Flory Discusses Upcoming Season with Media
BATON ROUGE — LSU volleyball head coach Fran Flory met with members of the media Wednesday afternoon in an LSU volleyball/soccer “round-table discussion” in the fifth floor conference room of the LSU Athletic Administration Building to discuss their upcoming season.
A copy of the transcript from that meeting is included below for Coach Flory:
“We’re really excited about our season. We added a couple of international players to our group and our returners did by far the best job in preparing for the season than any team I’ve had in my 20 years of coaching. They have tunnel vision to win the west. We were picked third, but we feel like we have a great opportunity — a great spot for us to be, not to high of expectations except for our own. We live up to those and we’ll end up the season where we want to be. We have a lot of youth, but some veterans who came back very prepared. Certainly we’re really, really excited about where we’re going.”
How will your non-conference schedule prepare you for the season?
“We scheduled with a purpose. We had some teams left out of the NCAA Tournament a couple of years ago, Arkansas was left out, the 19th ranked RPI team in the country. That has never happened in any sport since the RPI was implemented as a tool to choosing the NCAA Tournament. We, as SEC coaches, sat down and said how do we schedule correctly.”
How do we use the RPI to better our conference? How do we raise our conferences RPI for scheduling out of conference matches? The choice was, after much research, especially by the Arkansas coaches, was that you play teams that over the course of two or three year have had multiple 20-win seasons in a row, have won their conference, or have shown as a bubble team on the NCAA Tournament. All of those teams (out of conference schedule teams), with the exception of Louisiana Tech, have done that in the last two or three teams. The expectations are that certainly we expect to be successful but we also expect them to be very successful because our RPI is only based on 25 percent of what we do and 75 percent is based on what our opponents do out of conference. So we have to play teams that are going to have 20-win seasons and are going to be successful and that will boost not only ours, but also our conference RPI.”
“I think in terms of, are they tough teams, yes they are. They have 20-win seasons and nobody wins 20 matches in a season and isn’t a very good team. IPFW is very tough program. They have some international players and over the course of the last three years, they have won 25 matches one year, 27 the year before. Central Florida won the first round and lost the second in the NCAA Tournament. They knocked off Cincinnati, which was a high seed going into the tournament. Certainly playing Texas at Texas is a huge match for us. The Central Florida and the Texas match will be key in terms of our success in postseason. You play your way into the NCAA Tournament in September and then you sustain through your league play regardless of what league you’re in. We also think with Thanksgiving weekend with Houston and Tulane coming in that we can hopefully with us and Alabama gain a couple of points on Conference USA and be ahead of them and be considered a little more strongly than them. I think the key for us to be in the NCAA Tournament will be for us to win over 20 matches this year. That is the goal.”
About the schedule lacking the big names like Hawaii, Kansas State and Nebraska like last season…
“The complexities of the NCAA Tournament have changed over the last two years by the committee. Three years ago it was who you played whether you won or lost. So if you played the Nebraska’s, the Hawaii’s, what we did last year, you got a whole lot of credit in front of the NCAA Tournament and your conference got a lot of credit. Now with our team last year, did I expect that we were going to beat all of those people, no I didn’t. We had eight freshmen on our roster last year, but the experience of playing those teams was intended to prepare us for this year and to be ready to play a schedule that we can win 20 matches and we can knock off some teams that are probably going to get some votes early. Texas is getting some votes early, Central Florida may move in there because they have a lot of returners as well, and then to have the merit of this is who we played before, this is where we are going and this is what we accomplished. That didn’t help our RPI, but it helped our conference RPI with last year’s schedule and this year’s schedule is more intended to help us.”
On the freshmen class returning for their sophomore campaign…
“I think we put the pressure on the last year to make the transition to walk in and prepare to be champions to be what it takes to be successful in the SEC. Now volleyball in the SEC is not soccer. We get two or maybe three teams into the NCAA Tournament. Is that just, no I don’t think it is, I think we’re better that that, but our reputation just does not lend us that credibility. We have to go out and prove it. We have to beat some people. We have to beat the Central Florida’s. Alabama’s got to knock some people off, Arkansas does as well. In terms of challenging the players, we challenged them last year.”
“Our preseason starts in January, it doesn’t start in August. It starts in January with the returners. They’ve trained through. We’ve made some great strides. Ivana (Kuzmic – transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock) coming in, in January was a tremendous, tremendous boost for our program. She automatically walked in and raised our level just by walking in our gym. We don’t have anybody in our program, and I would say there is not anybody else in the SEC, that has the experience playing that she does. I think we have two of the best middles in the conference, if not three, and I think it’s going to be fun to watch.”
On the state of the conference…
“I think Florida is going to come down a notch because they lost so much. You don’t lose an Aury Cruz, and all-world player, and not drop a little bit. I think they came closer to the rest of us. The team that has the dominating player in our sport, wins. One player, given the correct role players around them, can be the defining factor in the season. I think we have at least two defining players on our team right now (Regan Hood and Ivana Kuzmic) and I think Lauren Leaumont is the perfect role player next to them. I think that our team is very committed to that.”
“I don’t think the rest of the league has what we have. Tennessee signed a foreign player as well who is supposed to be very good and I will be interested to see how they come along, but I think it’s a free for all this year. Certainly Florida has to be the favorite because of their experience level and they played in the Final Four and they got in the finals and you don’t come back with those kids who actually played and not expect that, but I think they may get knocked off this year. It’s going to be a tough go and it’s a much tighter race than it’s been since I’ve been at LSU for sure.”