Nov. 17, 2007
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - For the fifth time since 1977 and third time under head coach Jon Wallace, the Santa Clara volleyball team finished atop the West Coast Conference standings. The Broncos posted a 3-2 (30-27, 23-30, 25-30, 30-26, 18-16) victory over the Waves of Pepperdine Saturday afternoon to improve their WCC record to 11-3 and tie the No. 18 Toreros for first place in the league.
Although SCU and San Diego will share the conference title, the Broncos earn the WCC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament since they went 2-0 against the Toreros in regular season play. This will be Santa Clara's 10th consecutive postseason appearance.
"It's unbelievable," said junior outside hitter Brittany Lowe, who earns her second conference title with the Broncos. "A lot of us instantly started crying as the final whistle blew. We worked so hard today and all season long to get to this point. We just can't stop smiling."
Freshman Krista Kelley notched her fifth double-double of the season with a match-high 32 kills and 10 digs, while posting four total blocks. Lowe led the team with three service aces, while earning her 14th double-double of the year with 27 kills and 10 digs. Senior libero Caroline Walters led the match with a season-best 25 digs, while setter Crystal Matich collected 14 digs and dished out 57 assists. The triplet of Lauryn Dowd, Nichole Clark and Lindsy Evans led the match in blocks as they combined for 20.
The first game started out close as both teams fought to gain possession of the scoreboard. The Waves earned four-point lead over the Broncos, 15-11; before SCU began to rally back and knot the score 19-19 on a block assists from Matich and Dowd. Back-to-back Santa Clara kills from Dowd and Lowe, gave SCU a two-point edge, 22-20. The Broncos tired to distance themselves farther from the Waves, but a Bronco error and a kill from Julie Rubenstein gave the Waves a one-point lead, 25-24. Santa Clara tied the game again, 26-26, and a triplet of kills from Kelley gave the Broncos the jolt they needed to win the first game, 30-27.
Once again, the score was kept tight at the start of the second game, until a service ace from Rubenstein gave Pepperdine a 9-7 lead. Rachel Lumsen pushed the Waves lead to four points, 13-9, but the Broncos kept fight to tie the score and a solo block from Kelley brought SCU within one-point, 17-16. However, that was the closest Santa Clara would get as Pepperdine won game two, 30-23.
SCU started the third game with a 4-1 lead and, although Pepperdine tied the score, 7-7, held the advantage for most of the game. It wasn't until a kill from Kiah Fiers tied the score, 24-24, and a service ace from Lumsen gave the Waves enough momentum to take game three, 30-25.
The start of the fourth game was quite similar to the previous games, the Broncos and Waves battled to gain the edge. Santa Clara did begin the game with a 3-1 lead, but after a kill from Lowe tied the 18-18, the Broncos were able to break free. SCU produced a 5-1 run which started on a kill from Kim Courtney to make the score 26-21. Pepperdine was able to add on five more points, but a Waves error gave the Broncos game point and a kill from Kelley ended the fourth game, 30-26.
In the fifth and final game, Pepperdine was the first team to reach eight points, 8-7, on an attacking error by SCU. The Waves then earned an 11-9 lead over the Broncos, but a service ace from Lowe tied the score and forced the Waves to take a timeout. Returning from the short break, the two teams battled point-for-point and tied the score four times. A block from Kristen Seaton and Kayla Walker tied the score for the final time for the Waves, 16-16. A kill from Lowe brought SCU to match-point once again and a service ace from Dowd closed out the match, 18-16, in Santa Clara's favor.
For Pepperdine, Walker and Rubenstein registered 17 kills each, while Cassi Chamberlain added 14 kills and six total blocks.
Santa Clara will find out its first round opponent on Sunday, Nov. 25 when the NCAA announces the 2007 tournament field. Fans can watch the selection show on ESPNews at 5 p.m. PT.