Nov. 9, 2005
Santa Clara, Calif. - After a disappointing first-round exit at last year's NCAA Tournament, coupled with a third-place finish in the West Coast Conference, the Santa Clara women's volleyball team vowed that 2005 would be different. In a team meeting this past January, the Broncos aspired for more, on both a conference and national level, and used the spring to dedicate themselves in order to achieve those goals. In his seven years as head coach, Jon Wallace had never seen a team work as hard during the off-season as this year's squad. And thus far, all the sweat, tears, and floor burns have paid off for the Broncos.
This past weekend, Santa Clara (22-1, 11-0 WCC) clinched the West Coast Conference with a pair of victories over Portland and Gonzaga and moved into the Top 10 for the first time in program history. After not being recognized as one of the Top 25 squads in the country during the preseason, the Broncos have made a steady progression up the rankings and proven to their critics that they are ready to do some damage in 2005.
"Past players have established such a strong program here at Santa Clara and the fact that we were not ranked at the beginning of the season only made our team work even harder in practice," said junior outside hitter Kim McGiven. "It's really great to get some national recognition and respect in the polls because we have played so well this year and hopefully, it will translate to a great NCAA Tournament showing."
Santa Clara has been ranked as high as No. 11, previously accomplished on three occasions during the 2002 season and another time just one week ago. This milestone not only solidifies the Broncos as an emerging power on the national scene, but it also makes them a legitimate Final Four contender in 2005.
"It is pretty unbelievable," said sophomore libero Caroline Walters about the Broncos surge into the Top 10. "We worked so hard in the preseason and I think we definitely deserve it. I think all our hard work is paying off right now and so far we've been having a really great season and we hope the success continues."
The first opponent Santa Clara will face as a Top 10 team will be a familiar foe in No. 22 San Diego. The WCC rivalry among the two schools is one of the league's best match-ups and this Friday night at the Jenny Craig Pavilion will prove to be no different than in past battles. Currently sporting an overall record of 18-5 and a 7-4 conference record, the Toreros will be looking to gain some revenge after suffering a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Broncos earlier this season at the Leavey Center.
Junior middle blocker Christie Dawson is the leading attacker for San Diego, averaging 4.31 kills per game and hitting at a .359 clip. Sophomore Moira McCarthy is putting down 2.61 kills per game out of the middle, while sophomore Erin Wiskar is a threat on the left side, averaging 2.20 kills per game. All-American setter Lindsey Sherburne runs the offense to near perfection, dishing out 13.57 assists per game. The Toreros will be without the services of star junior Kristen Carlson, as the 6-1 outside hitter experienced a season-ending injury in the first match-up between the two rivals. At the time, Carlson was leading the WCC in both kills and points per game, though the Torero offense will still be a potent one when the Broncos travel down to San Diego for the 7 p.m. face off.
"I think San Diego is finally getting in a groove after losing Kristen Carlson. They recently beat Pepperdine, Gonzaga, and Portland fairly easily and I think they are very comfortable with their line-up," said Wallace. "I think Christie Dawson has really stepped up and become a real nice go-to player for them and carrying a majority of the load for them."