Aug. 8, 2003
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University women's volleyball team reported for practice today in eager anticipation for the 2003 season. The team's first official practice is not until Saturday, but all 16 players were present for the initial check-in and briefing as to the team's preseason plans.
"The first day is always exciting," said head coach Jon Wallace. "We had such a good year last year and the majority of our players are returning for this year, which is a huge benefit. It is also fun to see the initial interaction of the veterans and the newcomers. Our mix of veteran players and newcomers who will have an impact on the team should make for an exciting follow-up to a history making season in 2002."
Wallace has reason for his excitement as his squad from last year earned a program best national ranking of No. 11 by the AVCA halfway through the year and continued on to their fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Broncos placed five players on various all-conference teams, had one player lead the country in assists and even had one player become the first in program history to earn AVCA All-America honors.
Becky Potter and Kelli Sousa led the way for the Broncos in 2002, guiding the team to a 24-7 overall record and a 12-2 mark in West Coast Conference play. Potter became the program's first All-American as she earned second team honors from the AVCA after posting 571 kills for an average of 5.34 per game to go along with a .338 hitting percentage. Sousa led the nation in assists per game with 14.38 per contest, which also set a new NCAA standard under the new scoring rules.
11 of the 16 players on this year's squad have earned a varsity letter at one time or another on the Mission Campus. One of the more intriguing story lines for the upcoming season will involve Toni Muratore who was forced to sit our her sophomore season after breaking her ankle nearly one year ago. She entered the preseason fresh off a First Team All-WCC selection as a freshman and was eager to have an equally big impact on the team in 2002, only to have that notion squashed due to the injury. Her presence in the middle should create more opportunities for Potter as well as returning outside hitters Cassie Perret and Alyssa Lantz.
In addition to the solid core of veterans on the 2003 squad, the Broncos add five fresh faces to the club. Junior transfer Jac Heler figures to be the biggest addition, as her tall frame and solid swing add another weapon to an already potent offensive attack.
With Muratore back and the solid core of veterans already in place, the Broncos seem poised to make a run at the program's first Sweet 16 appearance. The run at that goal begins on Friday, August 29th when the Broncos travel to Stockton, Calif. for a 7 p.m. first serve against the University of the Pacific.