Santa Clara, 8-5, plays its final non-conference match of the year vs. Seattle on Sun., Sept. 26 at 1 pm. Seattle, 7-8, plays USF prior to coming to Santa Clara and is already 2-0 vs. the WCC this year with 3-2 wins over at Gonzaga and vs. Portland. The Seattle match is the Broncos' lone match of the week as they prepare to open WCC play on Thurs., Sept. 30 at 7 pm vs. LMU, 6-6, and then Sat., Oct. 2 at 1 pm vs. Pepperdine, 8-5.
Santa Clara leads the WCC in digs with 16.15 dpg. The Broncos are second in opponents hitting percentage at .184 and assists with 12.71 apg. Kaleigh Durket leads the league with 3.71 kpg. Dana Knudsen is second in the league in hitting at .359 and Bridget O'Hara is also second with 4.83 dpg. Emily Burke is No. 21 nationally with 10.96 apg.
This week Bronco head coach Jon Wallace (JW) talked to www.SantaClaraBroncos.com about the match vs. Seattle, bringing players back from injury and his expectations for the WCC.
SCU: Seattle is your last non-conference match. With
just one match on Sunday and a whole week to prepare and rest, what
are you working on in practice this week?
JW: This will be the first week we have all of our athletes ready and available to play. Katherine Douglas will be getting back into the swing of things. Megan Anders and Alexandra Palmer were very limited last weekend and they will be back. We figure it's a two-week preparation before conference starts with a new starting group, We'll take this week and kind of incorporate Kat back in, and we feel we should be significantly better. And not that Kat will add that much, the team has played well, but it's more that by her coming back into the starting lineup we will relieve some pressure from the other kids, which we hope will increase all their numbers as well. So we'll have to figure all that out this week in practice. I don't think we need to change much. I think Kat will assimilate back in nicely, and won't be expected to carry a big load, but any load that she will carry will give us a lot more balance in our attack while improving our passing and defense.
SCU: Will she play back row, or will she play primarily
JW: She'll be on the court all six rotations. She'll play front row and back row for us, which will allow us to have more depth in other positions. Right now we don't know who will be coming off the bench to play, but it just gives us more depth and more options.
SCU: With Katherine, Megan, Alexandra and Krista all out
to begin the season, your entire team has had to play additional
rotations and quite honestly, contribute a lot more than you would
have thought when starting two-a-days. Have there been
players in particular who have had to work harder and give more
during the beginning of the season?
JW: Everyone who has been a full time starter, Kaleigh in particular, has had to carry more, but I would say Kayla Lommori has definitely carried the biggest load in attacking and playing all the way around, and maybe was thrown to the fire a little too early for her. But last week we played four matches in five days, and I thought Kayla got better and stronger every single match out. I'm really excited about her development in the last four matches. Just her understanding of the game, how to get herself through it and manage it. I was really impressed with her play last week, and her growth so far this year.
We expected and wanted Dana Knudsen to carry a big load because Dana is good, she is a terminator for us and she's proven that. So we hope that her load won't change much. We still plan on setting Dana as much as we can because she's so good at what's she doing. Many times she has been hitting against a double block so she has had to work really hard.
Kaleigh Durket has been a great surprise for us. She's been able to win a few games for us. Her kill numbers are great. We see it as we'll probably take away some sets away from her, but the ones she will get will have more openings and probably her hitting percentage potentially could go and her kill percentage could go up.
SCU: Is there anything different you will do this week
in practice since you only have one match as opposed to when you
have multiple matches?
JW: Yes. We will practice every day this week, but the first couple practices were more individual training. We are working to get some skills at a higher level, and attacking a couple of our weaknesses. We want to attack our serving to develop a little bit of a tougher serve this week so we have four or five days to integrate that in there, and we also want to work on our blocking. We may not be a great blocking team this year, but we can get better.
SCU: You have been out-blocked a number of matches. Why
do you think you aren't a better blocking team?
JW: Just experience. Blocking takes good experience on the court. Katherine Douglas and Krista Kelly were two of our better blockers from a year ago, and they're not out there so we haven't had that productivity. Lindsy Davigeadono graduated and she was a very good blocker. We are replacing Lindsy, Krista and Kat with an Emily Burke or a Kaleigh who are all new. So it's a little bit of age and experience as well as personnel.
SCU: Emily is ranked 21st in assists per game
in the country. She and Bridget O'Hara have worked really hard as
leaders this season and both are playing well.
JW: Stats are deceiving when you play a lot of five-set matches because you only get credit for little more than half a game and it still counts as a full game. I wouldn't expect her to be in the top 10 without the full compliment of players. We don't have a left side attacker, that's why it's been amazing what we've done. The load that Kaleigh and Dana have taken on is so amazing. Three of the front row rotations out of six people don't even block Emily because they are loading up on Kaleigh and Dana.
SCU: With a full roster, are you excited for WCC play to
JW: If Kat is healthy, we are significantly better. We're a decent offense, especially with the development of Kaleigh, Dana and Kayla, then you add Kat whose potentially the second best attacker in that group it's going to make Dana better because they won't just be able to go to her. It's going to make everybody better, it really does. I give those girls a ton of credit. Dana has been hitting against a two person block for three weeks now, so was Kayla and that's really hard.
SCU: So will all of this adversity with injury and
having to overload, will this make you a better team in the long
run or will you be tired in the long run?
JW: Oh no. This week we'll get our legs back, and we've played so many matches in the course of a week and weekend that only having to play one this week is next to nothing. Only having to play two a week from here on out will help us get our legs back and we'll be fine, and we'll have more depth in practice. Before, Dana and Tanya Schmidt would take 100% of the swings, and now we can add another middle with Megan Anders coming back, and they will get more rest and less reps. So it's going to be good.