Revitalized with a re-tooled coaching staff under Bronco head coach Jon Wallace, Santa Clara released its 2012 spring volleyball schedule on Friday. Included on the schedule will be Santa Clara's first-ever appearance in a Beach Tournament in Malibu and a spring season finale visit with Stanford.
Santa Clara will begin spring practice on Mon., April 2. It will make its first spring tournament appearance at Sacramento State on April 14. It will play in the USF Tournament on May 5 and then wrap up play at Stanford on May 10.
"This spring will be really important. Our new assistant coaches, Matt Lyles and Brad Keller, have brought a lot of energy into our program," said Wallace. "We are working hard to implement new systems both offensively and defensively. We will have a much different look next season and we are all excited about our program's direction so far in individuals."
The Broncos have also added Ryan Leake as its athletic performance coach. "Our girls are really enjoying Ryan's approach to strength and conditioning," said Wallace. "It has become competitive and very functional for volleyball training."
Leake, who also works with the Bronco baseball team, is enjoying his work with the volleyball team. "It's fun to watch the competition. They are improving in strength and athleticism. We are all enjoying watching their evolution as a team. The whole team is getting more competitive and it's fun to be a part of."
In addition, Wallace said the team will play a much faster and quicker offense moving forward. The team will need an entire spring to feel comfortable in the new system, but is taking to it very well. "The team really likes the new system. They feel more athletic and they are really buying into it. The gym is a really fun place to be right now for our team. We are all really excited about the direction we are headed and we are all really enjoying each other."
In addition to court play, Santa Clara will travel to Pepperdine April 21 to play in its first-ever Beach Tournament with Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara. Nike, the team's apparel sponsor, is working with the Broncos to put together beach uniforms for the weekend. "Nike takes great care of us," said Wallace.
Lyles, who played professionally as a beach volleyball player for 10 years, said it's very different game in the sand. He said one of the toughest hurdles to climb is how to jump in the sand. "Jumping vertically in the sand is something we are working on right now," said Lyles. "We are getting our feet wet for sure. It's great for our sport that there are options – indoors and in the sand. I like introducing our team to both opportunities. It's a different game for sure with just two players on the sand court. You have to know how to play all positions on the court."
The team is training on the sand court on the Mission campus at Santa Clara. In addition, Lyles said there are plans for the team to take the short trip down to Santa Cruz to play beach volleyball at Main Beach in Santa Cruz a couple days as well. "The girls will play each other and then have a chance to play others who are there training. It will be a really good experience for everyone," added Lyles. "The key is to not get frustrated. It's a hard transition, learning every skill in beach volleyball on our sand court at Santa Clara, but everyone is working hard. I see them bringing enjoyment to the game of volleyball indoors and outdoors."
Keller, who spent a lot of time on the men's side prior to coming to Santa Clara, has been coaching volleyball at the collegiate level since 2007. He is very impressed with the energy and work ethic of the group. "As an elite player, you have to want to play at a high level and the team wants to play at that level," said Keller. "There is a buzz in our locker-room right now as we get ready to start spring training. The girls are eager to get better and are having fun. It's a fun thing to work on and be a part of. We putting the finishing touches on what will be our schedule next season and we are seeing the hard work we have put in a short period of time pay off in small doses. We expect that to continue."
Wallace said the 2012 schedule will be released later this spring and will feature pre-West Coast Conference play in tournaments at Missouri, UC Davis, Stanford and Cal State Fullerton. "We are having fun and our goal at the end of the spring season is to feel comfortable with our new system."
Recruits are liking the changes as well. "When recruits come on campus, they are feeling the energy and they are really loving it," added Wallace.