Aug. 29, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University women's volleyball team embarks on the quest for its eighth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance Tuesday night when it travels to Sacramento State to take on the Hornets at 7 p.m.
For the second year in a row the Broncos will begin their season against the Hornets, whom they defeated 3-2 in the 2004 opener. Santa Clara holds an overall 12-9 edge over Sacramento State in the all-time series, and will be looking to earn their seventh-straight win over the Hornets, a streak that dates back to the 1999 season.
Head coach Jon Wallace enters his seventh season (129-53, .709) at the helm of a Santa Clara squad that finished 2004 with an overall record of 18-9 and made its seventh-consecutive postseason appearance. Wallace currently sits second on the Broncos' list of career wins behind Mary Ellen Murchison (162 wins from 1978-88) but tops the list for career WCC wins (66), overall winning percentage (.709) and conference winning pct. (.786).
The Broncos return four starters plus their libero from 2004, and have added a strong freshman class that is six-deep, led by San Jose, Calif. native Nichole Clark and Yorba Linda, Calif. native Brittany Lowe. Both Clark and Lowe played significant roles on CIF championship teams, St. Francis High and Esperanza High, respectively, and should be able to draw on that big-game experience to contribute to Santa Clara's fortunes in 2005. Michelle Gamlen, Jessika Horlemann, Michelle Luxton and Taylor O'Brien make up the rest of Wallace's recruiting class of 2005 who will look to contribute right away.
On the court, co-captains Kim McGiven and Kristen Luxton will be the leaders of the Bronco attack. A junior from Encinitas, Calif., McGiven is Santa Clara's returning kills leader, having notched 277 last season. Luxton, last year's leader in assists (828) and assists per game (7.96), will set for McGiven and fellow returning kills leaders Cassie Perret (256 kills in '04), Annalisa Muratore (252) and Anna Cmaylo (239). Perret, who ranked in the squad's top three last season in kills, blocks (108) and digs (299), is also expected to provide a solid all-around presence on the court as well.
The Broncos will additionally be bolstered by four sophomores who wasted no time making names for themselves on the court last season. Muratore earned WCC Freshman of the Year honors as her .384 hitting percentage led the WCC, and her 1.77 blocks per game not only led all conference players but ranked third in the nation. Yet Muratore is still recovering from a knee injury incurred at the end of last season, but she is expected to return to action at the Bronco Invitational from Sept. 8-10.
Cmaylo, who along with Muratore makes up the twin towers of the Bronco middle, was second on the team in blocks last season with 117 total and a 1.15 per game clip. On the offensive end she also posted 239 kills, creating another threat for Santa Clara in front of the net.
Rounding out Wallace's sophomore contingent are setter Crystal Matich and libero Caroline Walters. Matich, who will see time at setter this season along with Luxton, was second in assists (606) and assists per game (6.89). Walters, a WCC honorable mention selection in 2004, will again anchor the defense in 2005, as last season her 513 digs paced the squad and her per game rate of 4.93 was good for second in the WCC.
Sacramento State (1-2) opened their season this past weekend at the Mizuno Classic in Long Beach, Calif. After defeating Long Island in the first match, the Hornets dropped their final two matches, against No. 18 San Diego and host No. 24 Long Beach State.