With Cardinal Ousted, Broncos Aim for Final 4

Dec. 8, 2005

By John Crumpacker
The San Francisco Chronicle

In the giddy aftermath of his team's historic victory over Stanford, Santa Clara women's volleyball coach Jon Wallace used the words "wow" and "awesome" twice in short order.

Two days later, he was no less enthused about his Broncos' four-game triumph Saturday night over the Cardinal by scores of 23-30, 30-19, 30-27 and 31-29. Given that it was Santa Clara's first win over Stanford in 20 tries and came at Maples Pavilion in the NCAA playoffs, the man has a right to be fired up. His team certainly was.

"It's huge," he said Monday. "I'd say it was huge even if it's the regular season. Huge win. Huge.''

The win propelled the Broncos into college volleyball's Sweet 16 for the first time. In what is called the Palo Alto Regional even though it's technically in Stanford, Santa Clara will play West Coast Conference rival Pepperdine at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Maples, followed by Ohio State-Arizona at 7.

The winners meet Saturday night for the right to advance to the semifinals.

"Our team wanted to turn around and play Sunday afternoon after beating Stanford," Wallace said. "Bring it on.''

Focus is an overused word in sports but Wallace said his team was so intent on reaching its goals it didn't dwell on the fact this was defending NCAA champion Stanford it was playing -- on the Cardinal's home court, no less.

"By Game 4, we didn't care it was Stanford on the other side of the net," he said. "We just wanted to win. We're a pretty confident team this year.''

In the win over Stanford, junior outside hitter Kim McGiven had 19 kills, sophomore middle blocker Annalisa Muratore had 16 and sophomore middle blocker Anna Cmaylo 14. Sophomore libero Carolina Walters had 18 digs for the Broncos.

"I think what makes us the toughest to play is our balance," Wallace said. "All five of our attackers were in double-digit kills. We serve and pass really well and that allows us to be consistent. It's tough for teams to defend us. Defensively, we play a tenacious, aggressive style.''

Santa Clara defeated Pepperdine twice in the regular season, needing four games in Malibu and the minimum three at the Leavey Center.

"We know a lot about Pepperdine, being in our conference," Wallace said. "They are one of the most talented teams in our conference. They were both really tight matches. I've been here seven years and we've played them 14 times. Ten of them have gone five games. Epic battles. I would anticipate the same.''

Santa Clara's front-line team features one freshman, four sophomores, one junior and one senior. The freshman is outside hitter Brittany Lowe. "She plays like a seasoned veteran,'' Wallace said.

As defending NCAA champion, Stanford surely expected to be hosting the Round of 16 tournament. But another team wearing burgundy and white will take the court at Maples instead.

"We're calling it the Santa Clara North gym," Wallace joked. "This week is going to be interesting because we go into winter break. This week is finals and on Friday, a lot of the students go home. But we have a lot of community support. I've got to think we'll be the hometown favorite.''