Nov. 27, 2005
Santa Clara, Calif. - After capturing the West Coast Conference title and finishing the 2005 season with a stellar record of 23-4, the Santa Clara women's volleyball team has its eye on a much bigger prize: a trip to San Antonio, Texas, the site of this year's Final Four. In order to accomplish that goal, the Broncos, ranked No. 15 in the country, begin their journey on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. where they are slated to face Sacramento State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this weekend. The winner will play either host and No. 5 seed Stanford or Nevada in the second round at Maples Pavilion. Game times will be announced at a later date. The top-four seeds of the tournament are Nebraska, Penn State, Washington, and Arizona.
"I'm excited. I am happy we are playing close by and we'll have some fans at the game," said team captain Kim McGiven on Santa Clara's draw in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. "I think Sacramento State will be a good match-up and it will be a great game. Our team has a lot of confidence going into the match."
Santa Clara has reason to feel confident heading into the pivotal match-up with Sacramento State. In their first match of the 2005 season, the Broncos took a 3-0 road win from the Hornets, with McGiven tallying a double double of 18 kills and 14 digs and middle blocker Anna Cmaylo producing 11 kills and four blocks. The duo will be counted on again to lead the squad to victory, as McGiven is the team's most feared attacker, putting down 4.15 balls a game, while Cmaylo is an all-around threat up at the net, notching 3.24 kills and 1.25 blocks per game. Both players earned All-WCC First Team honors at the conclusion of the season.
Sacramento State will also have to watch out for opposite Cassie Perret, who was recently crowned the WCC Player of the Year and outside hitter Brittany Lowe, who was named WCC Freshman of the Year. Perret is averaging 3.34 kills and 2.14 digs per game, while hitting at .373 clip, one of the best in the country. Lowe has been a consistent performer for SCU this year, averaging 3.47 kills and 3.13 digs per game. She also has recorded a team leading 12 double doubles on the year. Setter Crystal Matich is the director of the Santa Clara offense, guiding the team to a hitting percentage of .287 and has dished out 13.84 assists per game.
With such a diverse offense and many players contributing out on the court, it's no wonder that the Broncos have experienced tremendous success this year. Head coach Jon Wallace points to his team captains, McGiven and Kristen Luxton, for spearheading the team's leadership department and keeping the team focused throughout the season. Come this weekend, it will be up to the duo to make sure the team is ready to battle, especially with so much at stake.
"I just go back to our leadership. Our girls eight months ago set a goal that we would win the conference and they worked extremely hard to accomplish that goal and they did," said Wallace. "We are going to look to our leadership heading into the tournament. We'll set a goal as to how we want to play, what our expectations are, and I believe they are going to come full force in order to accomplish their goals."
Luxton added that it helps to lead a team when everyone has the same goal in mind.
"I think our team has been pretty dedicated to winning this year," said Luxton. "I think as a whole, everyone is determined to push through and I think that's what makes us special: we are determined to win no matter what."
While the Hornets are a familiar opponent, they will not go down easily, by any stretch of the imagination. Qualifying for the Big Dance by winning the Big Sky Tournament Championship, Sacramento State recently had its 16-match winning streak snapped by Ohio University on Saturday, dropping a 3-0 decision and capping off its regular season record at 26-8. Five players have at least 2.00 kills per game, lead by outside hitter Atlee Hubbard, who is averaging 3.74 kills per game. On the defensive end, libero Kristin Lutes is digging up 5.68 balls per game, while middle blocker Lindsay Haupt is rejecting 1.54 attacks per game.
"They are a very good team and they've been on a great winning streak," commented Wallace on his team's first-round opponent. "I think it is a good match-up for us in the sense that with their style of play and our power game, hopefully our power game will lead us to victory."
For tickets to this weekend's NCAA matches, please contact the Stanford ticket office at 1-800-STANFORD.