The Santa Clara volleyball team finally returns home this weekend to open 2012 West Coast Conference play vs. Gonzaga on Thurs., Sept. 20 at 6 pm and then No. 18 San Diego on Sat., Sept. 22 at 1 pm. The Broncos enter the weekend with a 10-4 record, posting a 3-1 record at the Fullerton Classic last weekend.
Bronco head coach Jon Wallace is pleased with the team's progress thus far. "We learned a lot about our team in the first four weeks of play. We are 5-2 in five-set matches -- so it's nice that we've been tested. We should be comfortable in five-set matches going forward. It proves we are tough mentally and physically."
The Broncos are looking forward to returning home to start league play after playing four straight weekends on the road in Illinois, Missouri and California. "We feel very comfortable with our starting lineup going into conference play," said Wallace. "We made a lot of line up changes early on to figure out who could play where and now we feel comfortable with our rotations."
Gonzaga enters the weekend at 8-5, including 6-2 in neutral site matches. No. 18 San Diego is 8-2, with its only losses at then-No. 2 Texas (3-0) and at then-No. 5 Southern California (3-2). San Diego will host USF on Thursday night before travelling to Santa Clara for the Saturday afternoon match.
"Gonzaga is much improved and San Diego looks to be as good or better than they have been in past years," said Wallace.
The Broncos are hitting .214 this season and averaging 13.05 kpg, 12.34 apg, 1.47 sapg, 1.73 bpg and 14.16 dpg. Their opponents are hitting .203 and averaging 11.19 kpg, 10.26 apg, 1.21 sapg, 2.19 bpg and 13.78 dpg.
Individually the Broncos are led by junior middle blocker Megan Anders, who is hitting .356 with 2.66 kpg and 0.91 bpg. She is the only Bronco player to be named to the all-tournament team in each of the four preseason tournaments the Broncos played in.
"Megan Anders is having a break-out season," said Wallace. "She gives our team a great boost offensively and defensively. Her drive and desire is as strong as I have seen in her time here at Santa Clara. I am looking forward to her having a great conference campaign."
Wallace said Texas transfer Haley Cameron is also giving the team a great boost in the middle. Cameron is hitting .278 with 2.07 kpg and 0.67 bpg. "I still feel her best volleyball is ahead of her and she is very motivated and works hard in the gym," said Wallace. "I am convinced we will see great improvement from her every day. She has a great knack of making big plays when we need them. Last weekend she made two big plays in the fifth set of the wins over San Diego State and Cal State Fullerton."
Katherine Douglas and Taylor Milton have also been extremely stable for the Broncos, especially in the serve receive. Douglas scores 2.17 kpg and 2.50 kpg, good for second best on the team in both categories. Milton is leading the team with 2.88 kpg and is third with 2.40 dpg. "We have asked a lot of both girls and it has taken this preseason for them to get comfortable with an increased roll," said Wallace.
Both setters, Alyssa Anderson and Chelsea Heier, had their best outings at the Fullerton Classic last weekend. Both setters pace the team with 21 services aces each this season. Anderson scores 6.24 apg, 1.91 dpg and 0.36 sapg. Heier puts up 4.96 apg, 1.69 dpg and 0.38 sapg.
Wallace said the setters worked a lot last week on changing the tempo of the offense and both women responded very well. "I enjoy working with both of them," said Wallace. "They both have great minds for the game and are able to make adjustments as we play. They both continue to serve tough (leading the team with 21 aces each)."
Kayla Lommori and Lexi Williamson have nursed nagging injuries all preseason and both are looking forward to playing just two matches in 48 hours instead of four matches in 24 hours like last weekend. "I believe both of their productivities will increase with the rest," said Wallace. "Both play a big role offensively and blocking for us as well."
Lommori brings down 1.77 kpg and 0.62 dpg. She also adds 0.50 bpg. Williamson scores 1.83 kpg, 0.55 dpg and 0.28 bpg.
Katy Schatzman, the libero who leads the team with 4.16 dpg and was named the MVP of the SIUE Tournament, is expected back this weekend after spraining her ankle at then-No. 8 Stanford a couple weeks ago. "We expect Katy will be back this week. I feel really comfortable with our liberos and defensive specialists. Ali Rambis stepped in and did a great job when Katy was out as well as Danielle Rottman," said Wallace.