Gopher B1G Media Days Presser 2023

Ignatius L Hoops

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KEEGAN COOK: Good afternoon. I think the coaches in our conference have done a great job of starting where you should, where there's a lot of gratitude to be here at this event that I've heard about for so long, and certainly it's exceeded expectations like pretty much everything Minnesota has here in this first year.

Best part about it for sure are the players sitting next to me and the players back in Minneapolis that I've gotten to coach.

Really left a lot in Seattle but came to even more here in Minnesota, and I'm thankful to be with this group as we enter the '23 season.

Q. When Hugh McCutcheon announced that he would be stepping down, did transferring ever cross your mind?

MELANI SHAFFMASTER: It did not. I committed to Minnesota a very long time ago, now that I think about it, considering that I'm old somehow. It never did.

I think the coaching staff was a big part of me coming to Minnesota, and I think the other big part was the community and the people I had surrounded myself with. I've been here for three years, and the people I've grown close to, there was never a thought in my mind of leaving Minnesota, no.

Q. Coach, when making the move and kind of setting everything up for Big Ten volleyball, what was one thing that you didn't expect at all that has now put on your plate that's different from being a Pac-12 coach that's now a Big Ten coach?

KEEGAN COOK: Interesting. Yeah, Kelly Sheffield's phone calls all the time. No, I think that was part of my AVCA role. There was just a real sense of wanting to grow the sport nationally and a real responsibility for that and a real interest from all the coaches.

So they're great competitors in the fall, but in the spring most of the conversation is about how do we take this game to the next level and what can we do for our players to have a larger stage for them.

I don't know that I saw that coming necessarily but have enjoyed being part of those discussions.

Q. Taylor, what's the process like to try to get players once you see them in the portal? Are you reaching out to them on Instagram, especially ones inside the Big Ten? And when the trips happen, how does it all from behind the curtains -- give us a little bit of enlightenment in the recruiting process from a player.

TAYLOR LANDFAIR: I think usually during the fall we kind of focus on the season and also in the spring we don't really worry about that too much. But if we have to we just take a phone call with them or just give them a little FaceTime and let them know and just be completely brutally honest how Minnesota is so they can get an idea from an athlete's standpoint, and then they can make their decision from there.

Q. Taylor, did you take it personally when you weren't a unanimous selection for the preseason Big Ten all team?

TAYLOR LANDFAIR: No. I did not.

Q. Do you feel you have more to prove after last season?

TAYLOR LANDFAIR: I'm just kind of taking it day by day, point by point, game by game. I know what I have to do, and I already have these aspirations for myself, and I'm just going to keep growing upon those aspirations.

Q. What are your thoughts on intra-conference transfers in general? We've seen a lot in the Big Ten, happens a little bit in the Pac-12. What are your thoughts about players transferring inside the conference?

KEEGAN COOK: I'm not sure it's too different for players transferring outside the conference. Every coach I think has had a different relationship with the transfer portal. I didn't have a ton of experience with it at Washington. I didn't have any players transfer out. I had brought two transfers in, which we really enjoyed coaching. They had great careers at Washington.

I think where I've settled is there's a responsibility to take care of your athletes when they're with you now, so the standard of coaching has never been higher.

I'm okay with that. I think that I know what we're trying to do for our athletes, and yeah, you don't just get to coach these people. You have to be continually helping them. You don't just recruit them once.

I keep that in mind when I'm having any interaction with them, that it's a privilege to coach them, and I don't ever want to forget that, and the transfer portal probably lets coaches not forget that more than ever.

Q. What stands out to you about Kylie Murr, and what does she bring to the team?

TAYLOR LANDFAIR: I can go. I think she's very fiery and gives a lot of energy to us, which I really appreciate because I feel like we really need that on our team. And then also she's just a really good player. She's always there to learn, always there to make these connections between all of us. And I think she's really, really good for our team, and I'm really excited that she came here.

MELANI SHAFFMASTER: Exactly what Taylor just said, yeah.

Q. Melani, what is your history with Kylie?

MELANI SHAFFMASTER: We played club together. I've known her since I was about eight. Our high schools were in the same conference. So we played each other throughout our lives and middle school and high school. I've been playing club with her since I was 12.

Yeah, I get to live with her now, so that was a lot of fun, so it's like having a sister on campus with me right now, so it's a lot of fun.

Q. Taylor, Melani, what are your thoughts about playing a match on big FOX and possibly having the Packers-Vikings as your lead-in?

MELANI SHAFFMASTER: Yeah, so we just found out yesterday that that was us, so I've been thinking about it a lot. Every time we see the channel, we're like, wow, we're going to be on this.

But it's going to be really cool. I think for us the main thing to focus on is we're just going to be playing Wisconsin at Wisconsin and not really worry about how many viewers are going to be watching at the same time because we do have a job to do.

So I think maybe a little bit before we'll be really, really excited when we see all the stuff getting set up or whatever. I think after we'll be like, wow, that was awesome, and then we'll get to go and re-watch it.

But I think obviously we're going to Wisconsin to play a game, so I think that's probably going to be our focus.

TAYLOR LANDFAIR: I kind of agree, the same thing. It's going to be really cool when we have to focus on just the game when the time comes, but before I'm going to be all geeked out about it because I think it's super cool.

Q. Melani, can you talk a little bit about your new associate head coach, Kristen Kelsay, and what she's brought to helping you out as a setter? And then also, Keegan, just having Kristen back in the conference, she's had a lot of experience in the Big Ten, how she's helped your transition into a new conference?

MELANI SHAFFMASTER: Yeah, she is super awesome to work with. She's super personable, even when we're not at practice. We're getting coffee, getting breakfast. She's an amazing human being, and you can tell she cares not only about obviously our volleyball side of things but she wants to know how our life is going and everything.

Besides that, she's an amazing coach. She's really, really good at setting. She'll show us how to do something, and I'll be like, wow, I just don't know how that was just so easy for you.

But, I mean, she's super detail oriented, super easy to understand, very easy to listen to, and I think she's just a good coach but an even better human being.

KEEGAN COOK: Yeah, I think it was probably the most important hire that I had to make when I came to Minnesota, and I knew that, and I also knew myself a little better after 10 years at Washington where I worked with some really experienced coaches who are now leading their own programs.

Yeah, Kristen is exactly who I needed to complement what I'm good at, and she's a tremendous recruiter and an outstanding coach and someone that I just enjoy working with every single day.

So, yeah, that's been one of my favorite parts about coming is hiring a staff that fits me and fits the needs of this program, and they're crushing it.

Q. Melani and Taylor, describe the transition to a new coaching staff, and what role have you guys played as leaders on the team to make this as seamless as possible?

TAYLOR LANDFAIR: I think Keegan has done a really good job of helping me become a better leader and understanding what a good leader looks like for my own personality because I do have my own personality and I need to understand what ways leading works best for me.

I think he's done a really good job of helping me with that, but also I think just understanding my teammates more on a personal level so I can then relate to them and then help them throughout the match and kind of understand what they need at a specific time because I feel like I would do a good job about that and then applying all what I've learned to the game.

MELANI SHAFFMASTER: Yeah, I think getting to know Keegan through the spring has really helped, like Taylor said, for me, get to understand my best understanding of leadership for myself.

And then I think that's really benefitted not only just myself but the whole team. So getting to talk to them, getting to understand, okay, this is what I actually mean and now I'm able to convey it to you guys because I have a better understanding. So I think, yeah, it was good.

Q. Is it still kind of a process to learn each other's language with Coach and being able to translate to your teammates, as well, too?

MELANI SHAFFMASTER: Yeah.

Q. Melani and Taylor, were you surprised to see CC go into the coaching world and get a job a year after she stops playing, and what are your impressions of working with her the last few years of her as a coach?

MELANI SHAFFMASTER: Yeah, I think I wasn't surprised at all. Like it's CC McGraw. She's an amazing human, super easy to talk to. She's great with other people. I think in the past years playing with her, she is a very good learner. And I think for that, that is going to be her best suit. She's able to coach because she does understand how the players are understanding a lot of the information and what they actually need to be doing because she lived it very recently.

So I think coaching is a great fit for CC.

TAYLOR LANDFAIR: She's very much of a people person, and I think that she relates to people a lot, and I think it's really easy for her with her personality, and I'm really happy for her and super excited that she gets this opportunity because she's at a really good school. Not all people get this kind of opportunity, so I'm super happy for her.

Q. Keegan, what went into your schedule? You got some challenging matches, you got Texas, Baylor, headed back out west to Stanford. What do you like about the challenges the schedule presents?

KEEGAN COOK: Yeah, it came together in an interesting way. Some things were in place, it was an option for us to change the schedule completely, and at some point I thought: We want to know what it takes to win a National Championship by the end of September, and we don't want to be surprised coming into Big Ten competition.

I think that combined with what I had experienced in the first few months with this team, that I thought this is a completely appropriate schedule for the level of this team and what they're aspiring to do, and that gave me the courage to sign all the contracts.

And, yeah, there's been moments where you look at it and you go, those first five days we're going to learn a lot with those three matches, and then we've got two of the difficult road trips coast to coast.

But, yeah, I want these guys to play against the best teams in the best venues. I want them to have a diverse range of experiences so they can tell stories and grow, and I think the schedule reflects that.

Q. Coach, what is your mentality entering your first season when you step into a team that does have high expectations, that does want to win a National Championship, and how much do you embrace walking into that environment for your first year?

KEEGAN COOK: Yeah, the first thing I would say we talk a lot about aspirations versus expectations. It's something that we're trying to get in place culturally, that aspirations are within you and they're things you dream about, expectations are about other people.

The other analogy I've been giving people lately is it's kind of like scuba diving. You're down at 100 meters and there's thousands of pounds of pressure around you but you feel it on all sides; and for some reason, when you're down there, it just feels normal.

So I think for all of us it's gotten to that point where it feels normal. It's been a long descent down to this deep end here of volleyball, and the trouble is if you come up too fast, which we don't plan to do.

So I'm excited to be with this group of young people for multiple years. That was one thing that I'm really happy about. It's not just a one-year transaction. We're going to have at least two years with every player on this roster, except for Kylie, which I'm bummed about, but she was a nice surprise here joining the program.

Q. Melani, did Hugh have as many analogies and did he go as deep with some of his metaphors as Keegan does?

MELANI SHAFFMASTER: Yeah, kind of, for sure. He definitely had different analogies, but Hugh definitely had his way with words, yeah. I'll say that.

Q. What's your relationship like with your sister Mabrey who's at North Carolina and practicing and training with her when you guys are at home?

MELANI SHAFFMASTER: Yeah, it's good. I have three sisters, but we get along the best probably just because we're so close in age and we've been playing volleyball together as long as me and Kylie have been playing together.

It's good. It's sad that she's in the ACC and I never get to see her, but when we're home, it's a good time.

We go up and train at Munciana still, when we're all home, so we still get to play a little bit of volley together. Hoping we'll get to see her at some point if they make the tournament, somehow we'll get lucky or something. But other than that I'm really happy for her, and she's happy at UNC. So it's good all around
 

Interesting comment from Keegan that he'll have at least 2 years with every player on the roster except for Murr. Of course, it's not binding, but it makes it sound like Shaffmaster will play her 5th/covid year.
 

Interesting comment from Keegan that he'll have at least 2 years with every player on the roster except for Murr. Of course, it's not binding, but it makes it sound like Shaffmaster will play her 5th/covid year.
Might explain why they only have two 2024 recruits.
 





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