FLORENCE, Ala. —
The NCAA Division II national championship week kicked off Thursday in Florence, Ala.
After both teams arrived Wednesday evening, coaches and select players from each team participated in a kickoff press conference on the campus of North Alabama Thursday afternoon.
At the press conference, the Harlon Hill Trophy candidates were introduced prior to both head coaches.
Winston-Salem head coach Connell Maynor opened by introducing his two players and talking about his team's drive to return to the playoffs and make an appearance in the national championship.
In 2011, the Rams were eliminated in the national semifinals. This year, the Rams are 14-0, beating West Texas A&M in the national semifinals last week.
"We were one game away from making it to the championship, we lost a talented Wayne State team that was better than us," Maynor said. "So our guys were hungry and they looked forward to this season."
Maynor also mentioned his team's ability to rest key players throughout the fourth quarter of various games.
"Anytime we had a chance to rest those guys, we took advantage," Maynor said. "We had high-expectations of playing 15 games this season. We wanted to have our horses when we got to this game. I think we accomplished that. We are pretty healthy."
Valdosta State head coach David Dean was introduced last. Dean congratulated the Harlon Hill finalist and then spoke about his team's turnaround, following a 2-2 start to the season.
"We were sitting at 2-2 one time this season and we really weren't sure what direction we were headed," Dean said. "Our kids came into the locker room after we lost to West Alabama and made a commitment to take it one game at a time. They were going to get to where they wanted to be. When we met with our guys Aug. 4, we asked them what they wanted to get out of this season and it was unanimous; they wanted a chance to play for a national championship.”