Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
WCWS Press Conference 2: Lonni Alameda (Florida State University), Lu Harris-Champer (University of Georgia), Clint Myers (Auburn), Kelly Inouye-Perez (UCLA)
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome, everyone, to our 3:30 press conference here. From my right, your left, we have head coach Lonni Alameda from Florida State University, whose team advanced to the College World Series out of the Tallahassee Super Regional. They bring an overall record of 53-8 to Oklahoma City, and they are making their ninth appearance here in the Women's College World Series.
Next to her, we have Coach Lu Harris-Champer from the University of Georgia, whose team advanced to the Women's College World Series out of the Gainesville Super Regional. They come into the Women's College World Series with an overall record of 45-18, and Georgia is making their third appearance here in the Women's College World Series.
Next to her we have Coach Clint Myers from Auburn University, whose team advanced to Oklahoma City from the Auburn Super Regional. They bring an overall record of 54-10 to Oklahoma City, and the Tigers are making their second appearance here in the Women's College World Series.
Next to Coach, we have Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez from UCLA, whose team advanced to the Women's College World Series out of the Oregon Super Regional. They come into Oklahoma City with an overall record of 40-14-1. The Bruins are making their 26th appearance here at the Women's College World Series.
At this time we'll start with opening comments from Florida State Coach Alameda.
LONNI ALAMEDA: Yeah, we're excited to be here. I don't know who wouldn't be excited to be here, to be in the World Series, the 18th playing. Just a little bit about our squad: We're a fairly young team but a really good, driven program. We have some upperclassmen
that have been really good at getting some of our freshmen some knowledge of what it's like to be here. So we're excited to be here. We're ready to get after games tomorrow, and I know it's going to be a fierce battle with the person to my right, so I'm excited for that.
LU HARRIS-CHAMPER: Same for us. We're looking forward to a great game tomorrow. I'm really proud of our team for being here. I think the main strength of our team is the girls' genuine love, trust and belief in each other. Very thankful for the chemistry they have and where they're leading our team to be here.
And a thank-you to all the people that it takes to put on an event like this. It's been great so far since we've been here, starting with last night, all day today, and I know it's going to be great as we go.
CLINT MYERS: Auburn is excited to be here for our second year, and we want to thank the Oklahoma City folks for putting on a tremendous event. Kelly and I kind of go way back to our Pac-12 days. It's going to be exciting softball. Every single person that is here, being one of the best eight, that's phenomenal, and it's a shame that there's only going to be one winner because there are eight quality, well-coached teams in this tournament. The fans are going to get their money's worth as far as seeing great softball, and again, Auburn thanks everybody involved for the opportunity to be here.
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: First, I want to be able to congratulate the field, the athletes and coaches and the opportunity for all five of the power conferences to be represented. It shows where we are in our sport. Also be able to echo the same, the NCAA, USA Softball, ESPN being able to televise this entire event is an outstanding opportunity for us to celebrate the pinnacle of our sport, and true, only one winner, but we're going to celebrate just being here and getting after some good softball.
I also want to be able to talk — we're excited also to be here. I'm really proud of my team because there's a saying that says, it's not how you start, it's how you finish, which I agree with, but I also want to be able to add to it, it's what you learn in between that I think is the most powerful part of it, and we are a completely different team from the start of the season until the end, and it's a big part of our fight and our grit which I think all of us experience throughout a season is kind of getting to figure out who you are and how you're going to get after it so that you can play your best at the end.
Yes, I thought I got rid of Clint as soon as he left the Pac-12, but here we are again. A lot of respect for him, being able to get out there and do what he does consistently, and it's always a great opportunity to be able to get out there and compete against them. But I look forward to it. Right now it's not about our opponent, we're out there to look to play our game, and I look forward to an exciting week of softball.
Q. Coach Alameda, at this point you've played Auburn, you've played UCLA, but does that familiarity really count for anything at this point of the season when it's the final eight teams and everybody is really playing their best softball?
LONNI ALAMEDA: Yeah, I think having played different teams that are in this field definitely helps, but again, when you get here, it's a different level of softball, and you've just really got to go back to the trust of what got you here, and we have to play Florida State softball just as everyone does. But having played those games, they're tremendous competitors, so they've really helped prepare us to where we are now.
Q. Kelly, after learning that you were going to play Auburn, what was the reaction from your girls after how it ended last season?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Well, just being able to win the Super Regional the way we did, it didn't matter who we played to be honest, and I know we said every team is playing their best ball right now, so the key is can you continue to play your style of play, no matter who you're playing. So for us, it's about us. It's how we play ball. It's how we're going to get out there and continue doing what we're doing, and I'm excited about that. I have respect for every opponent in this tournament because the biggest thing that I know is the game doesn't know who's supposed to win. So we've got to be able to get out there, play our game, and I look forward to every opportunity because all of them have earned their right to be here, and we look forward to, once again, playing great ball.
Q. Especially for Georgia because you are the team that did it in knocking off Florida, but for all four of you in this bracket where you guys potentially would have had to go against a two-time defending champion, is the mindset for all four teams that this is really anybody's bracket and anybody could be left standing on Sunday?
LONNI ALAMEDA: I mean, Florida is a great program,
and them being a rival of ours is huge. I think everybody, I don't know if they'd say it, but not having those earned run average pitchers in this tournament is big for us.
But I think when you get here, win your Super Regionals, it's really anyone's game. You've just got to make sure you go out there and believe in your what you're doing and trust in what you're doing, and your opportunities may be a little bit less than some of those pitchers in the circle, but when we come right now, it's about playing your best ball here.
LU HARRIS-CHAMPER: Same thing. Obviously Florida is a great program. We were happy that we competed well against them and earned our way here. But as the field is, it's anybody's ballgame. It's whoever is playing their best ball and is hot right now will be the team that comes out on top.
CLINT MYERS: I feel bad for Kelly, because there's not going to be a whole lot left to say. The team that plays the best of their style and comes out at the end is the team that's going to win. I mean, you heard all of us say that we want to play Auburn softball, UCLA softball, Georgia softball or Florida State softball. We all have our philosophies. It would not change if Florida was here or not. I mean, we believe we play the game, not the opponent. The coaches take care of the opponent, and the girls play the game, and they have to play the game in which they've practiced the game and go out. So whether Florida is here or not, we're going to try and play our brand of softball.
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: And I agree with what everyone has already said, and once again, the game doesn't know who's supposed to win. I think I commend Florida on a tremendous year. It's their overall body of work, and that definitely cannot be taken away, but I also celebrate the fact that the game doesn't know, and Georgia did an outstanding job of competing against a very talented team, and now being here, being a top eight, it really comes down to who is here and staying our style of play.
Once again, I celebrate who's here, and I think everybody had a path that they had to battle to get here, so we're really focusing on exactly that, who's here in the tournament right now.
Q. You guys brought down Florida, you guys brought down Oregon; what does that do for the confidence level of your team that you brought down two higher seeds, seeds that people expected to see at this point in the season?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Big time. It was awesome. I love it when people don't expect you to do it and then you actually get it done. Honestly, again, Oregon, outstanding program, outstanding team, outstanding regular season. We came in and played our game, and they were great games. It was a great battle. Building confidence, huge. We're here.
Q. Clint, for some of the first-time fans who might come out to the Women's College World Series this year, explain the origin of the Auburn hop a little bit, the unique way you guys prepare after every pitch and your defensive infield. What's kind of the origin story behind that?
CLINT MYERS: Well, we've been doing it for a long time, and at Auburn, we've got a phenomenal kinesiology department, so we wanted to try and prove the validity of it, so we gave it to the scientists in kinesiology, and they did a study with all the different things, and basically it's a takeoff off the return of the tennis serve, and again, you can get Newton's laws of motion involved with it, but basically it's just jumping in the air and you land just after contact, and by doing that, your first movement is already directionally there because of the fact you see the ball, your eyes tell you, so you just have to gauge speed of ball and angle that you're going to have to take in order to make a play. The kinesiology scientists proved that the landing puts you in the most optimum power position for explosion, and that was kind of a neat deal. It had 10 million views, so it's the largest — we beat football, and we're pretty excited about that at Auburn, but that's quite a few views as far as the hop, and it's just a partnership we've had trying to prove something scientifically with the kinesiology scientists.
Q. Lu and Kelly, what was your reaction when you saw the bracket and realized you were going to have to go to play a conference opponent if you advanced, and how glad are you to be playing somebody out of your conference now that you're here?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: I'm glad to be through it. I mean, I think beyond that, I can say that it was unfortunate, I believe, for our conference to have a one and two (seed) go head-to-head prior to the World Series. Once again, I have a lot of respect for the Oregon program and believe they can be a top-eight team, absolutely. So there was, for the bigger picture.
And as far as opportunity to be able to be on this stage, it was something that I can say I didn't look forward to, but as far as having the opportunity to beat a program like Oregon, I'm happy to be here, absolutely.
LU HARRIS-CHAMPER: Well, my first impression was I was glad we didn't have to get on a plane. It wasn't that far away to go down there and play. There was some familiarity to playing down at Florida, and there's always the great Georgia-Florida rivalry, so I knew that my kids would be ready to play, excited to play, and I'm really proud of them for playing loose.
Q. It was just recently announced that the International Olympic Committee fully supports adding softball for Tokyo 2020. If softball is added back into the Olympics, what does that mean for the game of softball and especially the athletes who are going to be playing here this week?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: I think it is the ultimate honor to be able to have the opportunity to play for your country, and that is outstanding news. At this point, the pinnacle of our sport, the biggest stage is the college stage, but ultimately the goal is to be able to have that opportunity to wear the red, white and blue. What it does is it inspires all of those that play this sport to want to get in and have that opportunity to represent their country at the highest level. I believe it will have a ripple effect of growing it at the grassroots. I believe it will inspire even our college girls to continue to want to play beyond college softball. Ultimately it'll be an outstanding ripple effect on how it could truly bring this sport back to where it needs to be, internationally, as well, with the sport that we all love to watch.
CLINT MYERS: I agree with what Kelly said. I think it even adds one greater aspect, that now it will be a worldwide game. I think the idea, we know that Japan plays and Australia, New Zealand, but this will now take off and spread worldwide to many, many other countries, and it will open up a lot of different avenues for coaches that are here, because they're going to be sought after to try and teach the game. It will broaden horizons both here and abroad, and adding it back into the Olympics can only make the sport greater.
LU HARRIS-CHAMPER: I think it's the best news I've heard in a long time. It's very exciting. I think it's great news for the sport. I know I love watching our sport, and I'm look forward to that and all the young kids that can look forward to that.
LONNI ALAMEDA: I just think it goes back to opportunity. You know, I think I don't care what sport it is, when you get an opportunity to grow as a person, whether it's student athlete, pro league, international, and then representing your country, the opportunity to grow as a person is outstanding, so for females, it's just awesome that this could get back in, and it should get back in. It's time for it to be back in. So I think it's outstanding news.
Q. Coach Alameda, you talked pretty frequently about how young your team is and how you didn't quite know what you were going to get from them this season. Right before the College World Series, do you think now you know what you're going to get from your team, and if not, is this stage really the appropriate time for growth to still be happening?
LONNI ALAMEDA: Yeah, I think growth happens even with seniors. You know, it's just you only get four years to play college softball and you're going to continue to grow, and the game teaches you so much. Yeah, they will definitely grow in the game here, and what we have right now, we know what we can expect from them, but they're going to get better and better, and I expect that from our senior class, too, and us as coaches, your program grows every time you get an opportunity like this.
Q. Kelly, I'm sure this was a tough morning for you knowing what was going on back in campus. What was kind of the reaction of you and your team when the reports were coming in of the active shooter and how did that play out for you?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Yeah, I think — we were able to get the news, with social media, everything traveling really fast, so the girls were affected as far as hearing from people that were on lockdown on campus. That's always emotional and can be traumatic. But the one thing that — all I could do was pull them together to simply say, it's a crazy world we live in. It's a perfect example of understanding what's in your control and what's out of your control, and right now we're in this softball bubble, and it's out of our control. We knew that people were safe as far as being locked down and we knew that it was happening, but that's all we did know. So I told them to put all their phones away because it's out of our control at this moment. We have to focus on what we're here for, and then we'll regroup afterwards, but we'll keep a close eye. Right when we were done with our workout we got news that unfortunately and fortunately it was over, the shooter was no longer a threat, and all those that were on lockdown were released, but obviously everyone is a little shaken up. The positive is that we're here. We easily could have been on campus if we weren't here, and it just kind of — once again, the crazy world we live in, we get to be fortunate and celebrate this softball bubble that we're in. We're just here playing softball, but we do have to jump back out into the real world at some point, so I told them we've got to take advantage and enjoy why we're here right now. Thanks for asking.
Q. Is that going to be easier said than done for young people to let that go?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Well, as far as the incident? You know, absolutely everyone will handle things in a different way. The good news is nobody that we — in our immediate world was involved, injured, or affected. The whole school locked down, so there was obviously a heightened state, but everyone is in the clear and good. Unfortunately whatever the purpose was, they came in, they took care of it, and it was gone, and it happened to be on our campus, but nobody was affected. I am hopeful, as there are so many things that happen, from injuries and losses and all types of things that are reality, and the biggest lesson I try to teach these girls is how to control what's in your control because there's all these things all around you, but the most important thing is being able to live in the moment and being able to understand what's in your control and then — but that's life. I'll be with them, I'll support them in whatever they need to be able to, but I believe we'll be able to get locked down — locked down? Am I really going to use that word? To focus and be able to kind of get back on why we're here.
Q. When you look at the game last year, four hours and 13 minutes, did y'all realize the game was that long when it was over?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: I did. I didn't want to stop playing. It didn't matter how long. But I think it's just a great example of two teams that were playing down to the last pitch and didn't like that we ended it the way that we did, so it's a great opportunity for us to continue to compete, but once again, I have a great deal of respect. It's a new year, two totally different teams with the dynamic, so we've just got to get out there and play the game one pitch at a time.
CLINT MYERS: When you're playing, there's no sense of time. ESPN gives you two and a half minutes of break every half inning, so you get a little bit of a rest time. But during the game it's about performance. It's about competition. It's about going out there and taking care of business. We're excited, as all of us have mentioned. Kelly stated, it's two new teams that are after the same type of trophy, I guess you could say, but it's going to be fun. It's going to be great competition all week long, and from great teams.
Q. Since Oklahoma is playing in this year's College World Series, does this feel almost like a road test for you guys, considering that there's going to be a hometown crowd here supporting a hometown team?
LONNI ALAMEDA: Could be. I went to school at Oklahoma, so I was kind of here in the beginning of it, and I think it started off like that, honestly, and it kind of was a hometown crowd for a while because there's so many amazing media and people take care of it from the University of Oklahoma and fans and support, and then this venue has grown and grown and grown, and they've done such a tremendous job of growing the game that people love softball. So I don't necessarily think that people are cheering for Oklahoma now. Even though there's Oklahoma people, they're cheering for the same of softball and a great game and a great tournament. Being a Sooner and kind of seeing how it's grown, it's become a really cool atmosphere here, and that's due to a lot of people that put blood, sweat and tears to see the vision come true. So I don't see it as that, but I know others have played in it.
LU HARRIS-CHAMPER: It's just an honor to be here. It doesn't really feel like that, it just feels like the top- eight teams coming together and battling it out in a wonderful venue for this sport that we love.
CLINT MYERS: It's nice to be on the other side because there's more tickets for our fans to go. I mean, Sharon said it the other night, or last night, that this is a sellout. There's going to be 9,000, 10,000 people at every game, and it's going to shatter the attendance records. And again, because of the fact that, as Lonni said, the game has evolved. It doesn't matter, if there's a great play out there, you're going to get cheered. I mean, it's just simple, and if somebody gets hurt, there's dead silence.
These people here are educated, and they understand the game, and they're great fans. You know, if you see a whole lot of red and white there, well, for Oklahoma it's a shorter drive for them. But you're going to see your fair share of the other colors when they're not on the field. The nice thing about that, they will be there, as well, and they'll be cheering all of us while we're here, because of the fact that it's just a great tournament.
Q. There hasn't been as much talk about Kelsey Bogaards since the SEC Tournament. How much a part of this is she still today?
CLINT MYERS: Kelsey is a big part. But before I answer that, Kelly, did you want to answer the Oklahoma question?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: To answer your question, no, I don't think it's an advantage. There you go.
CLINT MYERS: I didn't want to —
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: It's all good, thank you, Clint.
CLINT MYERS: Kelsey Bogaards was our shortstop who battled seven months of rehab just to get an opportunity to play, and she actually got to start the very last game of the season, in which in the fifth inning she blew her other ACL out. So she had surgery two days later and is currently under another seven months of rehab. You know, for me, for the team, she's an inspiration because I watched the hours of work each day just to come back, and that was just to have an opportunity. And to spend all that time to have one game during the course of the season, one game, that used her eligibility up, just to have a chance to possibly play in postseason, with no regrets — and again, it was just like, if somebody goes down — she made a phenomenal play and hurt her good leg. The ACL was blown. It was dead silence. We had 2,000 people in there. Playing for Turtle, that's her nickname, has really been something important to us, and Kelsey is a phenomenal young lady, dedicated young lady, and you'll hear a lot of great things about how inspirational she is for us while we're here.
Q. Kelly, with the win against Oregon this week and your girls probably on an emotional high, do you want to keep them up there or do you want to kind of bring them down? Where do you want them this week?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Well, I think the high was there. We won, and then the low came when we had to spend the night and fly out the next morning, so we've kind of been even keeled a little bit right now where we're just literally recovering, resting, and had a great workout today. Just kind of getting back on track to playing our game.
The high as far as that, right afterwards, there was no feeling. I wish I could bottle that up and have it in every single moment when you win and have a great accomplishment like that. But the most important thing is actually being even keel, being able to play your game, and that's what I'm going to shoot for, to keep my team at that place.
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