Volleyball

Volleyball Returns to West Coast for Washington Invitational

Santa Clara takes the court against a 2016 NCAA Tournament participant for the third time in four matches when it faces No. 8 Washington on Friday night.
Santa Clara takes the court against a 2016 NCAA Tournament participant for the third time in four matches when it faces No. 8 Washington on Friday night.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Following a season-opening weekend that included a share of the D.C. Volleyball Challenge title, Santa Clara volleyball returns to the West Coast for the Washington Invitational this Friday and Saturday in Seattle. The Broncos match up against No. 8 Washington Friday at 7 p.m., followed by Saturday contests against Cal Poly at 10 a.m. and Seattle at 6 p.m.

SCU has started off the season at 2-1 or better for the eighth year in a row, and is 20-4 in its last 24 matches on opening weekend.

Santa Clara posted consecutive come-from-behind victories to start the 2017 campaign in the nation's capital. The Broncos trailed American 2-1 on Friday and Georgetown by the same tally on Saturday before winning the last two sets in each match to start 2-0. In SCU's tournament finale, the team fell to Howard 3-1. Both the Eagles and the Bison are reigning NCAA Tournament participants.

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THE BRONCOS

Michelle Gajdka led the Broncos in kills for each of the team's first three tilts, totaling 48 for an average of 16/match and 3.43/set. She notched career highs with 19 kills and 14 digs for her first double-double as a Bronco on opening day against American. As a freshman in 2016, Gajdka played in 15 matches and finished the season with 16 kills.

Preseason All-West Coast Conference selection Kirsten Mead registered a double-double in all three matches and brought her career total in that mark to 25. The senior setter logged 43 assists and 13 digs against American and racked up 120 assists and 33 digs overall.

Jensen Cunningham and Hailey Lindberg paced the Broncos in the middle. Cunningham collected 34 kills and Lindberg had 24 kills on .358 hitting. Cunningham tallied two block solos and nine block assists, contributing to half of Santa Clara's blocks (22) through three matches.

Taylor Laugero, who led the team with 471 digs as a freshman last year, did not play due to injury. Tatiana San Juan led the team with 46 digs at the D.C. Volleyball Challenge and newcomer Tessie Powers, a sophomore who transferred from Gonzaga, had 29 digs.

Freshmen Brittany Gillingham, Chloe Loreen, Gretchen Reinert along with Powers made their Bronco debuts last weekend. In addition to the four newcomers, redshirt freshman Allison Kantor took the court in game action for the first time at SCU.

THE OPPONENTS

No. 8 Washington | SCU Record vs. Huskies: 1-4 | First Meeting: 1982 | Last Meeting: 2008

No. 8 Washington, ranked third in the AVCA Preseason Poll, went 2-1 last weekend as host of the Husky Invitational. The Huskies swept Pitt and Saint Mary's before falling 3-1 to ninth-ranked Creighton. Washington, which reached the Elite Eight round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, is led offensively by Courtney Schwan. The senior had 34 kills and hit .267 during the Husky Invite.

Cal Poly | SCU Record vs. Mustangs: 10-10 | First Meeting: 1980 | Last Meeting: 2014

Cal Poly swept Dayton, High Point and Northern Illinois to win the NIU Holiday Inn Express Invitational last weekend and outhit its opponents .336 to .207. The Mustangs are a combined 40-17 dating back to the start of the 2015 season. Adlee Van Winden averaged 5.11 kills/set and Taylor Nelson averaged 12.11 assists/set through three matches.

Seattle | SCU Record vs. Redhawks: 3-0 | First Meeting: 2009 | Last Meeting: 2011

Seattle is 1-2 after a victory over Loyola-Chicago followed by losses against UC Irvine and Cal at the Cal Molten Classic. Katarina Marinkovic opened the season with 18 kills on .286 hitting against the Ramblers on Friday and ended the weekend with 40 kills overall.

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