Dec. 15, 2005
San Antonio, Texas - The most successful season in program history ended tonight for the 11th-ranked Santa Clara women's volleyball team. On the biggest stage of the collegiate volleyball world, Santa Clara dropped a 3-0 decision to top-ranked Nebraska, 30-24, 30-19, and 30-21 in front of 7,931 in San Antonio's Alamodome.
In their first national championship semi-final appearance in 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Broncos committed 27 hitting errors, which proved to be too much to overcome a squad that featured three First Team All-Americans and the top-blocking squad in the country.
Cassie Perret, Santa Clara's own First Team All-American, completed her senior season on the Mission Campus with nine kills on a .318 hitting percentage. Sophomore middle blocker Anna Cmaylo, who was recently named a Third Team All-American, led the West Coast Conference Champions with 10 kills, while outside hitters Kim McGiven and Brittany Lowe added nine kills apiece. Fellow Third Team All-American setter Crystal Matich handed out 35 assists and four digs. On defense, libero Caroline Walters finished with 12 digs, while McGiven added a solo block in the losing effort.
The Cornhuskers started off the match stringing together four consecutive points before middle blocker Annalisa Muratore got the Broncos on the board with a kill out of the middle. Nebraska continued to push the pace of the game, building a 7-1 lead after a middle blocker Melissa Elmer put down a kill out of the middle. However, Santa Clara rallied to come to within 8-9 behind a diverse attack, receiving kills out of the middle and on the left side. The Big 12 Champions immediately went on a 4-0 run to secure an 8-13 advantage. SCU would battle back to come within one point at 19-20 thanks to strong hitting from Cmaylo and Perret. The Cornhuskers were able to withstand the Bronco rally, running away with the game after outscoring the Broncos 10-4 the rest of the way, winning the opening frame 30-24.
Nebraska once again bolted out to a lead in the second game before Lowe put down the ball from the right side to make the score 1-3. The Cornhuskers took a 7-3 edge after behind kills from Elmer, but the Broncos wouldn't back down from a challenge, closing the gap to 7-8 after a back-row kills from McGiven. On the following two plays, kills from middle blocker Tracy Stalls gave Nebraska some breathing room and it was never threatened again, using a varied offense to build a lead as high as 11 points. Santa Clara dropped game two 30-19 after a Kristen Luxton service error.
After the eight-minute intermission, Santa Clara took its first lead of the match after Perret tapped down a kill to make it 1-0. The lead was extended to two points after a Perret ace made it 4-2, though Nebraska battled back to take the lead at 5-4 after a back-row hitting error by Lowe. The Broncos threatened again behind two kills from McGiven to come within 7-8, but the Cornhuskers continued to run an efficient offense that enabled them to build a 15-10 lead. The pressure continued to be applied by Nebraska, and its mix of tough defense and potent offense enabled them to cruise the rest of the game, winning it 30- 21.
Santa Clara concluded its amazing season with an overall record of 27-5, tying the 2000 team with the best single season record in school history. The Broncos also hold the distinction as the only unseeded team to qualify for the national semi-finals in 25 years of NCAA history. While Santa Clara loses Lexie Bothman, Rachel Greenberg, Luxton, and Perret, five starters along with its libero will return in 2006, setting up future success for the SCU volleyball program.