The Santa Clara volleyball team may not start spring practice until March 28, but the Broncos have been working hard in the gym and the weight room this winter by focusing on strength and conditioning and individual training. Head coach Jon Wallace (JW), who enters his 13th year at Santa Clara in 2011, leading the team to the NCAA Tournament in 11 of those years, talks below about the month of January, the teams resolve to get better and gives some insight to the spring schedule.
SCU: How do you feel about the progress you are making?
JW: We dedicated the month of January to getting in shape. That's really benefited the women and they are seeing the results even though they don't necessarily like the conditioning. That's a positive for us. Now that we are loading up with volleyball more they are pretty fatigued, but I think with another week or so we will really turn the corner.
Right now the team is lifting weights three times a week, running and doing agility drills the other three days a week. Each training session is about an hour long.
SCU: You talked about working individually with each position group as well. What are you working on specifically?
JW: We have two focuses for each group. For middles, it's hitting and blocking. For outsides, it's hitting and ball control. Our two defensive specialists, Bridget O'Hara and Ali Rambis, are working on passing and defensive fundamentals. Our setter, Alexandra Palmer, is working on her setting fundamentals as well as creating the offensive tempo we want to run in 2011. It's important for us to improve on our attacking efficiency, which is a combination of good passing, good setting and aggressive attacking.
SCU: Is the team healthy?
JW: We are healthy. We are giving Dana Knudsen another month or so with her rehab before she jumps back in. Dana is working to rehab her shoulder. She will be fine - we just want her to be 100% before she starts hitting again. Dana has worked hard on the rest of her fitness and should be good to go by the spring.
Katherine Douglas is healthy, she's awesome. She's looking great out there. Kat's had a good two to three month start ahead of the girls in terms of conditioning and she's doing really well.
Megan Anders is doing really well. She is getting stronger which is allowing her to train harder. She's much more comfortable with herself and the team environment and it shows by her consistent improvement.
SCU: What does your spring look like in regards to practice and tournaments?
JW: We will train together from March 28 to May 7. We're playing in three events in the spring as of now. Our first event will be an all-day tournament at UOP on April 9. We will play USF, St. Mary's, Cal, Pacific and Sac State. We will play five matches over the course of the day, which will be great. We need to play a lot.
SCU: Why do you need to play so many matches early on?
JW: We need the court time. Coming off of last year we had to learn a lot of system principals so now we need to play within the system we have developed. We need to compete in game-like situations in order to become more comfortable and competitive with it. We have designed our off-season in two parts. First, we will play a lot of matches in the month of April. And then on May 7 vs. Cal Poly, we hope to play a complete match that will help catapult us into our fall training.
SCU: This sounds like a good plan. What else do you have on tap for your spring season?
JW: We are going to do an all-day tournament at USF on April 30th. We will be playing against all the same area teams since the NCAA has regulated our spring schedule and we can't fly so all the local teams will see a lot of each other in the spring. We are planning something with either Stanford and Cal in mid-April. We will train against them and then play a match. Last year we played University of Washington, which was great for our team to see how elite player's train and play. It elevated our playing and expectations of ourselves. Our team is working hard every day to be back at that elite level.
SCU: What has the coaching staff evaluated about last season that you want to change or add?
JW: The first part is health and fitness. The month of January was great for their health and fitness growth. Secondly, last season we were more concerned about playing together than understanding our systems. The goal for this spring is put it all together so we can more concerned with executing at a high level and competing as hard as we can everyday.
SCU: Off the court, at the Santa Clara-Saint Mary's men's basketball game last Thursday on ESPNU, your team was honored at half-time with your team donating a check for $5,000 from your team's work with Dig Pink. The volleyball team has raised more than $53,000 in the last three years. How does that make you feel? Is that part of your team goals?
JW: Our team has done a great job in the last three years, raising more than $18,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness and better than $35,000 for Pancreatic Research. Last Thursday night we donated $5,000 to the Cancer Support Community, which is located in Mountain View. It's a free service that provides seminars, classes and counseling for cancer victims and their families. Rather than donate to the national Dig Pink Foundation this season, the team selected the Cancer Support Community as it allows them to connect with something that they care about locally. We are also assisting them in their gala event on March 3rd where our team will be honored and thanked for their efforts.
SCU: Saturday, May 7 is the Third Annual Santa Clara Pancreatic Cancer Walk. Can you talk about the event this year?
JW: We were very successful last year with the walk being on the Mission Campus. We hope to get more walkers this year. Last year we had 250 and so we hope to get between 350-400 walkers. Last year we raised $30,000, which is a huge amount. But this year we hope to gain more awareness and more people walking. The men's basketball team and coaches also walked with us and that was great to have their support.
We are going to play Cal Poly that afternoon and I hope that their team, staff, coaches and families will also participate in the walk. It will be a great way to start off our final day of spring competition.
We will have additional information and a website up and running by March 1 so please check back here for more information on the Pancreatic Cancer Walk.