December 11, 2005

SCU Volleyball Heading To Final Four

Dec. 11, 2005

By Dylan Hernandez
San Jose Mercury News

What was once a far-fetched dream has transformed into reality for the Santa Clara women's volleyball team.

The Broncos are in the Final Four.

SCU continued its unprecedented run in the NCAA tournament by overcoming the swift-swinging right arm of All-American Kim Glass in a breath-taking five-game victory over Arizona at Maples Pavilion on Saturday night, edging the Wildcats 22-30, 30-24, 30-26, 15-30 and 17-15.

That resilience earned the Broncos (27-4) a date with top-seeded Nebraska (32-1) on Thursday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. SCU is the first West Coast Conference team to reach the Final Four.

``This is exactly what I thought it would be,'' said Broncos libero Caroline Walters. ``But still, when it happened, I was in shock and I fell to my knees.''

In turn, Santa Clara students poured out of the stands and mobbed their team on the floor. The Broncos had never seen anything like this.

``Not for volleyball,'' said outside hitter Kim McGiven, who had a team-high 25 kills and shared the Palo Alto Regional's co-player of the tournament with Glass.

``I like this feeling,'' Santa Clara Coach Jon Wallace said. ``I've got to say, I can't believe it.''

That the Broncos won the biggest match in the history of their program at Maples seemed fitting. For years, they struggled to emerge from the shadow of neighbor and national power Stanford. It was in this very same venue that the Broncos earned their first victory over Stanford to win their first-ever match in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

But their four-game victory over Stanford was like a walk in the park compared with what the Broncos endured against Arizona, which they beat in four games at the Bronco Invitational in September.

In the decisive fifth game, they squandered a 4-0 lead, found themselves a point away from elimination at 14-13, but nonetheless pulled through.

``Just be aggressive,'' senior outside hitter Cassie Perret recalled thinking in the final game.

``Swing harder,'' McGiven told herself.

The game ended with Glass, of all players, spiking the ball into the net.

Glass was clearly the best player on the floor from the opening serve, making six kills and helping the Wildcats take Game 1 30-22.

Glass was even more dominant in the second game, as she had eight kills and hit .333. But her teammates were less spectacular, hitting .000 and committing eight errors. That allowed the Broncos to surge to a 13-7 lead that they were able to preserve.

Santa Clara outside hitters Brittany Lowe and McGiven came to life in the third game, as they had seven and six kills, respectively. Their output allowed the Broncos to withstand nine more kills by Glass.

The Broncos led the fourth game 6-4 and appeared ready to close out the match. But the Wildcats overtook them at 8-7 and turned the game into a rout.