bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the weekend?
Blair Quinn: Two very very high intensity games, very challenging games. The first one Friday night was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. We ended up losing on a penalty kick in literally the last second of double overtime. It was unfortunate because I thought we played well enough to get points out of that game. We battled back again, another overtime game for us. Down a goal, again, but we seem to be able to keep fighting back and tie games up which is good, we've just got to find a way to win one now.
bc.net: Coming off the emotional loss against San Jose State, your kids were able to bounce back, it was a Sunday game and that's something you've been working on all season is trying to get them to much better on the second game of the week.
BQ: Yeah, that's always a challenge, playing as well on Sunday or better on Sunday than you did on Friday, especially that environment. Fresno has not lost at home all year and that was their last home game. As a matter of fact, their only other tie this year at home was against Pepperdine who is No. 4 in the country right now. That was a really good result for us in sense that it was on the road. Any time you look at a tie you can always say, "Well, we missed this chance or that chance and we should have won." But they also had a couple of great chances that they either missed or our goal keeper, Erin Wosick, made two really great saves in about a two or three second span in about the last minute or minute and a half of the second overtime. That game could have gone either way as well and in the end, that is a really good result getting that tie at Fresno State where they just don't typically lose at home and almost always win.
bc.net: Obviously you weren't there for the first trip to Fresno but the team has played well there, winning there two years ago and then getting the tie this year.
BQ: Without having been here the last couple of years, I don't know what to attribute that to but I know now looking back after the game that they're the only team in the conference that hasn't beaten us yet but they may still get another crack at that if we do our job this week and make the conference tournament. We may end up seeing them again. I don't know what it is to be honest. They're a very good team, they play very good soccer. They have a unique system, formation that they line up in. It definitely caused us some problems in the first half. We made some adjustments in the second half to counter that and did a much better job. They're a very very good team. They can keep the ball for days.
bc.net: You've talked a lot over the course of the conference season about your team being able to make adjustments in the second half.
BQ: It's kind of a double-edged sword I think. You look back at it and you're happy that they did a good job, they listened to us at halftime, we came out and tweaked this or that, changed the shape a little bit and it got a lot better but then you kind of wonder, why wasn't it working in the first half and what do we have to do to get us to start faster? From that standpoint I wish we'd be able to start a little faster. But they have done a good job of having to pick up their energy and make those tactical adjustments.
We're still pretty young overall even with seven or so juniors and the one senior and the rest of the team is freshmen and sophomores but as far as me being here, they might as well all be freshmen. There's some tactical stuff that they're still learning and even 18 games in they're still learning which is good. There's just some stuff that we would like to get implemented earlier in games. We need to stop this habit of having to chase the game from behind in the last 10 minutes. It is making my life a little difficult, more difficult than it needs to be.
bc.net: This was your fourth consecutive overtime game and we talked before the season about your team's fitness level and how you wanted them to be peaking right around this time. It sounds like the fitness level has been good.
BQ: Yeah, I think it is. That's the goal, you're peaking in October, specifically mid to late October. I think that's something that we've absolutely proven in the last four games. We always jog off the field at the end of regulation, at the end of first overtime. I can say that yesterday at one point, Fresno, in one of the intermissions had three or four girls bent over at the knees and they were ready to be done with it. I am very happy with where we're at fitness-wise. I still think it can be better overall and I think going into next year we'll do some things throughout the spring we'll do some things to increase that fitness. I don't know if anybody else, LA Tech has played a lot of overtime games this year but I don't think anybody else has played four in a row though and we've played almost the whole overtime of all four. Even the San Jose game, where we did play the whole overtime. They added a second to play the PK, the clock had actually run out. We've played 110 minutes three games in a row and I think we played 107 or so against Nevada.
bc.net: That Nevada match was the first in the overtime streak and is now looming as a very big win as you head into the final week of regular season conference play. You have a chance to qualify for the tournament with a victory and since you hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with them, they would have to score more than four points from the weekend to take that spot.
BQ: If we beat Hawai'i that eliminates a lot of and/or situations. We need to beat Hawai'i and Nevada needs to tie or lose one of their two games this weekend and that would be it, we'd be in. With a win we would eliminate LA Tech mathematically. If we don't' get a win then it opens up the door to Nevada can only get three points max on the weekend and LA Tech has to tie or lose to Hawai'i, there's just too many scenarios in which we would need more help than we can give ourselves. You always want to be able to help yourself the most and I'd say right now it's probably about 80/20 in our favor. If we win the game I think we take care of 80 percent of it and we just need a little bit of help from either San Jose or Fresno. If we lose the game, then it's more 20/80 maybe, 10/90, I don't know. Then we're waiting on everybody else to do their stuff and it's out of our control at that point.
bc.net: Your thoughts on preparing for Hawai'i?
BQ: Speed of play is going to be huge. Counterattack is going to be huge. They're very quick, they're not a really big team in terms of size but neither are we. They're very quick though and they're technical. They've got a couple players up top that have a nice repertoire of one v. one moves and they use them a lot. They're very very scrappy. It's been a Hawaiian team trait for a long time. It's kind of an us versus them mentality, us versus the world, they're very scrappy. They fight for every loose ball, every ball in the air, any 50/50 tackle they're fighting as hard as they can. It'll be a challenge just to play faster to them to the point that we're making them chase the game so that they can't fight as much and they're just more chasing.
bc.net: They're under a new head coach this season, what changes if any have they made in the way that they play or the things they do schematically versus the previous head coach?
BQ: Michele [Nagamine] is very good. I think the biggest thing will probably be organization. I don't know if the formation has changed very much or even if it has, 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. I think more than anything it's their organization, regardless of the system they're playing, they're just more organized. Michele does a very good job with organization. She's pretty feisty as well, I think they reflect her quite a bit actually in their play. I think they're very very scrappy and empowered when they play. They don't back down from anything. If you were to score two goals on them in the first half, that really doesn't mean anything in a game against Hawai'i because they absolutely believe they're going to come out and score three in the second half whereas most teams don't necessarily have that same thought process. There was a game earlier this year when they were at Idaho and they lost 4-2 and that's a bit of an odd score because usually when somebody has three or four goals they have the run of play but Hawai'i just kept coming and coming and they got a couple goals of their own as well. They're dangerous and I think that's the biggest thing with Michele coming in. It's nonstop from them, they never stop and that reflects her I think.
bc.net: As you head into the final week of conference play, every team that is in action still has something to play for which is a little different than a lot of seasons. You have four teams that can win the regular season and three teams fighting, your team included, fighting for that last tournament slot. What kind of dynamic does that create?
BQ: Yeah, it's exciting. You kind of wish that your'e not on the bottom end of it to be honest. But it's exciting and to a degree we still control our destiny. We do need a little help but as long as we win, it's not a lot of help that we need. I think the top four teams can all still mathematically still get first place. The only team that can't do that of the five that are already guaranteed in is Idaho because they don't have any [conference] games left. So yeah, you've got four teams, including Hawai'i, so they're coming here looking to get a top two seed or a conference championship but even a top two seed gives them a bye and I think that's what everybody really wants is that top two seed to get a bye in the first round. For us and LA Tech and Nevada, it's fight or die. We're all trying to get that last spot in the tournament. We're sitting in that spot right now but I don't think that makes us any safer than the other two because if things don't go well for us it would only take a win to put either of them in that spot and both those teams are capable of doing that at home. That's the thing, all three of us are at home. The bottom three are all at home this weekend and so Nevada has two cracks at it and LA Tech and us both have the one game. It'll be entertaining. I'd love to be sitting where the other five teams are already, I'd love to be where Idaho is right now to be done and know you're in, that'd be a lot better for my nerves! I think I'd sleep more!
bc.net: Obviously this match is senior night for your team, you've got one senior on the roster, Cassie Branch, talk a little bit about the impact that she's had on the squad this season.
BQ: Branch is awesome. The obvious is that the kid has ridiculous pace. Once she gets kid lined up on the outside one v. one, if she takes that bit of a longer touch by her, she's gone. That kind ain't going to catch her. She better tackle her before she starts or she ain't going to catch her. Her pace is what is evident to people that come watch. She's got some other intangibles that she brings as well. A lot of people don't know, she transferred here from a JC and she won a national title and was a major contributor to that national title. That's something that I don't think many teams have, somebody on their roster that has a national championship. She brings that to the locker room. That's something that we let girls know about a while back in the season. There were a lot of girls on the team that didn't realize that Branch had won a national title before. So we asked her to talk about it a little bit and what it's like and what it feels like and that's kind of what we're trying to do on a smaller scale in the sense of making the conference tournament and winning that title. That's what we're trying to do and we have someone on the roster that's done that. I think that helps tremendously from a team confidence and knowledge standpoint to have someone on the team that's done that, it helps a lot.
Then on and off the field, personality-wise, the kid is hilarious. She's got some really good one-liners and all the kids listen when she speaks because they all know they're going to end up laughing when she's done. She's a great kid to have around.
bc.net: The Aggies have had two seniors nights now and haven't posted a good result in either of them. You've talked about wanting your team to come out and play faster. Do you think with senior night and with a conference tournament bid on the line, that might help their energy level?
BQ: Yeah, I hope so. If it doesn't, then we all should probably re-evaluate why we're doing what we're doing. It's one of those games, you hear the cliche, if you can't get up for this game, you don't have pulse. This is a playoff game. We have to win to keep going. Is there a possibility of us not winning and still getting in? Yeah, but then do you feel very good about getting in that way and your chances of winning your first game? Not as much. We've been in every game in this conference. We are fully aware that we can play with anybody and we don't want to be sitting in a spot looking back frustrated going, "Only if…" We lost 1-0 to LA Tech and we hit the post. We lost 2-0 to Utah State and we just didn't play very in the first half. The overtime game at San Jose, the one second. We don't want to be sitting in the team room next week turning stuff in and talking about the "what-if's." I'm looking for us to start fast, the girls understand that. We're going to work on that this week as well, actually how to start fast, some ways to do that. We don't want to be in a situation where we're chasing this game in the last 10 minutes like we have in the last three or four games. If we can get a lead of a couple of goals and then try to take away what they're good at and almost slow the game down actually so that they're not allowed to play at the pace they want to play at, then we'll be alright.