The Santa Clara volleyball team opens its 2014 season on the East Coast in Long Island, N.Y., but prior to departing, the Broncos will spend 17 days practicing, bonding and getting to know each other better on and off the court. In the calm before the storm of two-a-days, Bronco head coach Jon Wallace (JW) sat down Thursday morning to talk about the schedule for the next week, what the team will to do bond and what kind of shape the team is coming back to campus in (GREAT!).
SCU: When do you report? And what is your schedule the first week?
JW: We report Friday. We'll have all our meetings, physicals, kick it off with a BBQ at my house Friday evening and be ready to go for Saturday morning. We'll practice 9-11 am and 2-5 pm on Saturday. The first week we'll practice pretty much every day. We'll take a session off to give the girls a little bit of a break here and there, but we will be doing something every single day. We have some excursions planned. We have some alumni coming back to speak to the group so we got a few things planned in the first week that would be pretty neat to see and be a part of.
SCU: Anything you can tell us about the alumni that will speak to the team?
JW: We would like to keep them a surprise. Our alumni will date back to my first year here as the head coach. We divided up the years and try to bring in someone from each generation who has been here during my 15 years. They will talk about the tradition of our program, about how hard they had to work to make this program great - especially to make the NCAA tournament 11 straight years. We've got a real good group that's ready to take off and learn from the alumni and then have a great year.
SCU: Practicing twice a day, do you do anything special to prevent injuries?
JW: We'll manage our girls the best we can, especially the first week. But our girls are in great shape. We've been going hard with Sparta for now seven - eight months and our girls are probably in the best shape they've been in here at Santa Clara in probably 10 years. I'm really happy with their fitness level. We hope they can handle a big load, which we need to be careful about, but they're ready to go. They came in to our summer camp two weeks ago and they all look great and played great. But we'll manage them on a daily basis. It is a long preseason and we definitely want to have our best for the matches come the end of August.
SCU: What are your goals for the first week of practice?
JW: The first week of practice is really going to be developing our culture. We will work to develop our culture of commitment to improve, leadership, team first, compete and grit. We can get that solidified and then we'll have great direction going forward. The first week is incorporating our core values into practice every day and making each drill reflect our core values so our team knows how to compete and understands what we want to get out of what we are doing each day.
SCU: You talked about a lot of the team being here for the summer camps in July. Was that their first real opportunity to bond with each other? And did you see that going on with your team?
JW: It is a great time for our team to bond. While coaching camp, they bonded very well on and off the court. It was kind of neat to see. We've been doing a good job of getting our freshmen acclimated. Going back five months we've been in constant contact with our girls, helping them be a part of our culture and involving them in our strength and conditioning program. Our incoming girls, Kirsten Mead, Natasha Calkins and Gianna Ruggeroli, and redshirt-freshman transfer Kaity Edwards - who was here for the spring season - those four have been around our program quite a bit in the last few months.
SCU: Do you have anything planned the first few weeks off the court besides the alumni talking to them?
JW: We have some things planned for the girls to do and be a part of off the court in the first month. It's very challenging, we have 17 days of practice prior to our first match and it's going to be tough. We will be going on a trip to New York and Boston where we will have some time to do some team bonding and team building there. We will see some great things. That's going to be a part of building our team unity. We're really excited to go to West Point and be a part of their tradition and history. We want to learn from them, hopefully having some things resonate with what we are doing in our own preseason.
SCU: You've talked about the newcomers coming in. Your team will have a really different look this year with a new setter and two new middles. With the graduation of Megan Anders, Haley Cameron and Alyssa Anderson, will you change the way your playing or will you play similar to the way you have in the past. Are you going to add some wrinkles?
JW: We are going to play a little differently going forward with setters GiGi Cresto, Kirsten Mead and Chloe Sliger, using what they do well. We're going to continue to play fast. We're going to use our back row attack and our setters are a big part of that. The development of Taylor Milton, Nikki Hess and Sabrina Clayton will help us bring the back row more into play for us. We're going to play pretty fast, make the net as wide as we can in setting the ball in the pin and hopefully we'll get our middles up to speed. We have two new starting middles this year so that should be fun competition for those three and we'll see how it works out.
SCU: This year you are going to add back volunteer assistant Emily Burke. She's working with the setters and the offense. What are you looking forward to her bringing to the team?
JW: We're glad to have Emily back. She was here two years ago when we made the NCAA tournament and she also played for us. She will really be able to assist me in our designing our offense as well helping with the development of our setters. Emily will be overseeing the setters on a daily basis. We're committed to developing the whole student-athlete so a lot of our coaching and teaching goes on and off the court. Emily will be a big part of that. She will help with their development, their maturation process and getting them to really try and understand what we're trying to do as an offensive system and where we want them to go and grow as individuals.