October 3, 2000

2000 Volleyball Outlook

Aug. 30, 2000

The push is on this year to make the Santa Clara volleyball program better than ever. After almost taking 1999 NCAA runner-up and national powerhouse Stanford to four games in last year's NCAA second round, there is much anticipation of taking on the challenge of charging to the top and focusing the eyes of the volleyball world on the Bronco program. The dreams are many. Dreams such as competing for and winning the West Coast Conference title crown, an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, a coveted berth to the Tournament's Sweet 16, and possibly a trip to Richmond, Va., for the 2000 NCAA Championship.

"We reached another level last season, and a when a team does that, it can draw from that experience to reach a higher level," head coach Jon Wallace said. "This team now knows it can compete with the best. There is no doubt in my mind or the players' minds that we will compete for the WCC championship. We are the team with the most experience as we have five starters returning."

Santa Clara's 2000 schedule will be anything but easy. The Broncos meet six teams that finished last season ranked in the top 25, including a regular-season finale at Stanford. Also on tap is a Sept. 5 meeting at Pacific, which finished ranked No. 3 last season. Following that match, the Broncos travel to Tucson, Ariz., for competition against Arizona, New Mexico State and Baylor. Arizona advanced to the Sweet 16 and finished last year ranked 14th. The Broncos also meet North Carolina, the 1999 Atlantic Coast Conference champions, at their tournament in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels also finished last season ranked No. 21. Once again the Broncos will compete for the league championship with national powerhouses Pepperdine and San Diego. Pepperdine finished the year ranked 10th after advancing to the Sweet 16, while San Diego finished 24th.

"Not only is our schedule tough, we play 21 of our 30 matches on the road," Wallace said. "It is going to be important for us to bond as a team early and to believe in ourselves so we can compete on the road."

It may be the most exciting year yet for Santa Clara as the 2000 version of Bronco volleyball as seasoned players join forces with a crop of new talent to take the next step toward the experience of a lifetime.

When the Broncos begin the 2000 season, they will be without the services of All-WCC selection Laura Raybould and Laura Echolds, one of the mainstays in the middle. Another key player missing is one of the team's best defensive players Jamey Scritchfield. The 1999 senior trio combined to lead Santa Clara to a second-consecutive NCAA appearance and a 21-11 record last year. What they left behind was a solid foundation of aggressive players ready to continue the winning tradition.

Despite the departure of these three players, Wallace and the Broncos have much to be excited about. With two All-America candidates in seniors Ynez Carrasco and Roz Pelayo leading the way, there will be a whirlwind of activity in the program.

Also returning to the Santa Clara lineup is seniors Amy Kohl, Annika Dell and Brook Terhune, juniors Jami Bari and Merrin Thompson and sophomores Chrissy Hirsch and Cindy Hirsch.

"We have many weapons who can carry the load but the three we are looking upon are Ynez (Carrasco) Annika Dell and Amy Kohl," Wallace stated. "I don't think one player is going to carry this team. Our team is at its best when Roz (Pelayo) distributes the ball to all five of our hitters."

The list of returning starters for the Broncos includes Carrasco, Pelayo, Bari, Dell, Kohl and Terhune. As the leading offensive threat last season, Carrasco returns to the Bronco lineup as an outside hitter for her final stint at Santa Clara. A fearsome front-line player, she can control a match with her athletic ability. The 1999 first-team All-WCC selection has become a favorite among Santa Clara fans and will be a prime candidate for 2000 All-America honors. Carrasco led the team in kills and swings with 524 and 1,272, respectively, averaging a team-high 4.60 kills per game. She established herself as a tough all-around player, ranking second in digs with 349 and 56 total blocks, including a team-high 17 block solos.

"Ynez is one of our most athletic players and best offensive players," Wallace said. "She has the potential to be an all-conference, All-America-type player this year with the numbers she will put on the board. She can do everything it takes to win a volleyball match. She can hit, pass, block, play outstanding defense, and she is one of our best servers."

Also returning for her fourth season at Santa Clara is Pelayo. In her third year as the Broncos' starting setter, she should become Santa Clara's all-time leading assist candidate, needing 89 more to break Kris Kosnoski's record of 4,421 (1990-93). Pelayo has established herself as one of the best setters in the country, as she ranked second in the nation in assists with a 14.59 per-game average last season. The second-team All-WCC selection owns five of the top single-match assist totals in school history, including a school-record 91-assist performance against Pepperdine last season. Her 1,678 assists she charted last season ranks her third on the WCC single-season record list.

"Roz is our team leader. She is the glue that holds us together," Wallace added. "She is a leader by example. She works hard and plays hard every day. She is an overachiever. I wholeheartedly thank Roz for the way she managed our team last year, and the success we had was largely based on her work ethic and leadership."

Bari brings experience to the Santa Clara squad as one of last year's starters on the outside. She averaged 2.44 kills and 2.38 digs per game.

"Jami is going to have a great impact on our team's success this year. She is a fundamentally sound player who does all of the little things so well," Wallace said. "We will use her as another one of our offensive weapons."

Dell eagerly returns to the Santa Clara lineup after a knee injury limited her playing time last season. A solid front row player, she will be a mainstay on the right side and will be looked upon to carry the load offensively for the Broncos. She registered 108 kills and hit .266 for the Broncos last season in only the 37 games she was able to play.

"Annika should lead our team in kills per game this season. We are really looking for her to have the best season of her career," Wallace said. "What Annika gives us offensively is probably the best in the country."

Another offensive power returning to the Bronco lineup is Kohl. One of the top athletes in the nation at the middle position, Kohl possesses tremendous confidence while on the court. As a junior, she combined with Laura Echolds to give Santa Clara one of the most talented blocking tandems in the nation. She finished third on the team in kills with 301 and hit .242. The team leader in blocks, Kohl combined for 55 block assists and stuffed nine of her own.

"What makes Amy such an outstanding player is she has tremendous confidence in herself," Wallace said. "She is quick and has a dynamic arm swing and understands what it takes to win. She puts herself in a position to be successful simply from her playing experience."

A second-team All-WCC selection last season, Terhune is expected to post big numbers. One of the top returning players on the team, she hit a team-high .317 after registering 234 kills on 517 swings. She also made huge strides defensively, totaling 27 digs and 54 blocks.

"Brook is a competitive person," Wallace said. "She plays high above the net and is so positive while out on the court. She can hit the ball to all of the right spots on the floor.

"These five players have really made Santa Clara volleyball what it is today," Wallace continued. "They deserve all of the credit as to what this team has done the past three seasons. They are definitely ready to win a championship."

Santa Clara rounds out the rest of its roster with players that will provide critical support for the returning starters.

Thompson, who played at backup setter last season, will move to the back row as one of the team's top defensive specialists. She averaged 1.83 digs per game in the 23 matches she played in. The team's most athletic player, Thompson will play a key role in the success of Santa Clara's back row.

The Hirsch twins, Chrissy and Cindy, also will see position changes. After playing as outside hitters as freshmen, both will now play active roles in the back row as defensive specialists. The sisters saw a great deal of playing time last year, gaining valuable experience, and both will be a threat on defense for the Broncos.

Fresh faces and new enthusiasm will be plentiful among the Bronco squad this season. Becky Biniek, Amy Graybill, Jessie Mechem, Becky Potter and Kelli Sousa will join the returning cast of players.

Tabbed the setter of the future for Santa Clara volleyball, Sousa is one of the top preps in the country. A Junior Olympic All-America selection in 1999, Sousa gained tremendous playing experience during her high school and club years.

A highly recruited athlete from Buchanan High School in Clovis, Calif., Potter will be competing for a starting position in the middle from the start. "Becky is a very dynamic, quick and explosive athlete who will definitely push Amy (Kohl) and Brook (Terhune) at the middle position," Wallace said.

Mechem makes her way to the Santa Clara campus via Mountain View High School in Mesa, Ariz., where she helped lead the Toros to the state championship her senior year. The outside hitter will see a significant amount of playing time behind Carrasco and Bari at the leftside position.

Biniek, a middle blocker who hails from St. Francis High School in Los Altos, Calif., will play backup to the talented group of underclassmen playing in the middle position.

Graybill, an outside hitter who played high school volleyball at Los Gatos High School, will also give the Broncos added depth at that position. She helped lead Los Gatos to the section finals all four years and earned first team all-league honors as a junior and senior.

Wallace described this recruiting class as the school's best since Carrasco, Pelayo, Kohl, Dell and Terhune signed at Santa Clara.

"They are all extremely athletic, dynamic and intelligent athletes," Wallace added.

As the Broncos plan for the storm of activity and excitement that lies ahead with a new season, new players and new challenges, one thing is for sure, it will be a special year for Santa Clara volleyball.