Q&A with most noted players of match against Trojans
Returning players react to their emotions before and after the victory.
By Davis Jones
We caught up with junior Alaysia Brown and seniors C’era Oliveira and Chloe Ferrari after their win against #1-ranked USC last Friday.
The Vista: What were your immediate reactions when you won the final set?
Alaysia Brown: I was shocked at first. And after the shock went, I was just screaming because it was what we’ve been preparing for and training for. We had a hard pre-eason, and so this was an end to a really hard road for us. We beat four out of the five ranked teams, so all our training had come full-circle and all of it had paid off, and it was awesome. Everything our coaches said was true – all of our training paid off.
C’era Oliveira: My immediate reaction was, ‘Holy crap, I can’t believe we just beat the #1 team.’ But at the same time, I knew we could do this. I feel like our team is #1, so we just have to keep our strengths up top and make sure we come out every single game and not let anyone take a game from us.
TV: What did you guys focus on specifically going up against their personnel?
AB: As a right side blocker, I was supposed to line up with my hitter, and I was going to block the line and make sure I was pressing over. And then we had a lot of defensive assignments too. I was supposed to make sure I got in for all the little shots and tips. Middle back had a shading assignment, so they were making sure they were staying deep and high for deflections. The middles were making sure they fronted their middles if it was a good pass. Everyone had a role to play that was a little bit different as opposed to other teams.
CO: I think our biggest concern was controlling the ball, especially against Sam Bricio, #2. She has a really good topspin serve, so we practiced that almost all week, and everyone was just whipping the volleyballs at us, so we were able to control it when the game came.
Chloe Ferarri: All week we watched film on them and tried to key in on their big players. Their whole front row was just huge. But we wanted to pick a couple players to focus on and to shut them down, and we executed it perfectly.
TV: You guys found yourselves in a hole after the beginning of each set – 4-1, 5-1 –but you always managed to come back and rally. What were you guys telling yourselves during those spots?
AB: We actually had a sports psychologist who came in, and with him, we would always concentrate on one thing. Like, even if it was one pass, one set, whatever we’re lacking at that moment, we were always looking to stay positive and to never get down on our teammates. If you see someone mess up on a hit, it’d be like, ‘Next ball’ or ‘Next pass.’ So that’s what we were focusing on: just one thing at a time. And everything else fell into place after that.
CO: I think we’re more mentally strong this year. We do a lot of drills in practice where our starting side is down five points or whatever, and we’ve built that confidence where we know that if we’re down that many, it doesn’t matter, because we’ll gain it back. I feel like going into the USC game, we had that confidence that we’re supposed to win and we’re going to win and nothing will change that.
CF: [Laughs] We do that. I don’t know why we do that. I think it’s just kind of our team M.O. – we just always start off down and then we have to dig ourselves out of a hole. It’s definitely something we’re working on in practice every day. That actually happens a lot in our games. But our team’s been really good at not letting it throw us off. When we get down, it doesn’t affect our game as much. Last year and with teams before us, we’d start freaking out and making more errors, but this team has a lot of confidence. If we get down five points, we’ll get it back. We just have to stay calm and stay confident.
TV: Was there a moment when you guys thought, ‘Okay. We got this now. We’re going to win this’?
AB: I felt like at the end when the crowd was really getting into it, and out celebrations were getting more and more elaborate. People were going to the ground and celebrating. You could just feel it in the gym, this feeling that we were about to win. It was just over the top. It was a lot easier to play with how into it our fans were. We loved it. We couldn’t have done it without our fans. They were going crazy every point. I mean, the rowing team was there with their shirts off! They’re our brother team, and it was really cool that they came to support us. It was really deep to us that all of the sports teams and that the general students were there. It really felt like the university was coming together to support us.
CO: It was from the beginning. I’m pretty sure we were all really confident that we had this game. It just came with it. I think that’s the biggest difference from past years, that we’ve always felt so stressed out when we’re down. And now we’re just fully confident. Even when we’re down, we know we’re going to take the game anyway. We just have to get back one side out and we’re good.
CF: Honestly, from the start, I think we all were pretty confident. You just have to go into the game and think, ‘we’re going to win.’ And it’s weird going into a game playing the #1 team and going, ‘we’re going to win this game.’ It just doesn’t happen that often. But the fourth game around 15, 16 points was like, ‘Wow, we’re actually going to win this game. Let’s just take it.”
TV: Where do you guys go from here? Have you talked about it much, or has it not really set in yet?
AB: Our first thing we talked about was to not drop off our level of play. We want to make sure that it doesn’t go to our heads. We’re not really focused on rankings. We’re focused on keeping up that level and never slacking off. Because now we have a target on our backs in conference, so we need to make sure we go out there and play every point so we can really have a chance to do well in the tournament.
CF: After we play San Diego State [on Tuesday], we’ll start conference soon, and our goal for conference for sure is to go undefeated. I think we should be able to win all our matches in three games – I think we’re good enough to contain all these teams. I think that’s what our goal is for now. We talk about it all the time in practice. It’s not just about winning anymore. It’s about showing that we’re the best team and showing that we’re going to dominate. I think it’s the confidence that we’ve developed all throughout spring and summer. All of our hard work has paid off, and it’s giving us great confidence.