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Nov. 9, 2004

Columbia, S.C. – With the women’s basketball season beginning this week when the Gamecocks travel to Seattle to battle Washington and UNLV in the WBCA Classic, members of the South Carolina team met with the media. Here’s what the players had to say:

Lauren Simms

Schedule “We are looking forward to the schedule that we have this year. The non-conference schedule will make us a little bit better before we start our SEC schedule.”

Expectations on the season “Expectations are very high. We have to go out and prove to ourselves and everyone else early on that we are for real this season.”

Individual goals “My individual goal is to play hard and grow this year. Another thing is to be a vocal leader that coach wants me to be. I can’t be hard on myself when I make a mistake, I have to learn from them and move on.”

Player to watch out for “Melanie Johnson. She is a real athletic player and she will be a big surprise this season. She is a really good player.”

Playing Tennessee, and Clemson at home “It is really good to have those teams at home because we can have our fans come out and support us and give us a little extra edge.

Improve your game from last season to this season. “I beat up on myself last season and this season I am learning from mistakes. I am trying to be more of a vocal leader as well.”

Linda Hill-MacDonald

This year’s team “I feel good about this year. We have some good talent this season. When they come into practice they really get after it. Coach Walvius has a good strategy this season for us. We are going to come in and full court pressure to utilize our speed and we are going to try to run the ball a little bit. I think our fans will be excited to see this team play.”

Experience from WNBA back to USC “I hope my experience will help out as I have been jumping from the college game to the WNBA. I love the college game and the players are very open to instruction. I hope my many years of coaching the game will supplement the staff. I believe we have a great staff. Michelle is doing a great job and she is really grasping what is needed to do well. Everyone enjoys working with Susan and we all get a long very well. Hopefully my presence will help everyone do their job easier.”

Back at Carolina “It feels great to be back at USC. I enjoyed my experience here before. The people here are wonderful. The players, fans, and administration are great. It is a great environment for women’s basketball.”

Sarah Burgess

“Our team chemistry is great on and off the court. We all want to win so much. We are willing to learn from each other. I think the team will be very different from last year. We will communicate more.”

Any particular team that you look forward to playing “Look forward to going to the west coast because I have never been there. The two teams that we play will be very good. The SEC is always tough. I have a friend who plays at Virginia. I look forward to play against her.”

Olga Gritsaeva
“This year will be completely different for me because I played post last year and this year I am playing guard. In my mind I still feel like a post player so I kind of confuse what I have to do, but I will work on that. I feel ready to play guard.”

“I feel much more comfortable this year playing with the team. Last year we did not have very good chemistry, this year we have good chemistry. We help each other and encourage each other. I love this team and I think it is going to be a much better year for us.”

“I think we should be a good rebounding team this year because we have so much height.”

Stacy Booker
“I want to improve on my defense and my rebounding, basically defense.”

One of our biggest team goals is winning the SEC championship and the National Championship, that is what we have been focusing on. We are just going team by team, and we are going to focus on each team as it comes.

“The returning players know how to play with each other better, we are just going to get better and better, there is no climbing back down the ladder.”

Shannel Harris
“I want to really be a defensive threat, get some steals and get rebounds.”

“As a team we want to work on transition, rebounding and those things that will win the game.”

“We are ready to play, but we are still ironing out the kinks and things that everyone goes through at this point.”

Larissa Kulcsar

“I personally want to work on rebounding and getting on the loose balls, that is mainly what I would like to improve on. I want to be stronger when I get the ball and take my time.”

“As a team we are trying to get out and run more, this year we are going to be very aggressive. We want to go all out, every minute that we are on the court we want to give our best effort. Our communication has gotten better, our rebounding is getting better. We have eleven girls that have played together for a year. We only have one true freshman this year, and she has done a great job of communicating with us this year and adjusting.”

“As a team we have a lot better feel for each other than we did at this point last year. We know each other’s moves, we know each other’s strengths and we know each other’s weaknesses. We have a year of experience together and we know what the coaches want, We will be so much better with this system.”

Ilona Burgrova
“I would like to help the team with rebounding. We are working on our defense.”

Lea Fabbri
“I really like playing basketball over here; I think we have a really good team. Our chemistry as a team is really good.”

“The game is much more physical here than it is in Croatia. I like more physical games, it is better for me. It wasn’t that easy to adjust to basketball in the United States early on, I thought it would be easier. My freshman year was real hard, but now it is getting better. I want to improve on my ball handling and my defense skills.

“We are going to take it one game at a time, and try and win as many games as we can.”

“Last year we had nine freshmen, and three were international, so we did not play together at all because everyone was just trying to adjust to being here. The year is behind us, we have more experience and we know each other better.”

Angela Hunter

On team goals:

“We want to win the national championship and the SEC championship. That is our goal every year. That is what we have been working at during the offseason. In our minds, if we do not win one of these two then it is an unsuccessful season and we as a team did not reach our goals.”

About having such a young team:

“We are young with eight sophomores, but this team has good chemistry. We know the style we like to play and the tempo we like to play. Last year our team seemed intimidated at times. We do not expect that this year because we know each other better and we know our skills and what we are capable of doing.”

Melanie Johnson

On individual goals: “I want to take everything that the coaches have been teaching during the offseason and preseason and put it into my performance during the games. I want to contribute as much as possible to help the team.”

On Coach Walvius:

“She is a great teacher of the game and she is very enthusiastic. She always encourages us as a team to play together as much as possible to develop better team chemistry.”

Lakesha Tolliver

On the schedule:

“Our non-conference schedule will prepare us very well for our SEC games. Our opening two games with Washington and UNLV will be very challenging for us and we feel that will benefit us going in to the rest of our non-conference games and on into conference play. Our game against Middle Tennessee State will also be very challenging for us.

On Sarah Burgess and Lauren Simms:

“They are both exceptional captains and are very deserving to be captains. Sarah is more of a vocal leader and really takes charge in practice. She does a good job motivating people. Lauren is an exceptional player. She leads by example on and off the court. She is a very tough defensive player and she is a threat on offense at any time.”

Iva Sliskovic

On team attitude:

“We all have very positive attitudes this season and are really excited about our chances at a successful season. We were picked to finish last in our division so that has made us push ourselves extremely hard. We just want to take one game at a time instead of looking too far down the road. Right now, our attention is focused on Washington.”

On individual goals:

“I just want to play my best every game and try to help our team to win as many games as possible. I know what I can do with my skills and I know what Coach Walvius expects out of me. That is what I will do to help contribute to this team. It is not about me because this is a team sport, therefore I know what this team expects out of me and they know what I expect out of them.”