Santa Clara's volleyball team, 4-2, hosts its first three home matches of the season this weekend at the Leavey Center, starting off with Portland State at 11 am on Fri., Sept. 10. It will follow up with a match vs. CSU Northridge at 7 pm on Friday night and conclude play for the weekend with an 11 am match on Sat., Sept. 11 vs. CSU Bakersfield.
"The goal of this group is to get better every time out," said Bronco head coach Jon Wallace. "We want to get better as a team. We've had to change practices, and focus on improving the individual, and right now the team has had to take a back seat to improving, but right now because of injuries we're focusing on make each player better everyday."
The team is looking forward to playing at home. "I have a great sense that we are going to be a pretty solid team. We really do, on an execution level, need Katherine Douglas back to have a stable unit on the court to feel like we can compete against anybody. The group is great and are working really hard," said Wallace.
Kaleigh Durket leads the WCC with 3.92 kpg. Dana Knudsen is fourth in the WCC in hitting at .338, followed closely by Durket at .337 and No. 8 in the league is Tanya Schmidt at .304. Emily Burke is second in service aces at .42 per match and also second in the league with 10.71 apg. Bridget O'Hara leads the conference with 5.71 dpg.
Portland State enters the weekend at 3-4, after falling 3-2 vs. No. 19 Oregon on Tuesday. CSU Northridge is 2-4 and CSU Bakersfield is 0-7. The Broncos are 0-4 vs. Portland State overall, but haven't played them since 1986. SCU is 6-3 vs. CSU Northridge and 1-0 vs. CSU Bakersfield.
The Broncos, which have suffered from the injury bug in the early going, fell 3-2 at Pacific on Sept. 4 after leading 2-0. It defeated Sac State 3-0 and Idaho 3-1 prior to the Pacific match.
Wallace felt in the match Pacific got comfortable on the court and Santa Clara got uncomfortable in the third game. "It's something we have been trying to address all year, about being in comfortable and uncomfortable situations. We played with some hesitation that didn't allow us to execute. It really showed in our servicing and our passing."
Wallace said they are working to attack each game as a whole, to get better each game and slowly solve the problems in the puzzle. "I think we let frustration and doubt creep into our minds about what we were doing at Pacific," said Wallace. "We couldn't block real well, we couldn't hit real well, so we were out of focus and concentration, making errors. We learned something in that match."
With the team's injuries, everyone that is healthy is carrying a heavier load. "Our sophomores are having to do a lot," said Wallace. "They're great kids, great people and they will be really good, it's just tough with everyone we have healthy taking a number of swings every night."
Wallace is really pleased with the leadership of captains Emily Burke and Bridget O'Hara. "Both have really developed as leaders in the last month and a half," added Wallace. "I am really impressed with the way they are carrying themselves on and off the court as leaders."
In addition to the captains, Wallace is equally pleased with the development of the middle blockers, junior Tanya Schmidt and sophomore Dana Knudsen. The twosome, while very intelligent and outgoing, they are different people. "They have really bonded in the past season and are really feeding off each other for the good of the team because they share the same goals as to how good they want to be and how good they want the team to be."
"I thought Dana and Tanya had a rough opening weekend and they went through some extensive film work and kind of got grinded all week and then played great last weekend," said Wallace. "Tanya had her best matches last weekend, with career highs, she's definitely in a great spot and so is Dana."
Wallace added it's been really neat to see the middles bond and to see the pride the middles are working hard to implement. "They are unifying together to make that happen, and it's really cool to see. They have a special handshake, they call the middles, this is what they do, and both of them are taking a lot of pride in getting better every week. They know they are stronger in what they do together. Even though they don't play on the court together at all they feel as one unit out there as the middles and it's kind of fun to see."
Wallace hopes Schmidt and Knudsen's energy as 'the middles' will rub off on the rest of the team as well. He remarked how Kayla Lommori and Katherine Douglas bonded last spring. "They're our outsides and they bonded together too. I think their relationship grew because of that," said Wallace. With Douglas out due to injury Wallace said Lommori misses Douglas. "Kaleigh Durket is new, and she's the opposite position, so she's kind of on her own island but she's done extremely well," said Wallace. "As setters, Emily Burke and Alexandra Palmer will develop that, but Palmer's been missing because of her concussion the last three weeks."