Aug. 24, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - After the Cinderella run to the Final Four last season, the No. 6 Santa Clara University women's volleyball team sets out this Friday night to make the 2006 season a worthy sequel to the success of 2005. The Broncos get it all started at the Fresno State Invitational as they begin a three-game weekend with a 6 p.m. match Friday night against the Pacific Tigers.
"Without a doubt we are very excited to play our first match," said head coach Jon Wallace, Volleyball magazine's 2005 National Coach of the Year. "The girls want to go out and prove themselves again, and that's exciting to see."
The volleyball action continues Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. when Santa Clara faces off against another ranked school in No. 25 Kansas State before closing out the opening weekend against host Fresno State Sunday at 1 p.m. Sunday's match can be followed live on Gametracker.
Santa Clara returns six of its seven starters from last year's squad which went 27-5, captured the West Coast Conference title and became the first WCC team to ever reach the Final Four. 2005 All-WCC First Team outside hitters Kim McGiven (4.12 kpg, 2.27 dpg) and Brittany Lowe (3.39 kpg, 3.09 dpg) pace a Bronco attack that is quarterbacked by All-America setter Crystal Matich, whose 13.92 assists per game ranked fourth in the nation last season. Behind Matich's deft setting, the SCU attack also hit a combined .285 in 2005, the second-highest single-season mark in WCC history, behind only LMU's mark of .297 in 1995.
In the middle, the trio of All-American Anna Cmaylo, Megan Pura and Annalisa Muratore offer an intimidating wall to opposing attacks. Cmaylo led the squad last year with 1.14 blocks a game and her .356 hitting percentage was second on the squad, behind only Muratore's mark of .364. Muratore managed to notch 2.78 kills and 0.89 blocks a game while battling injuries, while Pura broke out with a career-high 1.03 blocks per game and 99 kills, as the Broncos went 22-2 when she was in the starting lineup.
Additionally, libero Caroline Walters (4.49 dpg) solidifies the SCU defense from the back row.
Pacific returns six letter-winners and four starters from a 2005 squad that finished 16-14 overall (8-6 Big West). First-year head coach Charlie Wade will benefit from the services of All-Big West performers Allison Ianni, Kara Uhl, and libero Julie Magud. The Tigers were also selected to finish fourth in the Big West in a preseason poll.
Following this weekend's action, the Broncos will head to South Bend, Ind. to face off with Valparaiso and No. 21 Notre Dame.