Florida State is back in the tournament and hungry for a first round win

Florida State missed the NCAA tournament last year but they are back and not taking the competition for granted. The No. 8 Seminoles face No. 9 Princeton in Waco on Sunday afternoon. Head coach Sue Semrau along with seniors Morgan Toles, Alexa Deluzio and Leonor Rodriguez discussed their tournament hopes and Princeton when they faced the media Saturday.

Head Coach Sue Semrau
On the focus for the first and second rounds:
“We’re only promised one game. Princeton certainly warrants a lot of attention. They are a very solid basketball team. They’ve played out of conference and a lot of really strong teams in conference. They do a great job of getting up and down the floor and rebounding the basketball. I have a lot of respect for Courtney (Banghart) and what she does with her kids. We don’t have anything else on our minds right now expect for the game tomorrow.”

On Princeton seeking their first NCAA tournament win:
“We’ve been fortunate that my first NCAA game with this team we were able to win that game. That’s what these kids know. They come to the NCAA tournament with a singular focus. We don’t need any other motivation. We like to keep it as business as usual. Certainly, I think it is what Alexa (Deluzio) said, ‘It’s team for team.’ It doesn’t have anything to do with what motivates us young ladies on a certain, given day.”

On experience helping them prepare for the NCAA tournament:
“I’ve been very fortunate, prior to coming to Florida State, to be a part of programs that have NCAA history. Everyone on my staff also has NCAA history. There’s a lot of question with women’s basketball like college football and bowl games. You’ve got a conference tournament and two weeks later you are playing the most important basketball game of your season. Because we have been here and done that, we’ve fallen into something that works for us. It’s Spring Break for us in Tallahassee which gives our players a little bit of time to maybe breathe before we get back after it hard. We don’t really have another choice and because of that, we are going to go with what has worked in the past.”

On missing out on last year’s tournament being motivation for this season:
“It was a huge reset for our team. We talked about it yesterday before we left. March 1 was our last time that we played last season. March 2 we had a meeting and talked about everything that we had lost as a result of not going to the NCAA tournament. We talked about what it was that kept us from being in the tournament, and they owned it. The kids going forward did a tremendous job of buying in to what we needed to re-establish who we are as a winning culture, and I can’t say enough about those seniors and the way that they directed this entire charge.”

On what they have improved on since missing out on the tournament last year:
“Everything from chemistry to selfishness. I think that we didn’t protect each other or trust each other, and therefore we couldn’t empower each other. Those were the three things that we really set out to do in this offseason. We learned what it meant to protect each other. We learned what it meant that you can only learn to trust each other once you learn to protect each other. You can then empower each other once you truly trust each other. This is a team that has worked extremely hard to make sure that those components not only played into what we were doing, but it led to next and led to the next. We believe that this culture has been re-established and continue for years to come.”

Senior Guard Morgan Toles
On the trip so far:
“It was fine. We had a good time travelling. It’s the NCAA, so you’re excited to get there. We’re just ready to get the work in today.”

On her first appearance in the NCAA tournament:
“It’s been great so far. When I saw our name on the screen on selection day, I was really excited. It’s my first year, so I’m just taking it all in right now. It’s kind of surreal, but I’m just ready to be on the floor and start playing.”

On late season losses and turning around during the tournament:
“You learn from it. We looked at our losses and studied the film, and we went out in practice and worked on the things we needed to work on. I think we’re ready, and I think we understand what we need to work on and what we need to do on the floor to win.”

On what she’s learned about Princeton and their style of play:
“They get up and down the floor. They are extremely smart. They rebound the ball extremely well. They have one of the players of the year in their conference so you definitely have to defend her and pay a lot of attention to her. We are going to play our game defensively and do what we usually do and keep her off the boards.”

Senior Guard Leonor Rodriguez
On her improvements this season:
“Nothing special, just working hard along with my teammates. Last year we didn’t have a good year, so we came together and talked about it. We started building team chemistry and started thinking about what we wanted to accomplish this year. The only thing that can make it work is hard work, so that’s what we tried to do this season, game by game. Not thinking ahead, just the next opponent. That’s what we’re trying to do today, is think about Princeton.”

On what they’ve learned about Princeton:
“They are a good team. They won their conference, and they have really good players. It’s a very complete team. They have a strong post, good playmakers, and good shooters. We have to come prepared to defend them and play our game.”

Senior Guard Alexa Deluzio
On whether this experience is the same as it was the last time:
“It’s definitely exciting. It’s different this year for me because it’s my last year, along with the five other seniors. We have no other choice but to play like it’s our last. I think it’s going to make this time very special.”

On missing the tournament last year after a long streak:
“When I first got to FSU, there was a culture that was built. It was a winning culture, and the NCAA postseason was expected. Last year, it was shocking. It was humbling, and it instilled a hunger in us that I think propelled us into this year and is why we’re having such a successful year.”

On what the difference is this year in terms of last year:
“Piggybacking on what Leonor said, hard work. I’ve never had a team put in so much work over the summer. I think that started with the seniors and it carried down. But also, team chemistry. I think that’s so overlooked in basketball today. It’s made the world of a difference on our team.”

On Princeton’s Niveen Rasheed:
“She is a very good player, but it is five against five. We are going to play team basketball, and obviously we have to pay her attention. She is a very good player. Overall we are just going to defend them as a team and play our basketball.”

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