Sept. 15, 2005
Santa Clara, Calif. - With a convincing sweep of then-No. 18 UC Santa Barbara, the Santa Clara University women's volleyball team not only captured the Bronco Invitational with an unblemished 3-0 mark, their second tournament crown in as many tries, but they also tied the 1979 and 2002 squads for the best start in program history with a 6-0 record. The Broncos will try to establish a new school record in consecutive wins to start off a season when they face Idaho this Friday in the first match of the Hampton Inn Utah Classic, hosted by the University of Utah. While the milestone would be a nice achievement for his relatively young team, head coach Jon Wallace is more focused on the development of his team and the preparation for a difficult conference schedule.
"As a coach, I don't know if you look at it like that," said Wallace about the potential 7-0 start. "Our next match against Idaho is just another match we want to get better at, to prepare us for our conference and hopefully beyond that as well."
Leading the way for Santa Clara this weekend will be a pair of outside hitters who have accounted for much of the offense this season. Senior Kim McGiven and junior Cassie Perret have been impressive for Santa Clara in 2005, getting the job done on both ends of the court. McGiven, a native from Encinitas, Calif., is among the nation's leaders in kills, checking in at No. 7 with 5.79 kills per game. She was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week (9/5) after leading Santa Clara to the Holiday Inn-Sunset Classic title, registering 73 kills and 39 digs in three matches. Perret's all-around game garnered her MVP honors at the recent Bronco Invitational, averaging 4.10 kills, 2.10 digs, and 1.20 blocks per game in three games, including then-No. 15 Arizona and UC Santa Barbara. For her efforts, Perret was not only voted the West Coast Conference Player of the Week (9/12), but also the Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week. The Menlo Park, Calif. local is the first Bronco player to ever earn such an accolade. For the year, Perret is currently averaging 3.52 kills, 2.14 digs, and 1.19 blocks per game.
"It's a great honor for both Cassie and the program," said Wallace about Perret's national recognition. "Cassie has worked hard on her game for the last three years and to be recognized for having a great weekend and helping us beat two ranked opponents is just awesome. I'm so happy for her."
Although his outside duo is playing at a high level right now, Wallace can turn to a number of players to carry his team during crunch time. Sophomore setter Crystal Matich is one of the country's elite playmakers and is averaging 13.74 assists per game, good for No. 11 in the nation. Assists is not the only category that she is nationally ranked in - her .89 aces per game puts her at the No. 7 spot. Matich also has the team hitting at an impressive .325 clip, ranking the Broncos as the fourth-most efficient team in Division I ball. When Matich isn't distributing the ball to the antennas, there is a good chance that sophomore middle blocker Anna Cmaylo is on the receiving end of those sets. She is putting away 3.37 balls a game while boasting a .363 hitting percentage. Cmaylo also anchors SCU's front-row defense, turning away 1.53 attacks per game and is a big reason why Santa Clara is ranked No. 24 in the nation in blocks per game with 3.05 rejections per game.
"Anytime you travel, it will be tough. We played Idaho in the springtime and beat them in a two-out-three match, so the girls will have confidence going into that game," said Wallace about the looming contest with Idaho.
The Utes own a 5-3 record heading into their 6 p.m. match with the Broncos on Saturday. Utah went 3-1 last weekend, beating Utah State 3-2, Iowa State 3-1, and Missouri State 3-1. The lone setback came against Arkansas, 3-2. In the four matches, Shelly Sommerfeldt led the way after averaging 3.44 kills per game, including two 19-kill performances against Utah State and Iowa State. The senior outside hitter also led the team in digs with 3.06 per game. Freshman setter Shannon Krug had a career-high 55 assists against Utah State and leads the team with 11.17 assists per game. At the net, middle blocker Emillie Toone accumulated 10 blocks versus both Iowa State and Missouri State and leads the team with 1.78 blocks per game. Freshman outside hitter Airial Salvo has made an impact for the Utes as well this year, averaging 3.30 kills, 2.63 digs, and .37 aces per game over the course of the season.
"The last time we saw Utah [in 2003], we lost in five games in the first round of the NCAAs. I know there will be a little bit of a redemption factor for that match," said Wallace. "I know in the back of their minds, the players will be really excited to play Utah, especially at Utah."