April 18, 2006
Santa Clara, Calif. - For head coach Jon Wallace, it's never too early to plan for the future.
During the middle of last season's magical run to Santa Clara's first-ever national semifinal appearance, he was already making mental notes on ways to improve his team and to strengthen the abilities of his players during the off-season. And with spring practice officially kicking off last week, the time for improvement is finally here.
Whether Wallace is helping his players fine-tune already mastered skills or teaching them new techniques of the game, this time of year is dedicated to the development of the individual in a no pressure situation.
"In a lot of ways, [spring ball] is a lot less stressful environment and more of a teaching environment, for them to learn different things and experiment with different things without the consequences of it being on your record forever," says Wallace on the benefits of spring practice.
Springtime isn't only individual and team workouts for the Broncos - they will also be competing in two local tournaments this week. On Thursday, Santa Clara will travel just 20 minutes north to face host Stanford in Burnham Pavilion at 3:30 p.m. Another match pitting Santa Clara against a team made up of Stanford alumni will follow at a time not yet determined. On Saturday, Santa Clara will participate in a five-team tournament hosted by San Jose State, beginning with a 9 a.m. contest with the home team. At 10 a.m., the next opponent will be West Coast Conference rival Saint Mary's, and the day concludes with contests against California (11 a.m.) and WCC foe San Francisco (noon).
"We are looking to use these tournaments at Stanford and San Jose State to improve upon our weaknesses from the year before," states Wallace. "Our team is really excited just to be out there competing again in a competitive setting and playing against some really good competition."
Listen to head coach Jon Wallace talk about spring practice and his expectations for next year on Broncos All-Access!
With the departure of four seniors, including First Team All-American Cassie Perret, the make-up of the team has changed, though Wallace notices his current crop of players taking the proper steps to maintain the positive energy on and off the court that they enjoyed throughout the 2005 season.
"That's what is special about working with college teams - each year changes no matter what," comments Wallace. "What is special about this group is that as hard as they are working on the court and wanting to get back to the Final Four, they know that chemistry and working on team chemistry is so important."
As defending West Coast Conference Champions, and the only team from the league to advance to the national semifinals, expectations will be huge for a squad that finished the AVCA Top-25 Poll at the No. 4 spot once the 2006 season opens up in August. However, Wallace is hoping to downplay some of those pressures by having his team focus on playing volleyball and avoiding all the other unnecessary distractions.
"I'm worried about our current team putting pressure on themselves. What we are trying to do is to address it now in the sense that it is still volleyball and what you need to concentrate on is volleyball and not whether you are winning or losing. That can only paralyze us," explains Wallace. "They are hungry to learn and bringing a new sense of enthusiasm and passion.
"This spring has been a huge positive for us in the sense that they want to learn so they can play better, not wanting to learn so they can win. Winning will come from playing better and they are understanding that."