Oct. 13, 2005
Santa Clara, Calif. - Revenge will be on the minds of the 14th-ranked Santa Clara women's volleyball team as they take to the court against 15th-ranked San Diego in a key West Coast Conference meeting at 2 p.m. this Saturday. Last year, the Broncos (15-1, 4-0 WCC) were swept by the Toreros (14-2, 3-1) in both conference matches and head coach Jon Wallace believes that his group of players is determined not to let history repeat itself.
"Last year, we lost both matches to San Diego and we're motivated to play them again, not only for what's going on this year, but also because of what they did to us last year," said Wallace.
The Toreros graduated All-American Devon Forster, but returns enough ammunition to be considered one of the teams in the country. Leading the way for USD is returning All-American Lindsey Sherburne. The 5-9 setter is San Diego's career record holder in assists, with 5,257 assists to her credit, and needs only 475 more to break the WCC record held by former Santa Clara great Roz Pelayo.
"They have one of the best setters in the conference in Lindsey Sherburne. She really keeps them in system and sets a well-balanced attack," said Wallace about USD's All-American playmaker. "Sherburne has the ability to make some of her teammates look better than they really are, with her set location and decision making, keeping all five attackers in the game and ready at all times."
The Toreros count on two juniors, outside hitter Kristen Carlson and middle blocker Christie Dawson, for much of their offense. Carlson leads the WCC in kills (5.45) and points per game (5.87), while Dawson leads the team in hitting percentage (.393) and is second in kills per game (3.70). Sophomore middle blocker Moira McCarthy is also among San Diego's top attackers, averaging 2.69 kills per game while hitting at a .314 clip. Defensively, USD boasts one of the top liberos in the country in senior Jackie Bernardin, the two-time WCC Defender of the Year.
"San Diego is a really good team - very offensive, very athletic," said Wallace. "They've had big wins over [No. 13] Cal at Cal, they've beaten Long Beach State... so they definitely have the ability to play at a very high level. I think our girls are up to the challenge and we're very excited."
This weekend's date with San Diego is possibly Santa Clara's biggest match of the year and luckily for Wallace, he can rely on his team captains, senior Kristen Luxton and redshirt junior Kim McGiven, to make sure the team is fully prepared for the Torero attack. In fact, Wallace cites that the duo's leadership abilities on and off the court are one of the reasons why the Broncos are having one of their most successful seasons in school history. The personalities of Luxton and McGiven are as different as night and day, but the two contrasting styles benefit the team more than people realize.
"Kim is a lot more vocal and positive and always says great things. Kristen is a little bit quieter. She really thinks before she says something and when she does speak up, usually she's right on the money," said Wallace. "The girls had choices and voted for two captains this year. They wanted those two because they compliment each other well. It seems to be working very well."
"Kristen is really important to the team," said Wallace about his 5-11 setter. "She knows how to properly prepare for each match and knows what I expect out of the team. I think she keeps everybody in line. Our girls voted for her to be captain because they put a lot of value and trust in what she says."
Wallace declares that the Honolulu, Hawai'i native still has the ability to change the complexity of a match, giving the Broncos the extra edge that is necessary to pull out the victory.
"When she is in the match, she can definitely make plays for us. There were three particular matches where she came in and made a difference," said Wallace.
In Santa Clara's season opener against Sacramento State, the two teams were tied 25-25 in the second game when Luxton was inserted into the match and served five straight points, stabilizing the Bronco attack and leading them to victory. Against UC Irvine in the championship match of the Holiday Inn-Sunset Classic, Matich was having a difficult time connecting with her hitters. Luxton was substituted in during the second game and her season high 41 assists guided SCU to a four-game victory over the Anteaters. In a crucial WCC match against Pepperdine two weeks ago, Luxton's excellent back row defense and calm on-court demeanor was key in the four-game road win.
For McGiven, her contributions on the court have been more noticeable, as the 2004 First Team All-WCC selection leads Santa Clara in kills (221) and kills per game (4.42). The team looks to the 6-1 outside hitter to be their go-to player and she has not disappointed them yet. After setting a school record for the most kills in a four-game match (34) against UC Irvine, McGiven was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week (9/3). While known primarily for her offensive abilities, the Encinitas, Calif. native has excelled in other areas of the court, contributing to the ultimate success of the Broncos.
"Kim has been great for the team this year. On the court, she's been doing everything we've asked," said Wallace. "Her main priority is to be an attacker, second is to put up a big block for us, third is to be a leader, and fourth is to play backcourt defense. She's done a great job in all those areas for us. She's had a fabulous year for us."