Aug. 12, 2009
The Santa Clara volleyball team, in search of its 12th straight NCAA Tournament bid, is ranked No. 20 in the preseason poll by Volleyball magazine. Penn State, the two-time defending champions, is ranked No. 1. The Nittany Lions have won their last 64 consecutive matches dating back to Sept. 15, 2007, an NCAA Division I record.
Santa Clara opens at home on Thurs., Sept. 10 vs. Arizona at 7 pm before playing No. 19 Utah on Sat., Sept. 12 at 7 pm.
Bronco head coach Jon Wallace (JW), in his 11th year on the Mission Campus, talked today about what he thinks about their ranking and their early-season competition, what a grind two-a-days can be and how much he enjoys working with his team this year.
SCU: Volleyball magazine has you ranked No. 20 preseason. You lost some key talent in three-time All-American Anna Cmaylo and a number of others. How does this ranking fit with where you think you are this year?
JW: I think it's great. It's always good to start out in the top 20 with volleyball being as strong as it right now on the college level. I am very happy to see that. There are some really good teams this year.
SCU: You have five matches against the poll's preseason top 20, including starting off with back-to-back matches vs. No. 10 UCLA and at No. 7 Hawaii. How will you get this young team ready for that type of schedule?
JW: Having a young, but very talented team this year I am very pleased with what I have seen in the first two days of practice. I am impressed with how we have gotten better with every session. The young kids have completely bought into what we are asking them to do; and the returnees came back in great shape. Their leadership has been tremendous. I am very confident that these girls will improve every day and we will be ready by the time we go to Hawaii on the 27th.
SCU: Because you have a young team it sounds like you are taking it day-by-day and practice-by-practice and not looking to August 28 on the calendar. You bring back a number of experienced returnees with the likes of Lindsy Davigeadono, Tanya Schmidt, Kim Courtney, Krista Kelley and Libby Morrison - with those type of players - you are really thinking about each day instead of what will happen in a month? Their leadership has to be helpful to you right now.
JW: Right now we are trying to figure out what will make us special and who will do it for us. Our philosophy here is we want people to chase us, we don't want to chase them. We are working hard to get everyone on board and headed in the same direction. We hope that direction will help us win a lot of matches.
SCU: What do you think your strength, two days in, is right now?
JW: Our competitiveness in the gym is great. Even the young kids coming in are competing very well and very hard in our scrimmages. They really light up the play and I am anticipating when we take the court, we will have a feisty energy about us.
SCU: Taking that competitive fire and feisty energy, what will it take to stay in the top 20 this season?
JW: I think execution. We are going to have to pass well, set well and attack well. We are going to have to play very sound defense. Physically we will be ok. Mentally we are going to have to concentrate and that will be critical for us. We need to find a system, buy into it and get real smooth.
SCU: Right now you are in two-a-days. Certainly that gets to be a grind for every team in the gym right now. What is your favorite part of the preseason?
JW: Double days are very tough and demanding. It's a good thing this coaching staff has a really good sense of humor that we share with the team. And they respond really well to that.
We are also taking a rafting trip this weekend to get out of the gym for a couple days. It's a great bonding experience because being in the river is refreshing and rejuvenating mentally and physically. We will need that after our first week.
Part of our sport is being mentally tough. Going through a month of tough practices is a grind. We tell them every day `this is hard, it's supposed to be hard'. But to win matches we have to go through this. To win matches maybe we aren't supposed to win, we need to be mentally tougher and this will help us get there.
SCU: Last question and thank you for your time. Santa Clara is on the quarter system so your first five or six weeks of practice are without classes because Santa Clara doesn't start the Fall quarter until Sept. 21. How does that work in your favor?
JW: It's huge. For them to come and only have to worry about getting better in volleyball in practice, watching film, spending time together - it's huge. Especially the young kids where there is so much to adjust to. They get a whole month to adjust to volleyball and then the second month they can start the adjustment to school and being away from home. It's a good easy introduction to their first four years of college.