November 30, 2006

No. 21 Santa Clara Begins Volleyball Postseason Saturday

Nov. 30, 2006

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - This Saturday afternoon, the No. 21 Santa Clara volleyball team will put on its dancing shoes for the ninth consecutive year, hoping that another enthralling run to the Final Four is in the cards as the team opens up the NCAA Tournament against the Missouri Tigers at 4:30 p.m. at Stanford's Maples Pavilion. Due to inclement weather in the Midwest hampering travel, the first and second-round matches, originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights, have been pushed back to Saturday and Sunday, it was announced on Thursday.

Should the Broncos advance to Sunday's second round, they would face the winner of Saturday night's first-round contest between No. 2 Stanford and Sacramento State.

The Broncos (20-7) are led into tournament play by All-WCC honorees Anna Cmaylo and Kim McGiven, who each earned a spot on the first team, the second straight year for Cmaylo and third in a row for McGiven. Libero Caroline Walters was named All-WCC Honorable Mention for the third consecutive season while setter/opposite hitter Lindsy Evans represented SCU on the All-Freshman team.

Cmaylo leads the WCC with a .407 hitting percentage, which is also the 10th-best total in the nation. Her 3.83 kills and 1.14 blocks a game are also seventh and eighth, respectively, in the WCC. McGiven's 4.30 kills rank third in the conference, while Walters' 4.35 digs are currently fourth-best. Evans combined with setter Crystal Matich to dish out a team average of 15.27 assists per game, second-best in the WCC and 23rd in the nation.

Santa Clara has faced all four teams in its sub-regional once already this season, defeating Missouri and Sacramento State while dropping the contest to Stanford. For the second year in a row, the Broncos will begin first- and second-round play at Maples Pavilion, where they are 5-2 overall in postseason play, including four straight wins last year on the way to the program's first-ever appearance in the Final Four.

The team emerging victorious from this weekend's action will then travel to regional action in Austin, Texas.

The Missouri Tigers (17-12) come out to the West Coast after finishing sixth in the highly-competitive Big 12 Conference with an 11-9 record. The Tigers, who spent time early in the season ranked in the AVCA Top 25 poll, hold wins over such 2006 ranked teams as Notre Dame and Texas under their belts, and are led by the attack of Nicole Wilson (.329 pct., 3.43 kills a game) and Jessica Vander Kooi (4.11 kills per game) as well as the back row play of libero Tatum Ailes (4.85 digs per game).

The Broncos and Tigers met for the first time ever on Sept. 8 of this season, at the Time Warner Texas Invitational in Austin, Texas. Santa Clara, after dropping the first game, came back to win the next three for a 3-1 (24-30, 30-18, 30-20, 30-24) win over the then-No. 15 Tigers.

The No. 2 Stanford Cardinal (25-3), also seeded second in the NCAA Tournament, enters the postseason having captured its first outright Pacific-10 Conference title with a 3-0 sweep of Washington State last Saturday. Stanford is led by middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo (.431 hitting pct., 3.76 kpg, 1.49 bpg), outside hitters Cynthia Barboza (4.31 kpg) and Kristin Richards (3.76 kpg), and setter Bryn Kehoe (13.11 apg).

The Cardinal holds a 20-1 all-time record over the Broncos, including a 3-0 sweep in the last meeting between the teams, on Sept. 14 at Maples Pavilion. Santa Clara's lone win in the series came in last year's NCAA Tournament second round, when the Broncos shocked the defending national champion Cardinal 3-1 at Maples Pavilion.

The Sacramento State Hornets (30-5) will make their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 10 years after winning the program's fifth-straight Big Sky Conference Tournament title. The Hornets also completed the double-sweep of winning the regular-season and tournament titles for the second year in a row. Sacramento State is led by the play of outside hitter Atlee Hubbard (4.04 kpg) and Michelle Franz (1.83 bpg) and Lindsay Haupt 3.09 kpg, 1.48 bpg). Franz' blocks per game total is tied for fourth in the nation.

The Broncos hold a 14-9 edge in the all-time series with the Hornets, including a 3-1 win in last year's NCAA Tournament First Round, and a 3-0 sweep of the Hornets earlier this season, on Sept. 19 at the Leavey Center.