Dec. 10, 2005
Stanford, Calif. -- After Santa Clara's second round victory over local rival Stanford University last weekend, junior outside hitter Kim McGiven said that her team didn't come to play in the NCAA Tournament to make it past the second round; they came to play for a berth into the Final Four. And after tonight's thrilling 3-2 win over fourth-seeded Arizona, Santa Clara is dancing its way to San Antonio, Texas, the site of this year's Final Four.
"I can't believe it. It's just amazing. It's amazing how we played tonight. We played the game to win and we found a way," said Wallace after the 22-30, 30-24, 30-26, 15-30, and 17-15 triumph. "I can't say enough about the program at Santa Clara, the support we get from the administration, the crowd, our fan base was awesome today."
Leading the way for the Broncos was McGiven, who was named the Palo Alto Regional Co-MVP with Arizona's Kim Glass after hammering away 25 kills and picking up 15 digs in the process. Along with McGiven, three other Santa Clara players totaled 10 or more kills. Freshman outside hitter Brittany Lowe posted her 15th double double of the season with 11 kills and 14 digs, while sophomore middle blockers Annalisa Muratore and Anna Cmaylo had 10 kills each in the winning effort. Sophomore libero Caroline Walters led the way on defense, making incredible saves all over the court on her way to 20 digs, while senior opposite Cassie Perret added 18 saves of her own. Sophomore setter Crystal Matich directed the attack, handing out 54 assists and adding nine digs. Up at the net, Muratore recorded a team-high three blocks, while McGiven and Lowe had two blocks each. Although Arizona bested Santa Clara in almost every statistical category at the end of the night, head coach Jon Wallace said that what mattered the most was how hard his team fought for each and every point.
"If you look at the stats I think we lost in every category but we found a way to win, and I think in athletics that's the way you play the game," said Wallace. "You teach your girls to have some heart, work hard, be smart and never give up and that's what they did tonight."
This was the second time in 2005 that Santa Clara and Arizona faced off, with the Broncos winning both encounters. The victory caps off the most successful season in school history, as SCU had never been past the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 10 tries. The historical milestone is certainly not lost on the team and what it means to chart grounds that only a select few before have done.
"During the game you try not to think about [advancing to the Final Four], but still, you're in shock. It's the most amazing thing I've ever been a part of; tonight was one of the most amazing nights of my life," said Walters.
To start off the second frame, Santa Clara took the first three points behind a strong jump floater by Lowe and a solo block by McGiven maintained the three-point advantage at 6-3. A thundering back row kill extended the score to 8-4 and Rubio used a timeout to stop the momentum. Santa Clara took a six-point advantage after a mishandled ball by Dyck made it 13-7, but Arizona rallied behind the smart hitting of Glass and closed the gap to 13-10 before Wallace burned a timeout. The two teams traded points back and forth, though the Broncos forged ahead at 26-21 thanks to a series of Wildcat errors. SCU was able to reach game point after a Lowe ace and Perret and Muratore teamed up for a block to win game two 30-24.
After the eight-minute intermission, Perret got Santa Clara off to a great start, blasting the ball deep into the back row for a point. Rubio used an early timeout after his team fell behind early 5-2 and his team responded by going on a 6-3 run to tie it up at 8-8. McGiven immediately put her team back on top with a kill and a Matich ace gave SCU a slim cushion. The two squads traded blows back and forth until the Broncos took an 18-15 edge after a McGiven ace, forcing Rubio to use another timeout. Lowe was instrumental in extending her team's lead to 23-16 with her stellar play up at the net. Arizona closed the gap to 25-21 after a Ladd ace and Wallace wisely used a timeout to stop the opponent's momentum. The Broncos' head coach was forced to use his second and final timeout of the game after hitting errors by Cmaylo and Lowe brought the Wildcats to within two points at 28-26. However, Lowe gave her team a game point by slipping the ball through the double block on the subsequent play and sealed game three at 30-28 for SCU with another kill.
In the fourth game, Cmaylo and McGiven had two kills apiece to forge a tight 6-4 lead, but Arizona was able to grab its first lead of the match since game one at 8-7 and never looked back. The Wildcats raced ahead to an 18-9 advantage behind suffocating net defense and powerful hitting by Glass, forcing Wallace to use a timeout. Unfortunately for Santa Clara, Arizona cruised to victory the rest of the way and an Abernathy ace capped off the 30-15 game four victory.
In the fifth and final game, Santa Clara bolted to a 4-0 lead after two Perret kills and two Arizona errors, causing Rubio to call a timeout to stop the bleeding. The Wildcats were able to rally behind Abernathy's tough jump floater, but kills by Muratore and McGiven pushed the lead back up to 6-3. The Pac-10 runner-ups threatened once again after drawing to within 6-5, but a Cmaylo kill kept the two-point lead alive. The two teams traded points until Lowe blocked a back row attack by Glass, forcing Rubio to use his second and final timeout of the match at 10-7. However, Arizona used a 4-1 run to tie it up at 11-11 and the two teams traded blows back and forth until Santa Clara reached its second match point at 16-15 thanks to a McGiven blast on the left. A Glass attack error gave SCU the match and the Broncos officially their punched ticket to San Antonio.
In addition to McGiven's regional honors, Lowe, Matich, and Walters all earned a place on the all-tournament team, joining Arizona's Jennifer Abernathy and Ohio's Savanah Parra.
Santa Clara improves its overall record to 27-4, tying the most wins in a single season, and will take on No. 1 Nebraska (32-1) in the Final Four on Thursday, December 15 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Game time has not yet been determined.