Nov. 5, 2005
Spokane, Wash. - In a thrilling come-from-behind win, the No. 11 Santa Clara women's volleyball team snatched a five-game victory from Gonzaga tonight up in Spokane, Wash. With the win, coupled with Saint Mary's loss to Loyola Marymount earlier tonight, Santa Clara (22-1, 11-0 WCC) clinched its first West Coast Conference Championship since 2000. Game scores were 28-30, 26-30, 30-22, 30-26, and 15-10. In addition to winning the WCC crown, SCU has set another school record with its 15th consecutive victory, breaking the old record of 14 straight wins that was set during the 1993 season.
"We're excited to win conference," stated head coach Jon Wallace about his second WCC title in his seven-year career on the Mission Campus. "In a team meeting last January, we set it as a goal to win the WCC. I told the girls that I only wanted people who were willing to work hard and make the sacrifices in order to achieve our goals. It was the hardest spring we've ever had and now, it's paying off for us."
Leading the way for Santa Clara was junior outside hitter Kim McGiven, who finished with a match-high 23 kills on a .304 hitting percentage. Senior opposite Cassie Perret and freshman outside hitter Brittany Lowe combined for 33 kills, while sophomore middle blocker Annalisa Muratore chipped in 14 kills in the winning cause. On the defensive end, junior middle blocker Megan Pura notched six blocks and sophomore libero Caroline Walters had a match-high 21 digs. Walters' effect on the match extended beyond to just her excellent back-row play - her leadership abilities were evident tonight and a huge reason why the Broncos were able to triumph on the last leg of their Pacific Northwest swing.
"Caroline Walters' strong desire to win kept us in the match and she was the glue that really kept the team together," said Wallace. "She was vocal out on the court and really made sure our hitters stayed aggressive out there."
In games one and two, the Broncos were unable to generate much offense, as they hit .205 and .171, respectively, which enabled the Bulldogs to take a 2-0 lead heading into the locker room. Tough serving and excellent front-row defense by Gonzaga stymied Santa Clara and put the visitors in a position they had yet to face this season.
The third frame was a complete turnaround from the previous two, as Santa Clara's offense picked up steam, with the team hitting at a .381 clip. Behind early kills by McGiven and Perret, SCU built a 13-6 lead that it would never relinquish. SCU held a comfortable advantage over the Bulldogs for much of game three and a McGiven kill finished off the frame, closing the gap to two games to one.
After trading points back-and-forth in the opening stages of game four, Santa Clara managed to pull away on a 4-0 run to make it 11-7. Two kills by Lowe and a laser by Perret accounted for much of the offense during that key string of points. Gonzaga was not deterred and evened up the score at 16-16 after McGiven was blocked on an attack attempt. McGiven would more than make up for her error, however, as two kills by the outside hitter powered SCU to a 25-21 advantage and the Broncos never looked back. The match was tied up at two games apiece after a Megan Pura kill ended game four.
In the decisive fifth game, Santa Clara took a slim lead in the early going and continued to apply pressure on both ends of the court. Kills by McGiven and Muratore at crucial junctures of the game denied the Bulldogs any hopes of overtaking the Broncos. A kill by Perret ended the two-hour, two-minute marathon.
"We faced adversity tonight and give credit to Gonzaga - they came ready to play. We were down two games to nothing, and the girls said they wanted to win. That was the difference - we wanted to win more than they did," said Wallace. "Gonzaga still played really well in games three, four, and five, but we made the hustle plays and pulled out the victory."
With the conference crown all wrapped up and three remaining WCC contests remaining, the Broncos will attempt to pull off a perfect league record in the remaining two weeks. Next Friday, Santa Clara travels down to Southern California to face No. 22 San Diego. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.