2003-04 Season Outlook
Volleyball Ready To Take Next Step
July 22, 2003
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 2002 season provided the Santa Clara University volleyball program with many firsts. Head coach Jon Wallace became the first coach to post 20 wins in three different seasons as he registered 21 wins in 1999, 27 in 2000 and 24 during last year's campaign. Middle blocker Becky Potter became the program's first All-America selection as she was named to the AVCA Second Team after setting a new school record for kills in a season with 571. Setter Kelli Sousa became the first Bronco to lead the nation in assists as her 14.38 per game average were tops among all Division I setters. Additionally, her average and 1,610 total assists set new NCAA records for the sport since the adoption of the new scoring system in 2001. Most importantly the team attained a new program high on November 4 when it reached a No. 11 national ranking in the AVCA/USA Today Coaches' Poll.
These four achievements are monumental for a program that is gaining ground in attaining national prominence. The one thing missing is a trip to the NCAA round of 16 that has eluded the program in the seven previous trips to the tournament. The closest the team got was a heartbreaking five-game thriller against Long Beach State in 2000, with game five going to the 49ers by a score of 19-17.
The 2003 Broncos look to take the next step in the postseason, securely placing themselves among the nation's elite programs. In order to do that, Wallace will rely heavily on senior leadership, a solid core of returning players, strength of schedule and a healthy batch of newcomers that will have a sizable impact on the team.
For the second year in a row Wallace has the luxury of a senior class that embraces the team's leadership role. Last year he had Chrissy and Cindy Hirsch to lead the team, this year he has three seniors to fill that void with each having made an impact during their junior seasons. Potter, Sousa and Becky Biniek all return for their fourth and final year in a Bronco uniform, giving their head coach three veteran leaders that are hungry to advance in the tournament and leave their mark on the program they have helped build.
Potter has done it all during her career on the Mission Campus. She was named the program's first ever All-American in 2002 and became only the second selection in program history to earn AVCA All-Pacific Region Team, joining Ynez Carrasco who earned the honor in 2000. Potter's 5.34 kills per game average set a new school record as did her 571 kills in 2002. She finished 12th in the nation in kills per game while her .338 hitting percentage ranks as the third best single-season percentage in school history. While her 1,273 career kills ranks fifth all-time at SCU, she is only 259 digs away from becoming only the sixth player in Santa Clara history to post 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career. The 2000 West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year has also earned All-WCC honors in all three of her seasons at SCU.
For Potter to succeed in her senior season, many of the younger players will have to step up their play so opponents will not be able to key on the All-American for the entire match. Potter should have increased strength and durability in her upper body as off-season surgery relieved pain and discomfort from her right shoulder. Much of her success will also be linked to the season that Sousa will have following her record-breaking year.
In addition to her national accolades for assist average, Sousa also garnered first team All-WCC honors as a junior to go along with an honorable mention nod as a sophomore. Aside from her prodigious setting numbers, Sousa also posted impressive offensive and defensive numbers. Her .366 hitting percentage actually led the team in 2002 while her 255 digs ranked her fifth. She also posted 35 total blocks and 12 service aces, making her one of the more versatile players on the court for the Broncos.
Sousa's court vision and team leadership will be key components to the success of the Broncos. In addition to Potter, Sousa will have many more weapons to go to in her senior season including a returning all-league player in Biniek.
Biniek had a breakthrough season as a junior, earning honorable mention All-WCC honors as she posted a .304 hitting percentage to go along with 254 kills and 96 total blocks. Her 0.89 blocks per game was second on the team while her 2.35 kills per game ranked fifth. Her showcase match of the year came at No. 9 Pepperdine where she posted a .533 hitting percentage that resulted in a career-high 19 kills on only 30 attempts.
Although she will not be able to sneak up on anybody this year, Biniek will rely on much of her same strategy. Utilizing her ability to run the slide and get around the other team's block will be her objective in 2003.
"This will be the most starters that we have returning since we won the WCC Championship in 2000," said Wallace. "Our three seniors are ready to duplicate that feat and surpass the team success that they enjoyed their freshman year."
Including the three seniors that will lead the 2003 squad, Wallace has nine other returning letterwinners that have been through the Santa Clara system for at least one year, giving the Broncos a solid core of veterans. Of those nine players two are juniors, four are sophomores and the remaining three are returning redshirts that are looking to return to form following season-ending injuries in 2002.
Redshirt sophomore Toni Muratore returns after suffering a broken bone in her foot during the team's preseason, forcing her to miss the entire 2002 campaign. She entered the season having been selected as a first team All-WCC performer in 2001, posting 368 kills in her first season on the Mission Campus. Her 6-foot-2 frame and outstanding jumping ability will make her an immediate threat upon her return. She will open up many hitting alleys for other players because of her ability and strength.
"Toni is ready and anxious to make a big impact on the sport of volleyball at Santa Clara," said Wallace. "Her combination of athletic ability and desire to be great will help our team immensely and should propel her to a season worthy of All-America consideration."
Juniors Megan Johnston and Christina Vick each return for their third year of play under Wallace. As a sophomore, Johnston started 30 of the team's 31 matches, playing 112 of the team's 113 games. She finished fourth on the team in digs and kills with 285 and 256, respectively. Johnston also finished second on the team in assists with 60, third in total blocks with 77 and fourth in service aces with 18, making her an integral part of the team's success. Versatility will be a key attribute for her success as a junior as she may be asked to serve as the team's Libero following the graduation of Chrissy Hirsch.
Vick returns for another season after appearing in 15 matches for the Broncos and posting 33 kills on 85 attempts in 2002. She will add depth and size to a front line that has 10 players that stand at least six feet tall.
Sophomores Alyssa Lantz and Cassie Perret had the biggest impact of any newcomer during the 2002 season. Lantz earned honorable mention All-WCC honors after posting a 3.05 kills per game average that equaled 299 kills on the year with a .235 hitting percentage. She shared the team lead in service aces with 27 on the season while her 105 digs and 39 total blocks made her a valuable addition to the program. Her whip-like arm motion makes her one of the hardest hitting players on the court.
Perret finished her inaugural season at Santa Clara with the second highest number of total kills (363) and kills per game average (3.21) on the team. She was one of only three players to play in all 113 games for the Broncos in 2002, starting 30 of the team's 31 matches and registering 20 service aces and 56 total blocks. Outstanding quickness and jumping ability make her a threat from anywhere on the court and at any time.
"Having two returning starters on the outside gives us tremendous stability," said Wallace. "Alyssa and Cassie each learned a great deal from their freshman seasons. Both have great physical talent and, with a full year of collegiate experience under their belts, they should be ready for breakout seasons."
Fellow sophomores Kristen Luxton and Lexie Bothman return for the second year of play, giving Wallace a deep and talented bench. Luxton was the team's back-up setter in 2002, but saw only limited time as Sousa led the nation in assists. She finished the year with 23 assists, 17 of which came in game three of the Broncos' 3-0 win over the University of Denver. Bothman saw action in 11 matches, playing in 12 games during her rookie season. She came in as a serving specialist and managed to make three digs in her time on the court. She will also be looked to as an option to fill the team's Libero opening.
Redshirts Kim McGiven and Rachel Greenberg also return to the court following season-ending injuries that occurred at different times throughout the year.
McGiven started her rookie season as the team's starting outside hitter, posting 62 kills in the team's first eight matches. In her eighth match of the season, facing Michigan at the Nebraska Tournament, McGiven tore a tendon in her knee that forced her to miss the remainder of the year. If she is able to return to form, McGiven will be another option for Sousa on the outside, opening up the middle for Potter and Muratore.
Greenberg returns in 2003 following a torn ligament in her knee that was suffered during her club season prior to her time on the Mission Campus. A defensive specialist, Greenberg will add depth to a team that lost its top two dig producers from 2002.
Santa Clara welcomes four newcomers to the volleyball family for 2003: two transfers and two incoming freshmen. Despite their rookie status on the Mission Campus, all four will be looked to for contributions in 2003.
A graduate of Gunn High School in Palo Alto, junior transfer Jac Heler comes to Santa Clara after spending the first two years of her collegiate career at Boise State. While at BSU Heler earned 2000 All-Big West Freshman team honors and was named a preseason First Team All-WAC selection prior to the 2001 season when Boise switched leagues. She will be expected to provide strong hitting from the opposite side while also providing solid defense.
Sophomore transfer Kelli Walsh also returns closer to home as the former Archbishop Mitty product comes to Santa Clara after spending two years on the Long Beach State campus. While she was at LBSU Walsh redshirted her freshman season and sat out sophomore year due to injury. While at Mitty she helped the team to league titles in each of her four years on the varsity squad and helped them to Division I State runners-up in 1997 and as the Division I NorCal runners-up in 1998 and 2000. Walsh is a setter who might be more likely to see time as the team's Libero in 2003.
Freshmen Nora Miller and Megan Pura round out the 16-person roster that will comprise the Santa Clara Broncos in 2003. Miller comes to SCU from Santa Barbara High School where she earned MVP and First Team All-Channel League honors during her senior season. At 6-foot-3, her height and blocking ability will prove helpful to the Broncos. While at SBHS Miller set a single season record for both the men and women with 113 blocks during her senior season.
Pura prepped at Notre Dame Academy in Salinas, Calif., before coming to the Mission Campus. She was a three-time first team all-league and all-county performer and earned league MVP and Monterey County Player of the Year honors in 2002, helping her team to the CCS Division 4 Championship. Pura will provide a strong arm on the outside, giving SCU depth and strength at a position that was depleted by injury in 2002.
It is often said that if you want to be the best, you have to play the best. Wallace hopes that this will hold true for his team as the Broncos have one of the toughest schedules in the country, playing 14 teams that participated in last year's NCAA Tournament.
The Broncos will open up the 2003 season much like the 2002 season, spending their first four weeks on the road at various tournaments. They begin the 2003 campaign at the UOP Tournament where they will take on Pacific and San Jose State. From there they travel to Tucson for the Wildcat Classic where they will take on Arizona, Miami, Rhode Island and San Diego State.
Two other tournaments will conclude its 13-game roadtrip to begin the season, playing in both the U.S. Bank/Arby's Invitational hosted by Nebraska and the Gamecock Tournament hosted by South Carolina. SCU will take on Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Michigan State in Lincoln, Neb., before playing South Carolina, Duke and George Washington in Spartanburg, S.C.
Santa Clara returns home on September 28 for a highly anticipated matchup with perennial powerhouse, the University of Hawaii. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m. The Broncos will then play at Sacramento State in their final game prior to the WCC season getting under way.
Once the WCC season begins, the Broncos will play each member of the conference twice, once on each team's home court. October 11 against San Diego and November 21 against Pepperdine highlight the WCC home season, as both teams were ranked in the top-25 at one point during the 2002 season.
The Broncos will conclude their 2003 regular season at home on November 25 as they welcome the 2002 National runners-up Stanford Cardinal to the Leavey Center