Oct. 26, 2005
Santa Clara, Calif. - According the latest NCAA statistics released on Tuesday, No. 12 Santa Clara is ranked among the elite teams in the nation in several categories: assists per game (No. 3), hitting percentage (No. 5), kills per game (No. 5), and aces per game (No. 16), all reasons why SCU is currently 18-1 on the year and undefeated in the WCC with a 7-0 mark. However, there is another area of play that doesn't show up in the box score that has allowed the Broncos to have one of their best seasons in school history. Passing is one of the most fundamental skills in volleyball, but it is deceptively difficult to master. However, Santa Clara has proven thus far to be one of the best ball control teams in the country.
The art of passing often gets overlooked in favor of a thundering kill or a resounding block, though SCU head coach Jon Wallace is a firm believer that good ball control is essential to a team's long-term success.
"[Passing] is what puts you in rhythm and the more times you can stay in system, you'll hit for a higher hitting percentage and keep the other team off balance throughout the night," explained Wallace. "If you pass well, you aren't going to give up a string of points and that's critical in staying competitive in matches."
In 2004, passing was not one of Santa Clara's strengths, as the rotation would break down and become a liability during pressure situations. This season, the ball control has been stabilized due to the outstanding play of Cassie Perret, Caroline Walters and Brittany Lowe. The trio has consistently placed the ball in position for setter Crystal Matich to run an efficient offense and the Broncos are reaping the rewards, hitting an outstanding .321 on the season.
"Our ball control has gotten a lot better for a couple of reasons. One, Cassie and Caroline are tougher mentally. With a year of passing together, they are more confident," revealed Wallace. "And Brittany Lowe is naturally a good passer and she's fit in really well into the passing rotation. The passing has gotten better because those three have become really comfortable with each other."
Wallace is counting on the threesome to pass nails again this weekend, as Santa Clara hosts two key WCC matches this weekend. Pepperdine comes to the Bay Area on Friday, October 28 for a 5 p.m. start time, while Loyola Marymount visits the Leavey center for a 7 p.m. date. Tickets for both matches can be obtained by calling the SCU Ticket Office at (408) 554-4660 or by visiting www.SantaClaraBroncos.com.
Bronco Kidz members gain free admission into the Pepperdine match. And after the contest, stick around for a free autograph session with the 12th-ranked Santa Clara Broncos!
In the first meeting between the Waves and the Broncos, Lowe had a career night down in Malibu in leading her squad to a 3-1 victory, collecting career highs in both kills (24) and hitting percentage (.553). Pepperdine is coming off the weekend with two victories over Portland and Gonzaga, pushing its overall record to 12-8 and 5-2 in the league. As a perennially powerhouse on the national stage, the Waves are only four games above .500 this year and will have to turn in some impressive wins to even qualify for the NCAA Tournament, making them even more dangerous and hungry this upcoming Friday.
"They are going to bring their best game. I believe that they need to win this match to stay in the hunt for the league championship. If they beat us, they are only one game out," said Wallace. "They also need to beat us for their hopes of making it to the NCAA Tournament. They need some more wins and they need every opportunity to get into the tournament."
Leading the way for Pepperdine will be a pair of middle blockers, junior Sophia Milo and Lecca Roberts. Combined, they are producing 6.42 kills and 2.78 blocks per game. Freshman outside hitter Julie Rubenstein has also been impressive this season, totaling 4.16 kills and 1.06 blocks per game. However, the x-factor is really senior outside hitter Katy Daly, who had 19 kills against the Broncos earlier this season.
"In our first meeting with them, we felt we did an ok job on [Milo, Roberts, and Rubenstein], but Katy Daly had a really good night against us and we felt she was a big reason why they stayed in the match with us," said Wallace about the first match between the two teams.
Loyola Marymount also coming off of a pair of wins last weekend, defeating Gonzaga and Portland by identical 3-0 scores, boosting its overall record to 15-6 and 3-4 in the WCC. Sophomore Heather Hughes recorded a triple double in the victory over the Pilots with 27 assists, 12 kills and 10 digs. On the season, she is averaging 3.63 kills and 2.49 digs per game. In the middle, Dina Debarnardi is the squad's leading blocker at 1.18 per game, in addition to her 2.81 kills per game. Wallace feels that both players will be ones to watch out for, as they have the ability to take over a match at anytime. Outside hitter Christianna Reneau will be another threat to contain, as she is averaging 2.97 kills per game. The last time these two teams met, Santa Clara came away with a 3-1 triumph down in Los Angeles and while Loyola Marymount will be seeking revenge this time around, the visitors will also need a win to boost their chances for an invitation to the Big Dance in December.
"They are a team that is out of the league running, but they are on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. They need to beat a ranked opponent," said Wallace. "We told our girls that they are looking to get one win out of the weekend, from either San Diego or us. We feel like they are going to come here and be really hungry and really excited to play us."