March 23, 2013
Stefanie Pemper, Kara Pollinger and Jade Geif met with the media on the eve of the Navy women's basketball team's NCAA Tournament game against Kentucky. Access a free video stream of the press conference by clicking here.
Stefanie Pemper, Navy Head Coach
"We are very excited to be here in our third NCAA tournament in a row. We have had a couple of great experiences the last two years primarily because we have really played courageously, so that's our goal for tomorrow playing against a really talented Kentucky team. We're going to have to do a good job of taking care of the basketball and that's going to be the big key. Something they're really strong at is forcing turnovers. Offensively that's going to be our key, defensively keeping them off the glass, doing a good job on [A'dia] Mathies, finding their shooters, so we're going to take it media timeout by media timeout and really focus on the little things. We need to recognize our openings, be ready to take our shots, play really hard, focused, and courageously."
On longer media timeouts in the NCAA Tournament in comparison to regular season games:
"They are a little bit longer than they were at Marquette. We had them there and it's a little bit of a different situation playing in December and coming right out of exams, versus the NCAA tournament and just coming off of a Championship, so that all factors in."
On the challenges of having less time and less flexibility with players schedules due to Academy obligations:
"It is really challenging. Our big motto is "quality, not quantity," which really challenges us as coaches to get a lot out of the time that we have with them. We do a good job with practice planning, executing that plan, filmwork, and learning what we want from film. Our strength and conditioning person is great, and she makes a lot out of her time. I have coached at Harvard and Bowdoin, and in some ways you feel like you are second fiddle to the academic program. At the Naval Academy, you are really third fiddle. The leadership training and military piece comes first, academics come second, and sports come third. With that being said, we have something called "sports period" which is really wonderful. It is an afternoon where they cannot have any academic or military commitments during the times of 3:30-7:00. It would be impossible if they didn't block off that time for Varsity athletics because there's never any conflicts with labs or exams that happen at other schools. It is really crunched and we have to get it done in those hours, but it is doable. They love it, and their spirit for athletics is not their third priority. We do a lot with that, and are very grateful for that. We recruit basketball players who are really great students. We don't really recruit a lot of women who are dying to serve in the Navy. We recruit women who are looking for a great education and a great Division 1 basketball experience, but who realize all of the opportunities that exist with the leadership training that they get, the guaranteed job after four years, potentially travelling around the world, the people they meet, and community they are a part of."
On challenges of the Wildcats using 10-11 players off of the bench:
"Big challenge. You combine a little bit of their style with that depth, and it's challenging. We're going to have to get a really good breakfast tomorrow, hydrate, get our rest tonight, and really dig down. Everyone knows that the NCAA tournament is the most inspiring arena to play in as an athlete. There will be harder physical challenges in their lives than the game Sunday, not many, but there will be some. They will just have to dig down, and rise to the challenge. It is mental as well as physical."
On potentially upsetting No. 2 seed Kentucky as a No. 15 seed:
"Having been on the staff at Harvard in '98 as a No. 16 seed when we beat Stanford was incredible. We played a team that wasn't as good two nights later, and got smoked. If you pull off an upset, it just has a life of its own. They constantly reference the No. 16 versus No. 1 upsets, so it would be momentous."
Jade Geif, Navy Forward & Kara Pollinger, Navy Guard:
On what the team has learned from the past NCAA tournaments that it plans on using this year:
Geif: "One of the main things that we really learned is to come in confident and have that competiveness in ourselves. Having fun out there, knowing that it's going be a tough game and that we are going to miss shots and they are going to make shots. But just having that confidence and fire and desire to win, and knowing that we're a No. 15 and they are a No. 2 seed we might as well go out there and kill it and do what we can."
Pollinger: "We have also learned the games are still basketball games. The things that allow us to win or to compete at the level we did were things we have learned in previous games. We have played against taller players just not as tall and faster players but just not as fast. Doing the same things we have done to win previous games but on a higher level."
On attending the Naval Academy and the commitment it entails:
Pollinger: "It is hard to put our institution in a few words because it truly is such a wonderful place to be. It's an extremely challenging place, but the people are the best part about it. Everyone is so self determined and so motivated by their goals and dreams they have in their future and to be surrounded by that is truly inspirational."
Geif: "Around the Patriot league, teams are out shooting throughout the day. But then there is us, we are in martial arts or were going to spring class. It's a completely different atmosphere. The very little off time that we do have is either right before practice or during lunch. We have much different challenges because we are limited in that time and it is amazing to see people rise to that challenge and get in there and go to practice."
On what a typical at the Naval Academy:
Geif: "This semester I am a training sergeant. I usually get up at 6:20 in the morning. Chow call is at 6:40 a.m. We get out and start training the freshmen, information is at 7:00 a.m. The whole company forms and comes together then eats breakfast after. Class starts at 7:55 a.m. and goes until 11:45 a.m. Noon information is then held outside if the weather is nice. Then the whole brigade goes to lunch. We can go shoot around at that time or go to lunch with the entire brigade. There are a couple more periods after lunch until 3:20 p.m. We then usually have practice from four to six and lift after that. Then dinner with the team, and have a study period from eight to then at night to do homework. Then we try and get to bed and it starts all over again the next day."
On the duties of a training sergeant:
Geif: "I'm a training sergeant. I have a position within the company as a junior with one other training sergeant and our job is to train the freshmen every single day, making sure their uniforms and rooms look good, making sure they know the rates, and making sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Each Saturday morning we schedule what they are going to be doing with training."
On Kentucky's gameplan to contain Kara Pollinger:
Pollinger: "That's been our focus the last couple of practices. I would like to say that I am ready. Honestly, I have never played against Kentucky but I have watched film. I have played against some great practice players. We have some twerks in our plays that will hopefully help out a lot. I am excited to take the challenge on and I know that it is going to be there. I think I am ready; I think we are ready."
On matching up with Kentucky's taller defenders:
Geif: "I am excited because I don't think I am going to get doubled. It frees up some of my space to make more moves and be more confident trying to read the defense. Knowing that they are taller and shot blockers I am not going to be able to go right up with it. I have to use some fakes and hopefully get them off the floor. I have played against 6-foot-7-tall defenders before, maybe not as agile as some of these girls, but it is something that is going be a challenge, but I am up for it."
On what they would like their service assignment to be:
Pollinger: "I haven't completely decided but maybe aviation."
Geif: "I want to go Marine Corps ground, but I have to get through some training things. I am really excited for that. It is an Infantry MOS, after I graduate I would go through six months of training, then I put in preferences and then whatever I get I go into that."
On what beating Kentucky would mean for the program:
Pollinger: "Ever since we made it in the NCAA tournament the past two years, we have always known never to be complacent. It has been our goal to win our first game. To upset such a great team, I would be speechless and probably watch the game every night for the rest of my life. It would truly be something for the program being it is the first year we have won the Patriot League, let alone coming into the tournament and winning a game."
Geif: "So much would have to go into winning a game like that, playing 100% in 100% of the game. To see that in all these women would be the most amazing feeling in the world. We've seen the fans that come out now because we won a championship, and more of that support creates a great atmosphere for an up-and-coming basketball program. Seeing that arena filled every night is awesome."