bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the victory over Hawai'i, you went into the game knowing you had to get off to a fast start, you got the corner kick very early and that was a ball that if had found the foot of an Aggie player, would have been a goal.
Blair Quinn: Yeah, that was definitely something we stressed-- starting fast and not putting ourselves in a position like we had the past several games where we were a goal and fighting back. Even though it was still 0-0 we really carried a lot of the play in the first half. We out-shot them something like 8-3, I think it was 5-0 in corners, we played well. It was one of our most complete games of the year in terms of 90 minutes good soccer.
bc.net: Defense. With Jessica Schutter in goal, you held them scoreless, they had come into the match averaging 2.6 goals per game in WAC games. You also held them without a corner kick which was the first time that the Aggies have done that in conference play in any of the three seasons.
BQ: That was good. Our back line, again they played really well. It was probably the best games in terms of consistency for 90 minutes but on top of that our mids defended really well. That was absolutely our best game from our midfield and that takes a lot of pressure off our back line and off our goal keeper. Jess played really well and our back line was great but our mids defended really well and that helps take a lot of pressure off of them.
bc.net: One of the things you noted last week was that Hawai'i plays with a lot of energy and really plays hard and your girls obviously matched that intensity.
BQ: That was something we stressed. It wasn't anything tactically or technically, they just had to battle as hard as they do. It was one of those things that comes down to those intangibles, grit, effort, heart and that kind of stuff you hear everybody talk about all the time but that's what it came down to. Tactically it was a really good matchup for both teams. I think there were some things both teams were trying to impose as far as style but as far as the battle in the game we absolutely had to meet their intensity as far as battling in the game. That was really good.
bc.net: Your thoughts on the goal that Bree Luhrsen scored to put you on top and also after that, being able to continue to attack when it might have been a natural tendency to go into a defensive shell for the remainder of the game after you got that go-ahead goal.
BQ: The goal started with a deep free kick from Elise [Nordin]. She was looking for Breesy initially because we try to find her head to flick things on and actually a defender stepped in front of her and it kind of ended up mistiming the ball, the ball got by of both of them and ended up bouncing to Yolie who beat her player with a little stop and go move, got her to the end line and served a ball left-footed. Breesy had circled back inside at that time and continued her run into the box and one of the things we saw on video that we put into our pre game scouting report for the girls was that their goal keeper is very good but she's very aggressive and comes off her line. She comes out for just about everything and doesn't always get there and she came out for this cross and Breesy beat her to it. When she comes out she sometimes leaves more space to the near post and that's what happened. Breesy beat her to ball, was able to outside the foot flick it to the near post. It was a very classy finish, it was very calm, especially for a freshman. It was a really good goal.
In terms of keeping the pressure on, that was something we stressed at halftime, again it was 0-0, but we had most of the play and certainly most of the attacking play. Don't score a goal and then let up and try to defend for 45 minutes or 25 minutes, you just have to keep going at them, that'll keep them from getting the ball and coming at us. That was the plan the whole time.
bc.net: You were able to get a victory on Senior Night for Cassie Branch, obviously the victory was nice to send her out with a win but you also were able to take a lot of the guessing out of trying to qualify for the conference tournament.
BQ: Yeah, that was huge. Senior day is always fun but it's always challenging because there's a lot of emotion involved. You tend to worry sometimes as a coach that your team may not start the way you want because they're emotional about their senior and it could be their last game and there's tends to be some tears and so that's a worry sometimes. But I thought the girls did a good job of handling it. They were very positive and very excited for Branch and I think she was the same, I think there were a few tears but they were happy tears and it wasn't overwhelming sadness from her or the team and I think it was excitement and they handled it very well. I think that gave us the ability to start off on the right foot at the pace and pressure we wanted to.
Getting that win made the help that we needed so much less. I was telling the girls, it was kind of a 90/10 if we win, we've done 90 percent of the job and we just need a little help. If we lose, it almost becomes 10/90. We need a lot of help from everybody else and we don't want to be putting ourselves in that situation. We don't want to have to be relying on other people. I thought they handled it well. Getting the win as really big and it gave us that separation. In the end when the final results from the whole weekend were in, it ended up not being a win that we needed but I'd rather have the win anyway.
bc.net: The win also sends you into the conference tournament with some momentum and you end up facing Hawai'i in the first game.
BQ: I think that probably happens more than people realize. I don't know why but I know it happened to me at Kansas when I was a volunteer in '06. We played Colorado on Senior Day and then had to turn around five days later and play them in the Big 12 tournament. It's kind of where we are again here. What it does really is it takes the guesswork out of it for both teams. You don't rely on the scouting reports anymore, you've seen them firsthand, they've seen you firsthand. You just try to keep trying to impose your will upon them the way you did the last game. I think the second time around it's a lot more about keeping your emotions in check than it is the technical and the tactical. There aren't any surprises anymore, it's just about making sure you're not so jacked up for a playoff game, a do or die situation, that you can't be calm enough to play. That's the biggest thing we're going to be focusing on is just keeping our emotions in check.
bc.net: With the conference tournament in Fresno, you were just out there last weekend, how much does that help, you know the field and how the ball bounces and obviously facing Hawai'i in the first round who you just played on Friday night. There seem to be a lot of little things that are working to your advantage.
BQ: To be honest with you, we're playing on a different field. We're going to be playing on their actual soccer field. They're in a similar situation as us. They had a brand new field put in, very similar to ours that we train on every day but they too weren't able to get stands in time to play on it during the season so we actually played in the football stadium on the field turf last time but we're going to be on a full size grass field. But we still went over to the field before the Fresno game with the girls and told them, "Hey, this is what we're playing for. This is what we want to get back to." We stood there and looked at it let it kind of sink in for a few minutes in silence and I think the girls understood that that's what we were trying to do. I do think having been there just a week ago or a week and a half ago is a positive thing. The environment, we're going to be prepared for. I do think playing on the new field will work in our favor. We play well at practice on our practice field because of the size and the dimensions and the speed of the surface so I think that's a positive for sure.
bc.net: You've got many new faces and you've got some veteran players who were there the first year who made the conference tournament. What kind of preparation do you go through in terms of getting the freshmen and sophomore who haven't been in a conference tournament before, prepared for the conference tournament environment. It's just a little bit different feel.
BQ: Yeah, it is but at the same time. The reason we've prepared all season the way we have was for exactly this reason so that when we got to this game, they wouldn't hear their coaches going, "This is a game we've got to win, this is how we've got to do it, you've got to do these things…" If we've been doing the things we wanted to do all year, then we've been prepared to play in each of those games and if I talk to them in the same manner… I'm not a rah-rah guy before games. I don't do the Knute Rockne type speeches, win one for the Gipper, it's "Here's the information, these are the facts, this is what we expect to have happen based on the scouting reports, this is what we expect us to do based on the way we play. Let's go win." We present the information to them that way every game and we're going to present the information to them like that again with a little more knowledge this time because we played them recently. And the girls, they've got internal motivation. That's what you want, you want your team to be internally motivated. They're fired up to be here, they're excited about it. They believe they belong here. For the junior class they've gone two out of the three years here and that's a big deal. For the sophomores and freshmen, the good thing is they're good players. We've got very good young players. Half our team is sophomores and freshmen and they're very talented, they play a lot and they've all been in high school state championships, club state championships and some of them even beyond at regionals and nationals so they've been in these situations, just not at the WAC. It'll be new for them, it'll be new for me but we handle it the same way we handled the Hawa'i game last Friday.
bc.net: Your team is carrying a lot of momentum heading into the conference tournament. You played very well at San Jose and were unfortunate to not get a point from that game, then you scratched out a point against Fresno State, a very good team and then you just beat Hawai'i, a team who was leading the league for much of the season and as we talked about earlier they were coming into the match with a lot of firepower and you shut them down.
BQ: I think you can even go back a couple more games, I was looking at this after the game was over, we're 2-1-2 in the last five with the only loss being that literally last second penalty kick double-overtime loss at San Jose and even then, we played really good soccer. I think our last five games coming in and getting the points we got, at home, then getting the big tie at Fresno, those are all positive signs. We wanted to be playing our best soccer at this time of the year and I think we are. If you're playing your best soccer in late August and early September, you're in trouble. I think we've been playing our best soccer in the last five or six games, certainly last four or five games, to give us an opportunity to win.
In terms of Hawai'i, they came in, it wasn't like, "Hey, we're in the tournament, we've got it locked up." They came in knowing that if they swept the weekend they could be a one or two seed and get a first round bye. For us to be able to beat them in a tight game, they still won on Sunday and finished third based on a points tie with San Jose but I think now, them not getting the one or two seed, that's even more motivation for them to turn around and want to try to thump us again. They've been highly motivated both times we've played them. I don't think we're going to see anything where they're like, "They beat us last time, we need to be careful of this or that." I think they're going to come straight at us. That's what Hawai'i does. They've got a number of offensive weapons and I think they're going to come straight at us.
bc.net: You guys earned your way into the conference tournament. How much does that play into the confidence of your team going in knowing that you earned your way in this weekend and didn't really rely on other teams to get them into the tournament.
BQ: I think it goes a long way. I think they understood the gravity of the situation on Friday, they would have needed help from four other teams, a win, a loss, a tie, you don't want to rely on half the conference to help you. Once we won, we needed help from one team and we got it. I think that does go a long way. I think if we had lost, we'd have kind of back doored our way into the tournament and they wouldn't be feeling really good about themselves right now. There's a good attitude at practice, there's a good air about the team. It certainly isn't arrogance, we're still the six seed and the reality is that everybody is going to expect us to be done by 4:30 on Thursday but I think we have enough confidence that we know we can go in there and win our first game and if we get a second one, then great, we'll try to win that one too.