Santa Clara's volleyball team finished a busy spring season on May 12 with the Walk 4 Pancreatic Cancer, where the Broncos helped raise almost $30,000 for cancer research and then closed out play on the court on May 13 with seven straight wins vs. Cal Poly.
Bronco head coach Jon Wallace, entering his 14th season at the Santa Clara helm, talked this week about how his team adapted to two new assistant coaches, Matt Lyles and Brad Keller, this spring, what they will work on in the summer and what their prospects are for the fall.
SCU: Now that spring season is over, please talk about three things you accomplished in the spring.
JW: I think with the new staff, Brad, Matt and volunteer assistant Emily Burke, the staff was able to get on the same page. We now know how we want to train, how we want to play and how we want to coach our group. The four of us learned a lot about each other in the six weeks that we were in the gym. We made some really good changes so we feel really confident about going forward in the way that we are going to teach, coach and train in the gym every day.
Secondly, we implemented new offensive and defensive systems. Our team adapted extremely well. We are playing much faster in terms of the speed of our sets and play. The team really liked playing a more athletic tempo with more freedom. Working to play a much quicker game and trying to emulate more of the style of a men's game, the team is hitting more from the back row.
JW: The team likes what they are learning and are excited about it. They want to get better and the environment to do so is very fun and healthy. It is neat to see that they want to be in the gym because they know they are getting better. The whole atmosphere and excitement to improve can be seen in how hard our team is working. It's about liking what you do so you can improve and it was awesome to see our team buying in.
SCU: You spoke really highly about both Matt and Brad when you brought them to coach in January. Can you talk about the impact they have had on your team and Santa Clara?
JW: Matt's greatest qualities are that he's extremely consistent in his approach to coaching and secondly he's extremely knowledgeable; everything that comes out of his mouth is gold and the team absorbs all of it. They love it and he's consistent every day in what he does. The girls really feel confortable with Matt.
Brad brings attention to detail. He knows exactly where he wants each player in each particular moment of each play. He corrects quickly and gets them to understand the importance of every little detail. He too is very consistent. Brad knows what he wants and is able to coach the team in a way that they want to get it right.
SCU: What message do you send your team away with for the summer what's important to be ready in August?
JW: The answer goes back to what we did on the very first day of January when we met with the team. We handed each player a volleyball and we said let this be a reminder of why you play this game, let this be a reminder of why you started playing, and remember why you love this sport Remember the excitement and the love of your team and teammates. The message to the team going forward is to enjoy volleyball: go play on the beach or come in the gym to play games and compete. Don't train, just play and come back in the fall a better volleyball player with excitement to get after it in the fall.
SCU: What have you learned that will help make you a better coach moving forward?
JW: I learned a lot this last six weeks, the last few months; and we are on our way to getting back to playing Bronco volleyball at a high level. Our expectations are to win the league and to go far into the NCAA tournament. We want to be aggressive, we want to play fast and we want to play with toughness. Our new system reflects all these traits. We are asking our team to think in terms of where they stand nationally. In 2005 we had three All-Americans and went to the Final Four. We got there because we had a dream of being the best at each of our positions and we worked together to get it done. The team is really excited because they feel they are getting better every day. They are learning and being pushed on a daily basis and they are liking it; that's pretty cool to see.
SCU: You have talked about how proud you are of your team as a whole and your coaching staff. Can you comment on your team individually?
JW: I was pleased with everyone. Megan Anders first. I felt she made some big strides and I think she is probably the best middle that we've seen play this spring in terms of being effective both blocking and attacking. Being the only middle we have is great for her because she got to play a lot. It's a great leaning curve. She embraced that role and she played hard every point. I thought that her blocking was much better as was her attacking. It carried us many times through tournaments and it was neat to see her step up.
Alyssa Anderson really embraced the changes we made in trying to go quicker and her setting style changed. I thought she was awesome in the spring. She adjusted to trying new things as well as the decision-making with the ball in her hands. I'm really confident with her running the offense.
The older players, Kayla Lommori, Katherine Douglas, Lexi Williamson and Kaleigh Durket, all had extremely productive springs. They all had to make some big changes in some of the things that we worked on. One of the highlights was Kayla hitting a Bic against Cal Poly - it was one of the best attacks I have seen from her in three years. Their improvement and also feeling the confidence that they are having in the system is really pretty neat for all of us to experience.
Ali Rambis had a great spring and she worked really hard to improve in defense.
Katy Schatzman took great strides forward in her game and has continued to work to be better for next year.
Taylor Milton, our freshman leftie, made great strides in her consistency. There is no doubt she can be a very dynamic player. She was very consistent and as the spring went on she improved a lot and I think she's going have a real good year next year.
Chloe Sliger is probably one of the harder workers. We had her take early reps before and after practice. She came in early and left late every day. Her setting improved dramatically and she still has one of the best serves on our team. Going forward we know she will definitely put the time in to get better.