Santa Clara, Calif. - The Santa Clara volleyball team will open its 2010 season vs. No. 20 Oregon on Fri., Aug. 27 at 5 pm at the Fresno State Classic in Fresno, Calif. The Broncos are looking for its 12th NCAA Tournament bid in 13 seasons. Follow the action here.
Santa Clara is 8-3 in season openers under 12th-year head coach Jon Wallace, including last year's 3-0 loss to No. 9 UCLA at the Hawaii Tournament. Oregon is 5-0 in season openers under sixth-year head coach Jim Moore.
Santa Clara is 4-7-1 vs. Oregon all-time. The Broncos won their last meeting 3-1 in 1997 and the other 11 meetings came from 1979-1986.
Santa Clara will then play two matches on Sat., Aug. 28 when it plays host-Fresno State at Noon (follow the action here). and UC Riverside at 5 pm (follow the action here). Santa Clara is 7-18 all-time vs. Fresno State with the series running from 1979-2006. It is 1-4 vs. UC Riverside and won 3-0 vs. UC Riverside with its series dating back to 1979.
Wallace said earlier this week in an interview with www.SantaClaraBroncos.com that the team has had three areas of focus in the preseason. The first was working to define the system, both offensively and defensively, and its transition and serving game. "Our girls are extremely clear what's expected out of them in every situation on the court, and that's gone really well," said Wallace. "The maturity of our group has increased to the point where they are able to identify what they need to work on, identify how to work on it and understanding the process is more of a grind than it is arriving somewhere."
Wallace said the second part of the phase was establishing their standards of how they want to act as people: how the team wants to approach their classroom duties and how they want to play on the court. "And so obviously the first and last the things we've been working on are us as people, maturing, developing and us and how we play on the court," said Wallace.
Wallace brought in a sports psychologist for two days of the preseason to assist in their development as well. The sports psychologist worked with the team to define their standards, to identify the issues and how to get past them. He said the meetings went really well. "Our group is much more unified because of it and the continuity on the court is growing everyday so it's been a huge positive for us and our team and identifying the standard that we want to play at," said Wallace. "The good thing for this double day training is we've had to up our expectations almost every other day because our groups have surpassed the levels we sent previously, so we are constantly accomplishing our goals and getting beyond them."
Working with the sports psychologist was helpful because while the team didn't have problems, the coaches and the team needed a more defined path and he helped the team work on that. "Our girls are great, we get along, we have great chemistry, but finding our path to success – he really defined the way," said Wallace. "I really like the direction we are headed with this group.
The third thing Santa Clara has been working on in the preseason is mental toughness and mental discipline. "We're still kind of defining that because I believe that it'll end up being mental discipline, meaning we know what we need to do and we'll execute it," said Wallace. "Some of us need to learn, have learned, to push through their weaknesses and their barriers, as we are becoming tougher now it's a matter of becoming disciplined to the standard and the system."
The team did not go on a retreat during the preseason because the team was hungry for more time in the gym. Because they have so many letterwinners back, 11 total and five starters, they didn't need to get to know each other as much as they might have in past years with a number of new people. "We only added two freshmen so we didn't feel we needed to incorporate a big group like we did last year and this group was ready for train and get better," said Wallace. "They didn't want to take a day off to go river rafting or ropes courses, they wanted the practice time."
"We took a great trip to Seattle last year during our spring training when we played Washington back-to-back weekends here and there in early May," said Wallace. "In Seattle we went kayaking, we took the duck tour of Seattle, we spent a great day team bonding."
The whole group has matured way beyond what they thought they'd be. Wallace said Katherine Douglas and Kayla Lommori have taken what they learned last spring and on their own, developed and come back in great shape. They have come back with a sense of the system. "They aren't learning it, they're very comfortable of what's expected of them and all the situations we put them in and they are still developing but from where they came last year, it's miles different," said Wallace.
Wallace said Dana Knudsen continues to get better. "She's dedicated herself in the off-season, she's in better shape, she's hungrier," said Wallace. "We know that we expected more from her, 25% more, and so far in this double day season she's been able to deliver that extra load on her shoulders and she's continued to grow everyday. She has a state of mind that she can see down the road where she wants to go and she's dedicated herself to doing it on a daily basis. Most importantly, she's just more mature."
In the off-season the coaching staff looked at the program as a whole and what they needed to do to improve with a young team. "We felt the whole program needed a little bit of an overhaul in terms of what was our daily focus, so by defining the system, the standard, our mental discipline its given everybody a focus everyday, we bring it into every drill we do: this is your focus, this is the standard," added Wallace.
"I think our mind set is in the right spot and now it's a matter of teaching them new parts of the game daily to load them up with more and more responsibilities in terms of playing the game of volleyball. So like in football it'd be like you have this small playbook if this is all you can handle, now we have a larger playbook with more responsibilities," said Wallace.