Sept. 9, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Eyebrows were raised among the college volleyball community when the Santa Clara women's volleyball team was not ranked in the CSTV/AVCA Top 25 Preseason Poll in August, and even after earning a No. 25 ranking earlier in the week, the Broncos were still intent on proving that they are among the nation's elite.
They did just that with a gutsy 3-1 (30-20, 30-20, 27-30, 33-31) victory over the 15th-ranked Arizona Wildcats (4-1) in the Bronco Invitational at the Leavey Center on Friday night. After the Wildcats averted the sweep by taking Game three, they pushed the Broncos (5-0) to the limit in Game four before falling 33-31. At match point, two crucial pieces of Santa Clara's wall, Cassie Perret and Megan Pura, rejected a Wildcat attack and sealed the win.
"It started off in the first two games that we were dialed in on them, we just went right off the scouting report," said head coach Jon Wallace. "We played real smoothly and I felt that it took them off their rhythm a little bit, and that's probably why we won game two as easily as well. I thought in game three that that was the Arizona team we were expecting to see. Good teams can make adjustments, and they did, and they had the energy for awhile. I told our team in game four, `Want it more than they do and stay aggressive.'"
After putting the Wildcats in a deep 2-0 hole early, the Broncos had to buckle down and keep at it against a foe who would just not go away. The two teams battled back and forth in a taut third game, one in which either team's biggest lead never was more than three points. The Wildcats eventually took the game to stay alive, and looked to steal Game four from the Broncos by jumping out to an early lead.
But Santa Clara refused to wilt. The Broncos fought their way back and later overcame a 23-19 deficit to tie the match at 26. The two teams traded points up until a Perret kill kept Santa Clara alive against game point, and the Broncos reeled off the next two points to clinch the win.
Commented Wallace: "We talked about playing in the moment. They came together as a team and individually and they went out and made it happen."
Perret led Santa Clara with 18 kills in the match to go along with 10 digs and a hitting percentage of .467. Crystal Matich also had a great night, finishing with eight kills, 61 assists and 10 digs while hitting an amazing .889.
Bronco Invitational action continues tomorrow as the Wildcats match up against Fresno State at 12:30 p.m. followed by No. 25 Santa Clara's attempt to capture the tournament crown when they host No. 18 UC Santa Barbara at 3 p.m.