September 29, 2005

No. 15 Volleyball Off to a Blazing Start

Sept. 29, 2005

By Jason Cohn
The Santa Clara

The Broncos are off to an 11-1 start following their win against San Jose State on Tuesday night. Eight of those wins have been three-game sweeps.

"This year I think we have a lot more talent than we've had in past years and our team is a lot closer than we have been, and I think it makes for good team chemistry on the court," said team captain Kristen Luxton.

A little chemistry has taken the Broncos a long way on the court. Santa Clara is going into this weekend ranked No. 15 with one goal in mind: to be conference champions. That is a feat that has not been achieved by head coach Jon Wallace since 2000 when his team went an impressive 27-5.

The Broncos jumped off to their best start in school history when they defeated the University of Idaho in Salt Lake City at the Utah Hampton Inn Classic on Sept. 16.

The next night, Santa Clara fell to the host team, Utah, in a hard fought match which Santa Clara lost three games to two.

The Utes remain the only team to defeat the Broncos thus far this year.

"(You have) a bunch of girls trying to work hard and get the job done. Nobody's looking for the limelight, they're just playing hard," Wallace said of his team's success.

He added, "We've asked a lot more out of the girls both off the court in conditioning and dedication. On the court, we've tried to make practices as hard as we can."

Now Wallace is going to ask for two big wins on the road this weekend to kick off conference play. The first is against No. 20 Loyola Marymount, which has started the season off strong, going 11-2. The second match is against the 7-5 Pepperdine Waves.

"I think that if we can get through this weekend with LMU on Friday night and Pepperdine on Sunday, it could really just boost our confidence," Wallace said.

Yet, confidence is one thing that these girls are definitely not lacking. Just ask sophomore libero Caroline Walters, who is currently ranked 6th in the West Coast Conference with 3.89 digs per game:

"I think (we can get to) at least the Elite Eight this year and hopefully the Final Four in the next two years." She added, "Four of us (sophomores) started last year and I think the possibilities are endless by the time we're seniors."

One of the sophomore standouts that Walters is referring to is setter Crystal Matich, who leads the WCC in service aces with 24 and is second in the conference in assists, averaging 13.15 per game.

Although Walters is excited about the promising youth on the team, she's quick to recognize her upperclassmen as important pieces to this year's squad:

"Cassie (Perret) has probably been our biggest contributor. I think with what she's been given, she's done an outstanding job."

Perret, a senior from nearby Menlo Park, became the first volleyball player in school history to be named National Player of the Week this year in her first season at the outside hitter position.

In addition, Perret was named to the Brown Invitational All-Tournament team last week and was voted as the West Coast Conference Player of the Week in early September.

She lived up to that reputation Tuesday night, with 14 kills in the win over San Jose State. Freshman phenom Brittany Lowe represented the wave of the future with 17 kills, topping Perret.

Lowe has been very impressive in her first 12 matches as a Bronco, averaging 3.15 kills and digs per game.

"Brittany Lowe, our freshman, has come in and given us a lot," said Wallace.

Other standouts on the team include junior outside hitter Kim McGiven, who leads the team with 4.64 kills per game, ranking second in the WCC.

Also, sophomore middle blocker Anna Cmaylo stunned San Jose State with 12 kills and a .688 hitting percentage on Tuesday night and was named the Brown Invitational Tournament MVP last week.

"Anna Cmaylo has started to up and contribute a lot more than she did last year and we've been looking to her to dominate the front row," Luxton said before Tuesday's game.

Cmaylo is coming into this weekend ranked fifth in the WCC for blocks per game with 1.39 and 4th in hitting percentage with a .370 average.

With numbers like that, WCC teams like LMU and Pepperdine will have their hands full.

"We just want to win conference," Wallace said.

"We feel that we have a group that can do it and we definitely wanna step up and take that challenge."

"I told the girls early, 'be proud of your goal.' Tell people and then back it up."

If the Broncos continue their winning ways, these women will have a lot to be proud of by the end of the season.