Nov. 29, 2007
I can't believe it's already November 29th. It seems like it was yesterday that I was getting nearly sick to my stomach thinking about the impending double days and the physical tests that we would be required to make before we were able to play. Senior year is a crazy thing, and no matter what anyone says, you can't prepare for it. The emotional ups and downs that the season puts you through are arguably enough to make a person go insane. But now as I sit here the day before the first round of the NCAA tournament, everything is put into perspective a little more. The things we give up as student athletes are incomparable to the experiences that it brings us. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of four extremely different but amazing teams here at Santa Clara.
People often ask me which year has been my favorite, and it seems like an obvious answer to them. People expect me to say 2005, when we won WCC outright, beat Stanford for the first time in the history of playing them, and somehow found ourselves in the final four two weekends later. While that was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I will never forget how I felt the moment the ball landed on the University of Arizona's side of the net and the crowd came rushing onto the court, that wasn't my favorite year. In 2005 everything was in our favor, we had the WCC Player of the Year in Cassie Perret, two WCC Freshman of the Year in Annalisa Muratore and Brittany Lowe and a timid sophomore named Anna Cmaylo, who decided that this year she wasn't going to be scared anymore and if you weren't careful, she might knock your head off with one of her slides (sorry Brittney Leonard). While we were not expected to beat
Stanford and Arizona by any means, we had the physical weapons to do so. This year has been a little bit different to say the least, had things gone right we would have 3 freshman of the year on the court (the other two plus Krista Kelly), and probably co-players of the year in Anna and Crystal. However, as we have learned, things don't always go your way and you are forced to adapt. The beginning of the year was rough to say the least, we couldn't find a rhythm and were getting frustrated with each loss that was added to our record. When conference began, something special happened, I don't know what it was but this team began to play with heart. Going into our matches against St. Mary's, Pepperdine and LMU we were seated at the top of the WCC and looked like the favorite to win. However, we had a few minor hiccups along the way that prevented that from happening. Some could say that it was a very frustrating spot to be in, perhaps had we won the matches against LMU and St. Mary's, the committee wouldn't have been able to place us against the number one overall team in the tournament.
I'm not frustrated or angry in the slightest that we are in this position now, I am ecstatic that I get to play in my fourth consecutive NCAA tournament. Pepperdine had the opportunity to win the match on two separate occasions a week ago, and had they done so we most likely wouldn't have seen our name be called on Selection Sunday. Two separate times I saw the end of my collegiate career pass by, two separate times I thought I would never wear a Bronco uniform again. And just when I thought our luck had run out, the heart came back and we found a way to come from behind and win the match.
My favorite year to be a Bronco is this one, and although we may not have had the same success as 2005, I can undoubtedly say that we have more heart. Tomorrow night's match is going to be one with many obstacles, but I can assure one thing, these Broncos aren't going to give up.
Caro da Libero
Posted: Nov. 7, 2007
I apologize again for my tardiness in posting this blog...things on the Mission Campus have been very hectic, but at the same time very fun. Hopefully I am not jinxing the team by writing this blog now because since the last entry we have gone undefeated and gained sole possession of first place in WCC. Our matches against LMU and Pepperdine were exciting as always. We then traveled to Gonzaga and Portland and were able to watch the soccer girls play against Gonzaga while they returned the favor and came to our match that night. We pulled off two big wins while in the Pacific Northwest and started building the confidence needed to stay focused in order to have a successful second half of league play. Within the first five points of our match against Gonzaga I found myself disagreeing with a net violation call that the ref called against our team, and I let her know about it and found myself rewarded with a yellow card. Flash forward to the last three points of the match and my emotions are flying high because I know this is the last time Crystal and I will ever play against the Zags, so I bring the team to the middle of the court and say, "These are Crystal and my last 3 points against Gonzaga ever, lets kick..." at this point I notice the entire gym is quiet and Barb (the ref who gave me my earlier yellow) is staring right at me. So instead of using my choice words which would have involved kicking the you know what out of them and most likely getting another yellow card and being kicked out of the game, I stumble on my words and the only thing that comes out is "lets kick them in the head." Needless to say I am definitely getting made fun of on a daily basis but it has also become a new tradition to say when there are 3 points left in every match.
When we returned to Santa Clara the campus was buzzing with Halloween and we were able to dress up and celebrate on Saturday night due to a clutch earlier plane flight found by our dearest Matty Lou. One reason that I love going to school so close to home is that I am able to go home for holidays and watch not only my younger brother, sister and step-brothers play sports and grow up, but I am also able to see my extended family on a regular basis. Seeing all of my younger cousins dressed up for Halloween and carving pumpkins with them is something I look forward to each fall.
This past week was one of the more memorable weeks of my volleyball career. Thursday night we played against the only team that has beaten us in conference this year, San Francisco. They were fresh off an upset of No. 15 San Diego and came ready for a battle. After a tough match and a very ugly second game loss, we were able to avenge our loss and beat the Dons.
Saturday was a day I will never forget in my entire life; walking into the Leavey Center for my last ever game day was extremely bittersweet. Knowing all that Crystal, Anna and I have been through the past four years, it is extremely hard to say goodbye to Leavey. Whether they are memories of Dusty warm-ups, loud AC/DC music to set the atmosphere for a rowdy crowd, jumping rope for hours or game days all of them will be missed. After our final pre-game warm-up Crystal and I were joined by our families at the end line and watched a slideshow of pictures from our youth and careers at Santa Clara; while I was sad that it was my final game day, the thing that was most upsetting was that our classmate Anna was not there to close this chapter of our lives with us. My entire extended family on both my mom and dad's sides were in attendance for my final match in Leavey. My dad and his family were up in the "Lux Box" right next the Schatzman USD fan box and my Uncle Wally was louder than ever before. My mom's family sat down near the court and were all wearing Bronco red bandannas on their heads, even little Hopie. Once the game began, it was easy for me to get into game mode and forget that it was the last time I would be playing on that floor. I would also like to say that it was easy for me to forget how close I was to breaking the career digs record but I think Ginger Matich did a pretty good job at keeping the entire gym informed on my progress.
I am so proud of the way our team played the entire match, and came back from 5 point deficits to beat San Diego in both games one and four. While breaking the record is definitely something I am happy about doing, I am more excited that we were able beat the Toreros. After the game we had a huge barbeque out in Alumni Park with Chef Junior on the BBQ. It was a great way to close out my final match at Santa Clara. On a day of lasts for Crystal and me it was awesome to be able to do something for the first time: going 2-0 against San Diego in Conference.
Caro da Libero
Posted: Oct. 17, 2007
First of all, I want to apologize for the late blog entry this week; we are in the fourth week of school and since we are nearly half way through the quarter that can only mean one thing: midterms. It is funny to look around in the training room and see how many athletes are now reading their biology book or going through notecards as opposed to the common sports illustrated. There are some of us on the team who are late night studiers, like myself staying up into the early morning making sure we have crammed our brains to their limits, and then there are some like Michelle Luxton who would rather get up at the same time I am going to sleep. Whatever the case, it is good to see that we are all putting the time and effort in to make sure we are getting it done in the classroom.
Volleyball has been quite an up and down wave these past two weeks. We were able to get a HUGE win against conference favorite San Diego last Thursday. Props to Lindsy Evans for some key blocks at the end of the match and Taylor O'Brien for some awesome digs that allowed us to win in the fourth game, and not enabling San Diego to force us into a game 5, which is always tough on the road. Next up were the Dons from San Francisco; unfortunately, they played fairly we did not come to play and were handed our first loss of conference play. On Tuesday, we traveled to Sacramento to play Sac State. Lindsy Evans and Krista Kelley were out for the match with injuries and without two of our biggest offensive threats we were unable to convert on plays and lost for the second straight match. Friday night we played the Gaels of St. Marys, one of our biggest WCC rivals. We played very well and were able to come away with a 3-0 sweep. Every win in conference is extremely important, especially now that we are tied for 1st with Pepperdine and San Diego.
After our match against St. Marys, we had both Saturday and Sunday off, which is a very rare thing during season. Each of us took advantage of this break in different ways; the rest and relaxation that the two days away from volleyball provided was needed and very much appreciated. This week is huge for us, we play Pepperdine and LMU and are hoping to go beat both of them en route to a conference championship. Pepperdine has some very tall and powerful hitters and the key to Thursday night's match will be defense: both blocking and digging. The match will be televised on ESPNu for those who are unable to attend. LMU typically plays tenacious defense and the way to winning our second match of the week will be dominating the serve and pass game as well as being patient on both offense and defense. Saturday's game is the Dig For the Cure game. For the past two weeks we have been collecting lump sum donations as well as a per dig donation. This cause is extremely important to me, especially because last year someone very close to me was diagnosed with breast cancer. Hopefully we'll have a huge defensive game against LMU and be able to turn in a hefty check to the Susan G. Komen foundation.
Tonight we are having a pre-game team dinner at Nichole Clark's house near campus, and right across the street from the fire department which she and Nina frequent a few times a week. After dinner we are going to go through Benson to promote our weekends matches on our way to the Women's soccer game against UCSB. We love going to support both the Women's soccer team and Womens basketball teams because they are huge supporters of our team and are our close friends. This is a huge week not only for our team but for all of Broncos sports! I hope to see you all out there at one of the matches this weekend!
Caro da Libero
Posted: Oct. 4, 2007
After all is said and done, the most important part of a season lies right in the middle: Conference. No matter how poorly or well a team has done up to this point in the season, everything can change come conference time. The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and all of the rest are left to fight it out for the one or maybe two possible at large bids. Playing in each of the different gyms for the last time will be a bittersweet moment for both Crystal and me. I bet each of us, and Anna included, could give a detailed description of any conference game from our first freshman match to today. Each of the matches in conference is just that much more important than any other; teams want revenge from the previous year or even two years back.
That being said, we are extremely happy to be 2-0 after our matches versus Gonzaga and Portland. I think the Saturday win was due largely in part to the amazing dinner hosted by the Sevastopoulos Family at their beautiful home in Saratoga. Chef Junior was on the barbeque cooking his famous skirt steak and chicken. After dinner we were treated to a special performance by their family friend Sargon, who played guitar and sang songs ranging from Johnny Cash to Enrique Iglesias, as well as a few of his own (which Lindsy's little sister loved)!
We played fairly consistently last weekend and are very excited about our upcoming match against the defending conference champions, San Diego. We had a great few days of practice, although we encountered a few injuries along the way; Nina has some torn ligaments in her hand due to Dusty's extremely hard hits on the box, he never takes any plays off. She will be in a cast for a few weeks but she has plenty of hurt buddies on the sideline to take care of her. Injuries are something that every team has to deal with at some point of the year or another. Although we have had our fair share of injuries already, we are grateful that we aren't as hurt as the soccer team who only has two able bodied substitutions, I think we still have four. (Knock on wood)
We have thoroughly enjoyed our two and a half weeks at home but I think we are all excited to get away from the distractions of school and friends and solely focus on playing volleyball. San Diego has consistently been one of the top schools in the WCC the past few years, and our rivalry with them is huge. Usually we play them at their gym later in the season when the league's frontrunners have been predetermined and the winner of the match would be the eventual WCC champion. They won the conference my freshman year, followed by us winning the next year and San Diego taking it again last year. Hopefully we will come out to play tomorrow night and will be able to take an early lead in conference, giving this team the confidence it needs to catapult us into the rest of the season. I know that Crystal and I would like nothing more than to make our last game in the Jenny Craig Pavilion a memorable one.
-Caro da Libero
Posted: September 21
Wow, pretty tough weekend for the Bronco volleyballers. We lost three matches at home, in a row. That is something that has not happened since I've been here and probably has not happened in Santa Clara history.
The last two matches of the weekend against UCSB and Notre Dame were both extremely close battles. Each match came down to the last two or three points and the win could have gone to either team. The closeness of these games provides a false mindset that they are easier losses to accept when compared to the thrashing that Cal placed on us Friday night. However, I believe that these losses are the toughest to deal with. Each of us players constantly thinks about one or two plays that we personally could have made that may have changed the outcome of the match.
On top of our losses this weekend... more bad news, school started on Monday. Over the past month and a half we have been so accustomed to only being athletes, now we must transition into the title of student-athletes for the remainder of the year. Each of us has a completely different schedule as well as different workloads; the freshmen are getting used to the feel of a collegiate classroom as well as one of their new favorite places: study hall. On the other hand, I am finishing up my last classes to complete my accounting major and trying to get through three two hour classes in a row.
We have another huge weekend coming up; one that can definitely be the turning point in our season. San Jose State is always a tough opponent with whom we have a very strong rivalry. On Sunday, we will face the UNLV Running Rebels, a team that is having a fantastic start and beating many teams ranked in the top 25. Two wins this weekend could definitely help us when the time rolls around for the selection committee to decide which teams are worthy of a bid to the NCAA tournament.
On Tuesday night all athletes attended a welcome back/rules meeting in Leavey. Many different people spoke and their messages were extremely meaningful. Most meaningful was the first action taken by our new basketball coach, Coach Keating. He ordered every athlete to their feet and explained that when he said "losing" we would all respond "sucks!" At the end of our three chants, I wanted to play a match that very second and vow that we are going to everything possible not to lose again on the Leavey floor.
-Caro da Libero
Posted: September 13
Home Sweet Home
After what has seemed like months on the road, it is finally here, our first home game. Nothing is more exciting than putting on our white home jerseys (black for me), and stepping onto the court in front of our amazing fans. Traveling from Boise, Idaho to Gainesville, Fla., and then one day later to Honolulu, Hawaii, we are very thankful to be able to sleep in our own beds the night before a game, as well as not having to deal with a three-hour time change.
Our away tournaments have gone fairly well up to this point in the season. In our first tournament of the year in Idaho, we came out firing on all cylinders. We had huge performances from Lindsy Evans (tournament MVP) and Crystal Matich (All-Tournament Team), as well as what seemed like veteran performances from both of our freshmen. Our tournament in Florida was an experience that all of us will remember. After victories over North Caroline State and Georgia Southern it was time to take on the then-No. 6 Florida Gators. Our team was extremely excited for the game, and the Florida fans created an environment unlike any I have ever seen. The home team's introductions were comparable to an NBA game, and the atmosphere was electrifying. Unfortunately, we did not play as well as expected and the Gators handed us our first loss of the season.
After only one night in our beds we were off to Honolulu. We were greeted in the airport by Michelle Luxton's parents, Pom and Bruce who had beautiful leis for each of us. From the airport we went directly to the Stan Sheriff Center for our first practice of the week; it didn't go as smoothly as planned probably due to the fact that we had the beach in the back of our minds. After practice we were able to cure that distraction by spending time in the ocean and walking around Waikiki. Later that night we were treated to a delicious dinner with a fantastic view of the sunset at the Hawaii Yacht Club, compliments of Nichole Clark's grandpa, Ron.
The next morning we had an intense practice and afterwards we were rewarded with surfing lessons. People watching our team try to get up on two-foot waves would have been surprised to learn that we were athletes. Of course there were the fast learners; for example, Crystal who decided after her first push from the instructor that she was above the learning phase and was going to catch all of her own waves for the rest of the hour. There were also some, who will remain anonymous, that had a tough time getting up on the board that was so long and stable that you could stand on it without a wave at all. After a very generous dinner at the Luxton's home, complete with a sushi chef, it was time to get ready for the weekends matches.
We faced the Wichita State Shockers in our first match of the tournament; they were extremely athletic and well coached and we lost in three. The next day we bounced back against Eastern Washington with a three game sweep. After that, all of our focus was on Hawaii, the 16th ranked team in the nation. The fans were rowdy and ready for an intense battle, as were both teams. The Broncos got an early lead in game one and carried it all the way through for a very close victory. However, the Wahine turned it up a notch in game two and we did not play as well as we could, resulting in a loss. Games three and four were nail biters, both teams siding out almost every chance and going point for point. Despite heroic defensive plays from Britney Lowe and some powerful kills from Nina Sevastopoulos, Hawaii won games three and four taking the match and giving us our third loss of the season. Our final preseason road trip ended with a spectacular beachside brunch buffet at the Outrigger Canoe Club.
We've been put through many different scenarios on the road, and have passed and failed many challenges on the court. With All-American hitter Anna Cmaylo out for the year with a shoulder injury, a ton of pressure is being put on our younger girls to provide us with hitting power and they have stepped up to the challenge. It is now time to define the way we will play on our home court in front of our friends, family and fans. Tonight we play the UC Davis Aggies in our first home match of the season. Friday night we will be hosting a tournament including: Notre Dame, Cal, and Santa Barbara, three schools with extremely successful volleyball programs. I cannot explain in words the pride each of us feels while putting on our jerseys, jumping up and hitting the WCC Champions sign above the door in our locker room and running onto the floor minutes prior to the first serve, hopefully it will be apparent in our play.
-Caro da Libero