginning of the next Olympic quad a lot more people will have more interest in the sport and that’s something we need to capitalize on.
"One thing that will change for us in the Pac-12 is the launch of our network. We will have three times more television coverage than any other conference in women’s college volleyball and that is significant. It will help grow the sport and I think it’s a concerted effort to make us the top level in this league for women’s college volleyball. I’m pleased; it could not have come at a better time right after the Olympics. We will see what level of interest will carry over into the collegiate season."
On the difficulties of building a program:
"Patience is the biggest challenge. You want to have immediate success, but if you have to change and adjust like any other business plan you need to have multiple options and multiple ways to get to that success. I say patience for myself because most coaches are aggressive and competitive and they want it now. You want it fast and you want it now, but you have to build it correctly otherwise you don’t become a program; you just become one or two good teams. We’ve had to be patient with our building here and we are looking forward to the combination of this recruiting class and the next one coming in to be able to have continuity and longevity and build a program with these classes together.
"Give credit to Kerra, when she finishes up here and looks back, she’s had an interesting career. She has played with multiple coaches in multiple conferences but the way that she handles herself and the way that she’s put forth an image for the younger players has been an excellent salvation for us. I think we have to keep progressing. You don’t get judged by wins and losses all the time, but at the end of the day that’s what we’re judged by. But we get to measure helping us progress from one thing to the next especially after the last couple years that we had so we’re taking all positives that we can and we’re using them using them with the introduction of our new players and hopefully we’ll see a mark improvement this season."
On Nicole (Edelman) being the new setter:
"I am very confident that she will challenge, she is challenging immediately for the starting position, and volleyball is the true team sport in my opinion. You have a full a compliment of players who have to understand what their role is and you can’t just have one single setter.I have full confidence that she will acclimate to the speed of the game and with her experience not just skill wise. I think she will have a very successful career here for us."
On team chemistry:
"We are very competitive at the gym; that is a very good thing. We talked about taking the chemistry from this team, especially in this sport, it’s very important that everybody understands that competition is a necessity. You have to have that to continue to be able to progress as players and as a team and what we need to do is take that training model of how hard we compete in the gym and that creates our identity. We want to be known for being a team that plays very good defensively and is aggressive serving. More often than not we will be undersized in this league. We have two 6’5 players on the roster, we have girls that are 6’2 and 6’3, we have a 6’1 player outside and a 6’1 setter; that is small in our league and that’s ok. We just have to understand what we’re working with and be very smart with our coaches and players to position ourselves so that our strategy and our match performance gets into the place where we want it to be. I think Kerra’s comments about us never giving up and being a team that is very frustrated in losing to bigger teams is going to be important. We are going to take a very intelligent approach to the game. We’ve already started working on it in our first four practices and making sure we’re playing the game the way it should be played. We need to understand different defenses and different offenses and it’s a lot to expect from this group but they want it just as much if not more than I do. With that being said I think that our identity is going to be a team above all that challenges above all even with bumps in the road. They both mention that we are an underdog, we are the ones that are trying to climb looking up and we’d have it no other way. I think you have to have special people around you when you are in that position, and we all came here for the same reason. Coaching staff and players alike, we all came here for the same reason. We are really excited to see what we can do this season and take another step down this road."
On drawing inspiration from the Olympic team:
"Growing up I always watched volleyball in collegiate leagues but during the Olympics I watched as much as I could. Whenever I have off time between classes and workouts, I’m on my iPod watching the Olympic matches, men and women’s, it’s big because you can learn so much just by watching and that definitely transitions over into our practices."
On her first impressions of being at CU:
"I’m super eager to start training. I’ve been waiting to start training with this team for almost two years now. And now I’m finally able to get feedback from them about what I need to work on and what’s working well. With all the club experience that I’ve had its definitely helped me grow as a player and get used to the bigger game."
On team chemistry:
"I would rather be the underdog than be upset on being on top and seeing little things as failures when you have so many things to build on. We have such a competitive atmosphere right now. People fighting for positions, people playing positions can get frustrated in general. But we are all just pushing each other a lot in the gym which will help us a lot when we start playing."
On drawing inspiration from the Olympic team:
"Right before this actually we were all on our iPads watching the women’s Olympic team so it was actually really exciting we can look up to these girls just like our camperslook up to us. And to see that these are grown women with families and that they are still playing for a gold medal it is awesome."
On playing in both the Big 12 and the Pac-12:
"It is amazing that I got to play in both the Big 12 and the Pac-12. The difference I see is probably the speed of the game in the Pac-12. I grew up playing against all those girls on the west coast so I’m playing against familiar faces. It’s a very high paced game, that’s the basic big difference that I’ve seen."
On team chemistry:
"Obviously we have a great recruiting class. That will not only help us with wins on the season but with our chemistry in practice. Just like Nicole said, we are pushing our setter, we have another libero coming in and she’s pushing the other defenders and we have another hitter on the outside. So all these different girls coming in at different positions are adding to the competition during practice and it completely increases the chemistry as well. That will probably create us into a team that never gives up because we are always competing always in practice and having these girls is a great addition. So we are the underdogs and that is totally not a bad thing, we can only go up from that."