April 5, 2002
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara volleyball team will aim for its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance Aug. 30 against James Madison at the UC Irvine Tournament, the first of a 30-match schedule, head coach Jon Wallace announced today.
The schedule features seven matches against teams that played in last year's NCAA Tournament, including Final Four participant Nebraska and NCAA Champion Stanford. The Broncos start the season with four consecutive road tournaments that Wallace said he hopes will help develop a young squad and solidify a lineup for conference play.
"We could potentially be starting three freshman in the fall, so we're looking to gain on-court experience during our preseason," he added.
After opening weekend, the Broncos will head to Flagstaff, Ariz., for the Fiesta Bowl Classic, hosted by Northern Arizona. Idaho, a team that swept the Broncos to close the regular season last year, will be in attendance. Santa Clara also has plans to tour one of the world's natural wonders while visiting the Grand Canyon State.
The Broncos' toughest preseason challenge will take place in mid-September at a tournament hosted by the Cornhuskers. SCU can expect to play against host Nebraska and a tough Michigan team in front of 5,000 knowledgeable volleyball fans.
"It will be a great experience for the girls to play a top-ranked team in front a volleyball-supportive crowd," Wallace continued. "We got our first taste as a team last year in Hawaii and we're looking forward to the challenge again."
After closing out tournament play in Denver, the Broncos will return home to the Leavey Center on September 28 and open against Bay Area rival San Jose State, a team SCU lost to in a five-game heartbreaker in the first round of last season's NCAA Tournament. The home match will mark the first time in two seasons the Broncos will play in front of a completely renovated Leavey Center, including chairback seats among the new amenities for fans.
"We're ready to establish our home court advantage in our new building," Wallace added.
The Broncos will then jump into the West Coast Conference season, where Wallace said he expects league champion Pepperdine to be ranked in the top five nationally, with San Diego and Loyola Marymount also earning top-25 honors.
Like the Idaho and San Jose State matches, the young Bronco squad is also marking an October 22 match against California that will take place in Leavey. Santa Clara served twice for match victory last season in Berkeley, but was unable to come away with a win. Wallace said the 'redemption factor' would probably play a large role in his team's motivation for the season, and in particular against these three opponents.
The Broncos close out the regular season against 2001 NCAA Champion Stanford in Palo Alto.
The Broncos return four starters from last year's team that finished the season 19-10 with a second-place finish in WCC action. Leading the way will be senior twin sisters Chrissy and Cindy Hirsch, All-WCC performers Becky Potter and Toni Muratore, and sophomore starting setter Kelli Sousa.
Click Here for the complete 2002 schedule.