The Bronco volleyball team returns home this weekend to host the West Coast Conference's newest member, University of the Pacific, on Thurs., Oct. 17 at 7 pm. It is the West Coast Conference Match of the Week and it will be showcased online by clicking here. Santa Clara will wrap up its home-stand with a 1 pm match on Sat., Oct. 1 at 1 pm vs. rival Saint Mary's.
The Broncos are coming off a tough road trip as they fell 3-1 at No. 24 BYU on Oct. 10 and then 3-0 at No. 12 San Diego on Oct. 12. San Diego moved up to No. 11 in this week's poll and BYU climbed up to No. 20. Saint Mary's is receiving votes again this week as well.
Santa Clara is 7-9 this season including 2-5 in the WCC. They are led by the senior trio of Megan Anders (.292, 3.00 kpg), Haley Cameron (.290, 2.25 kpg) and Alyssa Anderson (9.77 apg, 2.56 dpg). The Broncos are also starting four freshmen with Taylor Milton sidelined with an injury. The four freshmen are Nikki Hess (3.02 kpg, 2.47 dpg), Sabrina Clayton (2.76 kpg, .38 sapg), Maddie Cannon (.96 kpg) and Mary Shepherd as the libero (1.57 dpg, .26 sapg).
Bronco head coach Jon Wallace said the Broncos have played Pacific enough recently that they are familiar with their team. The Broncos fell in five to the Tigers last September at Stanford. "They are having a good year," said Wallace. UOP beat LMU 3-1 on Oct. 12 after falling in five to Pepperdine on Oct. 10. "It will be another tough match. Our conference is really showing well and every night it's a battle for everyone."
Pacific is 10-8 this season and 3-4 in the WCC in its first year in the league. Pacific is 6-1 at home this season, but 0-6 on the road. They are led by Kat Schulz who scores 2.78 kpg and adds 2.40 dpg. Setter Kimmy Whitson collects 8.82 apg and 1.96 dpg.
Wallace was looking forward to getting back into the gym to practice this week. "We need to get back on track ourselves after last weekend; we need to get a win this Thursday. More importantly we need to show up and play well and give ourselves chances to win the match."
An experienced junior/senior based team, Saint Mary's will travel to USF on Thursday night prior to coming to Santa Clara on Saturday. The Gaels enter the week at 10-5, including 6-1 in the league. During their current four-match winning streak, they won at then-No. 8 San Diego 3-2 in San Diego on Sept. 28. Its lone league loss was at BYU on Sept. 26 (3-2).
"We are very familiar with Saint Mary's because they've had the same players for awhile," continued Wallace. "They have one transfer and that has really helped them out a lot. They're playing really well right now. They have lots of experience with a lot of good players which is a good formula for them. I really anticipate them being near the top if not at the top in our conference this year."
Saint Mary's is led by Kristina Graven (3.56 kpg, 2.46 dpg) and Jordan Shaw (3.48 kpg, 2.65 dpg). Setter Dalas Dodd scores 11.30 apg and 2.00 dpg along with .40 sapg.
Wallace praised both teams offensively with Saint Mary's experience getting the nod this season. "We had a tight match against Pacific last year, which we ended up losing and hopefully our girls will remember that and want to come out fighting harder."
Wallace was pleased with the way the Broncos came together during Taylor Milton's absence last week. "We found out about five minutes before the BYU match that she was not going to play and the team really rallied around her and really gave it their all both physically and emotionally," added Wallace. "It was a tough match to lose because we felt like at any time we could've won that match."
Wallace acknowledged Saturday's match at San Diego was very difficult for two reasons. One, they are a very good team and secondly, the Broncos were emotionally a little down. "It was kind of hard to fight and find our energy but we learned some good lessons from that and going forward I think that will help us out," said Wallace.
"San Diego is very deserving of their ranking," said Wallace. "They are a veteran team, they know what they want to do at all times of the match. We did a great job, but you just can't make up for that experience across the net when we are starting four freshmen."
Wallace is pleased with the leadership of the seniors and their play. In addition he praised the freshmen for continuing to play hard throughout the season. "It is going to make a big difference for us in the future," said Wallace of the freshmen. "They are good volleyball players, they have good talent. They have things that are going to allow them to get better as they grow and mature. Their roles will grow even more and we're going to expand Sabrina's role this week and going forward.
"Nikki Hess, already playing a big role for us, is doing a great job," said Wallace. "Mary Shephard has a lot to learn but she is doing a great job for us which is encouraging because we think that she can do a lot and get batter. Maddie Cannon had an opportunity last weekend and she held her own. She did a nice job and she too has a good ceiling to improve."
Bottom line Wallace stressed he is really encouraged by this group. "They want to come to practice, they want to improve, they want to get better. You could tell after the San Diego match, they felt like they let an opportunity slip away in terms of their energy level and I'm expecting them to bring a ton of energy this Thursday night. Hopefully we'll get a good home crowd and some students in the stands - that'll help us out."