Santa Clara, Calif. - Santa Clara, 6-3, travels to the Midwest this week to play four matches, including three as part of the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Ind. After this weekend, the Broncos will have played 10 of its first 13 matches on the road.
Bronco head coach Jon Wallace wants the team to learn from each road game, understanding there is a lot going against them on the road: travel, different cities, focusing on each set, etc.
"Going on the road this week will be a great test because we play some really good teams. Dayton is probably the best of the four, but Notre Dame is also very good. This week is the same as last week as we are looking to grow every match," said Wallace. "I believe our group has learned a lot with every match this season. Now, we still have a ways to go, but it's becoming clearer and clearer every day what we need to do."
In practice on Monday, Wallace wanted the team to continue to define its mental focus. He knows the team is what it is in terms of passing, setting, serving and hitting. "But I feel we can grow enormously with our mental focus throughout the entire match," said Wallace. "This season we have put together some really fine sets of volleyball. All three sets against Portland State, the first two against Pacific – I was really happy with the way the girls played mentally and emotionally; and we are trying to duplicate that as much as we can. The test and challenge to them is 'can we put together an entire weekend of good sets, strong play and ultimately really good matches?'"
Sophomore Dana Knudsen, entering the weekend hitting .385 with 3.2 kpg, leads Santa Clara. Junior Tanya Schmidt and sophomore-transfer Kaleigh Durket are also hitting over .300, at .368 and .319, respectively. Durket collected a team-high 3.7 kpg and sophomore Kayla Lommori is second on the team with 3.3 kpg. Junior Bridget O'Hara leads the team with 4.9 dpg and sophomore Lexi Williamson is second with 2.9 dpg. Senior setter Emily Burke leads the team with 11.1 apg and 2.3 dpg. She is ranked No. 24 nationally in apg.
Burke has four double-doubles (assists and digs) this season. Durket has collected 20+ kills twice this season in back-to-back matches and has two double doubles (kills and digs), as she was the WCC Player of the Week on Aug. 30. Lommori has three double-doubles this season (kills and digs).
Knudsen is second in the league in hitting at .390 and Schmidt is third at .368. Ali Rambis, whose father, a former All-American basketball player at Santa Clara, was in the stands this weekend, is third in aces in the league at .41 apg. Knudsen is second in kills and Durket is third. O'Hara is second in the league in dpg and Burke is also second in the league in apg.
Santa Clara is hitting .233 this season and hit a season-high .500 in its win over CSU Bakersfield on Sept. 11.
"I really like our pieces physically on this team. We have Dana and Tanya and Kayla and Kaleigh, who can really terminate the ball. They can make it hard against the opponent. Emily Burke and Bridget O'Hara are doing a great job as leaders and also really work hard at their roles in their positions," said Wallace. "It's a matter of trusting everything we have worked on and being mentally tough at a focus that allows us to be in every point. That is our goal going into this weekend. We are a pretty darn good team, we just have to be more mentally tough and finish games with a mindset to win every point."
Sophomore Alexandra Palmer saw her first action last weekend after spending time recovering last weekend Santa Clara may welcome two players back, but only in limited roles. Freshman Megan Anders, a 6-5 middle blocks out of Folsom, Calif., could see her first action of the season after battling an injury in the preseason. In addition, sophomore Katherine Douglas may return for some action in the back row.
This week Santa Clara will begin in the Windy City on Wed., Sept. 15 when it plays at DePaul. It will be the first meeting between the two teams. The Blue Demons, members of the Big East Conference, are 1-7 this season. They collected their first win on Sept. 11, a five-set match vs. Georgia State.
Santa Clara will then play three matches in South Bend, Ind. First up, Dayton, on Fri., Sept. 17 at 4:30 pm (Pacific). The Fliers are 6-3 this season with the three losses coming vs. top 10 Big Ten teams and a win vs. No. 22 Northern Iowa on Sept. 3. It will be the first meeting with the two teams.
Santa Clara then plays host-Notre Dame at 4 pm (Pacific) on Sat., Sept. 18. Notre Dame, 7-2, also earned its first three-match invitational sweep since 2005 and hit over .400 as a team for the first time since doing so against Denver in the 2009 season opener. The Irish finished the day with a .488 average, defeating host-Denver 3-0, and hit .350 on the weekend. Santa Clara is 4-1 vs. the Fighting Irish, including a 3-0 win on Sept. 3, 2007.
To close out play for the weekend, Santa Clara will face a 7-3 Delaware team on Sun., Sept. 18 at 8:30 am (Pacific). Delaware won six of its first seven matches, before falling in its last two of three matches. Santa Clara is 1-0 vs. Delaware, winning its only meeting 3-0 on Sept. 15, 2000.