Santa Clara's sand volleyball team will travel to the state capitol this weekend to play Boise State (3 pm) and host-Sacramento State (6 pm) on Sat., April 5. They will return to the Bay Area to play No. 9 Saint Mary's on Mon., April 7 at 4 pm.
Santa Clara was 1-2 last Saturday, falling 5-0 to No. 3 Hawaii, losing a tight one wire-to-wire, 4-1, to No. 6 UCLA and then defeating Stanford 3-2. The Broncos also found quite a bit of success on Sunday in Stanford's Pair's Tournamnet.
Bronco head coach Jon Wallace (JW) talked about last weekend's play in the rain, where he thinks the team is making strides and what they need to be do this week in practice to prepare for their next three matches.
SCU: You played at Stanford last weekend, including through a lot of rain on Saturday. Talk about the team's play.
JW: Our event – Saturday and Sunday at Stanford – was a really interesting time, but just a great event overall. Stanford did a nice job of hosting for the two days. Playing in unbelievable elements of rain and wind, our girls battled. All the girls from all the teams battled and played really well. It was fun to be at a venue, in the rain, playing sand volleyball. It was just kind of a once-in-a-lifetime day and it was good. Our girls played really well and battled, I feel like we got better from match to match and were very strong on Sunday finishing up. Both our #1 and #2 teams ended up on a strong note, winning their last matches, so it was a good time.
Our girls learned a lot about sand volleyball. They watched a really strong team in Hawaii and learned a lot about what it takes to be great. I think our girls left the weekend extremely motivated to get better. They got to see a cleaner brand of sand volleyball at a high level from Hawaii and our girls are very motivated to get better this week. Each girl left the weekend more determined to get better this week and to hopefully play better volleyball next week.
SCU: And one of your goals last weekend was to compete and play with grit, do you feel like you did that?
JW: I do, I do. We competed really well 1 through 6 and we played with grit. We were in a lot of deuce matches; we battled all the way through. Madison Dutra and Sarah Vaccaro had a 34-32 game against UCLA that was really exciting and just great. We are battling hard and our girls are believing. Like I said, we left the weekend determined to get better and win those matches next time.
SCU: It is sunny 300 plus days a year in the Bay Area. But a couple days this week rain is in the forecast. Will you practice with the rain projected for the next couple of days?
JW: Funny, our girls said we need the practice in the rain this week. It was kind of neat to hear. They want to get after it and were like "we should practice in the rain and get used to it."
SCU: Do you think this is a good bonding experience for your team too, to play sand? To have that different type of experience so when you go indoors, they are a closer team. Do you think it makes a difference?
JW: I do, I think it makes a big difference. Our team was one of the few teams that stayed and watched 10 hours of volleyball on Saturday in the rain and our girls stayed there the whole time and cheered their teammates on. It was awesome to see. We got great compliments from people noticing our team was very supportive and represented Santa Clara extremely well. And that is bonding for us. And I think the constant improvement is bonding too. The girls are getting better and they notice it for sure. It is bringing them together.
SCU: What do you think about your lineup?
JW: I like our lineup. We may have some changes this week. We are going to compete for some spots this week and we'll see how that goes. One of the things we do want is for our girls always to compete and always have to prove that they are the No. 3 team or the No. 2 team or the No. 4 team. I felt on the weekend that Chloe Sliger and Chloe Lott battled really well and they're going to get a chance to get into the 5 spot this week with some competition, and they're going to have to earn it. I like where we are at and we will see where it goes.
SCU: Do you know anything about the team's you are playing in Sacramento? Saint Mary's is nationally-ranked and you are probably familiar with their personnel, right?
JW: I don't know too much about Sac State and Boise State. Playing UCLA, Hawaii and Stanford last weekend we realized that we have to play a certain brand of volleyball on our side of the net to get a chance to win the match. We walked away understanding that more. I think our girls aren't really caring who we play, they just want to go out there and play our brand and get it done.
Saint Mary's on Monday is a little different story because we know those girls fairly well from indoor. They are playing some senior girls in Jordan Shaw and Kristina Graven so we know them fairly well, and they have some good players. But our girls from last year are different and we are very motivated to battle against them.
SCU: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
JW: Yeah, I thought the team of Madison Dutra and Sarah Vaccaro really played well and they are a tough out for anyone out there; they just grind through. They had a nice upset on Sunday morning that put them through to the winner's bracket and I thought they did a nice job. Their chemistry is unbelievable and both those two are my high-energy kids so they are fun to coach and fun to watch.
And I really think it was a breakout weekend for our No. 1's team. They didn't have the best success, but Taylor Milton and Nikki Hess really improved on the weekend and I think they are going to catapult their efforts going forward. With their steady play, but really just that they're two explosive athletes that can get better every day and they will. They really improved over the weekend.