Nov. 16, 2005
Santa Clara, Calif. - As the regular season wraps up for the No. 12 Santa Clara women's volleyball team, four seniors will have their last go around at the Leavey Center. Lexie Bothman, Rachel Greenberg, Kristen Luxton, and Cassie Perret will play their final regular season match on the Mission Campus this weekend when Santa Clara hosts Saint Mary's and San Francisco this Friday and Saturday. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
The foursome began their collegiate careers in the Fall of 2002 and has since maintained the standard of excellence that has become expected from the Santa Clara volleyball program. Together, they have amassed an impressive 84-30 overall record and helped the Broncos qualify for three straight postseason appearances, with a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament berth expected to come next week. In addition, the Class of 2005 brought Santa Clara its second West Coast Conference title since the 2000 season and also propelled SCU into the Top 10 for the first time in school history earlier this year.
"As a group, the four have contributed greatly to the Santa Clara volleyball program in their own way. They have been here when we just started becoming a perennial Top-25 team and it's been exciting for them to be a part of that building process," said assistant coach Dustin Moore.
Coming off of two consecutive road losses to No. 20 San Diego and No. 13 California, Santa Clara will need to gain some momentum heading into the postseason, which begins December 3. The West Coast Conference champions enter this weekend's showdown sporting an 11-1 league mark and hope to finish off the regular season with victories over Saint Mary's and San Francisco, not only boost their own self-confidence, but to also gain a favorable seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
"It is very important to have a strong showing against Saint Mary's and San Francisco. These are our final matches prior to the tournament and we need to get back on track. We need to come out and play like we know that we can," commented Moore.
The Gaels enter Friday's match-up with the Broncos sporting an overall record of 17-7 and a conference mark of 8-4. Last weekend, Saint Mary's hosted the schools from the Pacific Northwest and came away victorious, downing Gonzaga 3-0 Friday night and Portland 3-1 the following evening. Outside hitter Missie Stidham is one of the best all-around players in the league, leading the team in both kills (4.45) and digs (3.02) per game. Kaui Salzman and Cassandra Kolkka are also dangerous up at the net, averaging 3.81 and 2.61 kills per game. The Gaels are the WCC's top blocking team, averaging 3.87 kills per game and middle blocker Christina Kirk and Brittany Barker lead the league with 1.90 and 1.42 blocks per game, respectively. The last time these two teams squared off, the Broncos came away with an impressive 3-0 road victory earlier this season.
"I think Saint Mary's is a great blocking team. I expect a lot of fight and desire out of them," said Moore. "They need a win to get into the tournament and they are gunning for us. We beat them at their place and they want to return the favor."
The Dons come into Saturday's regular season finale with the Broncos owning a 17-11 overall mark and 4-8 conference record. Last weekend, San Francisco went 2-0 against the Pacific Northwest, sweeping Portland 3-0 and taking down Gonzaga 3-1. Senior middle blocker KeLicia Shorts had a career high 12 blocks, to go along with a match high 23 kills, in the five-game thriller against the Bulldogs. Shorts is one of the most effective players for the Dons up at the net, averaging 3.24 kills and 1.24 blocks per game, while hitting at a .372 clip. Pacing San Francisco in the kill category is sophomore Kristin Hasselberg, who has collected 457 kills thus far in the season and her 4.48 kills per game average is one of the WCC's highest this season. Libero Brynn Maurer ranks first in the conference in digs per game, with 5.16 on the year. The last time these two teams met, Santa Clara came out with a 3-1 victory at San Francisco.
"San Francisco is battling to win matches at the end of the year. We've got a bull's eye on our back because we won the conference," noted Moore. "Everyone wants to beat the conference champions and I expect nothing less than a tough match from San Francisco."