Story by Michelle Schmitt
The Santa Clara volleyball team, which opens its 2011 season in the Emerald City on Aug. 26 vs. Washington State as part of the Seattle University Tournament, began practice on Tues., Aug. 9 and even though it's only a couple days into the preseason, Bronco head coach Jon Wallace likes what he sees so far.
"The first two days have gone well. We have a lot of talented players competing for a number of spots right now. I am really happy with their effort and focus right now," said Wallace, who is entering his 13th year at the helm. "Day one was about bringing a higher level of intensity. Our goal is to win the conference this year and we did a lot of running. Day two was more about coaching volleyball and getting the girls better every play. After Friday's practices the coaches will sit down and start to talk about line-ups to begin the season on Aug. 26."
Santa Clara, looking for its 12th NCAA Tournament bid in 15 years, welcomes back three All-WCC players in senior middle blocker Tanya Schmidt, junior middle blocker Dana Knudsen and junior right side Kaleigh Durket. Both Schmidt and Knudsen were named to the 2011 All-WCC preseason team in early August. "Dana and Tanya are doing a great job of leading the group everyday in practice," said Wallace. Click here for the entire 2011 Bronco volleyball roster.
Schmidt, the team's captain this year, was named to the All-WCC First Team after she played in 102 sets and averaged 2.23 kills per set in 2010. She was also honored as the only player from the WCC on the Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-District team, sporting a 3.97 cumulative GPA in English. "As a senior I just want to win and have fun. Already in the first two days of the season, we are doing both," said Schmidt.
Knudsen was named All-WCC Honorable Mention in 2010. She played in 102 sets and averaged 2.77 kills per set with 255 total kills, collecting a .326 hitting percentage. Knudsen was named to the WCC All-Freshman team in 2009 after she played in 105 matches, averaging 2.26 kills per set. "It's a great honor to be named to the team. Being named to the team puts a target on our back, but it's a challenge we are looking forward to it," said Knudsen.
Durket was named to the All-WCC Honorable Mention team in 2010 after playing in 102 sets and averaging 3.47 kpg and 1.78 dpg.
In addition to that trio, the Broncos are also happy to see a healthy Katherine Douglas back on the court after she redshirted last season due to injury, playing sparingly at the outset of 2010. As a freshman in 2009 Douglas played in 59 sets, picking up 142 kills and 122 digs.
"I am glad to have my left wing back. Kat offers the team a lot of consistency," added Knudsen.
Juniors Kayla Lommori, Lexi Williamson and Alexandra Palmer bring plenty of experience to the squad as returning starters. Williamson and Lommori both toil as outside hitters. In 2010 Williamson played in 101 sets and averaged 2.66 dpg. Lommori played in 96 sets averaging 3.16 kpg and 1.98 dpg, adding four double-doubles. Lommori and Douglas traveled to China this past summer to play against high-level Chinese competition as part of an American college touring team.
Palmer, a setter who struggled with injuries her freshman year, played in 68 sets, averaging 2.84 apg in 2010. Villanova transfer Alyssa Anderson will also help run the Bronco offense as a setter. Anderson, named to the Big East Conference Second-Team in 2010, played in 90 sets, starting 24 matches as the team finished with a 23-7 record, including 11-3 in the Big East Conference.
Sophomore middle blocker Megan Anders, the tallest Bronco on the roster at 6-5, is looking forward to making her presence well-known this season as well. After missing the first three weeks of the season with an ankle injury in 2010, Anders played in 54 sets, hitting .159 with 32 kills and 28 blocks.
Overseeing the defense is three-year starter Bridget O'Hara, a senior. In 2010 O'Hara played in 105 sets and averaged 4.71 dpg, collecting 447 digs on the season as the starting libero. O'Hara will be joined by sophomore Ali Rambis, who scored a number of big serves last year, playing in 85 sets and finishing the season with 17 service aces and 27 digs.
Freshman newcomers Taylor Milton (right side), Katy Schatzman (libero) and Chloe Sliger (setter) are also working hard to learn the system in the early days. Wallace likes the athletism Milton brings to the court on the offensive end and the energy both Schatzman and Sliger bring to the team.
Santa Clara will begin its season at the Seattle University Tournament, opening with Washington State (Aug. 26, 1 pm) and then playing host-Seattle later that evening (7 pm) before finishing the tournament with Eastern Washington (Aug. 27, 1 pm). Santa Clara's second weekend will feature play at the Utah Valley State Tournament in Orem, Utah where it will face Cal Poly (Sept. 2, 4:30 pm), Michigan (Sept. 3, 10 am) and host-Utah Valley (Sept. 3, 7 pm).
Hosting its own tournament, Santa Clara will open its 10-match 2011 home schedule with UC Santa Barbara on Sept. 9 at 7:30 pm and then play North Dakota at 1 pm on Sept. 10. The Broncos will close out the preseason schedule with a trip to University of Texas where it will play host-Texas Sept. 16 and then Texas-San Antonio and SMU the following day.
Santa Clara will host eight WCC teams, including defending champion San Diego to open the 2011 WCC home slate on Sept. 24 at 1 pm. Click here for the entire 2011 Bronco volleyball schedule.