SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Santa Clara volleyball, winners of two straight and four of its last six, concludes a trip to the Northwest on Saturday afternoon with a West Coast Conference match at Gonzaga. The Broncos and Bulldogs meet for a noon first serve at Martin Centre.
On Thursday, Santa Clara began its road-heavy homestretch of the 2017 season with a sweep at Portland. The Broncos took down the Pilots 25-18, 25-23, 25-21 at Chiles Center to begin a span that includes six of the season's last eight matches away from home. Santa Clara leaned on a balanced attack that featured four players with seven-plus kills and Kirsten Mead tied for the match lead with 32 assists.
Gonzaga has also won two in a row entering Saturday's contest. The Bulldogs swept a close match against San Francisco with three identical set scores on Thursday: 25-23, 25-23, 25-23. Sarah Penner paced the Gonzaga offense with 13 kills. The team's only two losses in 10 conference matches came on the road against ranked opponents in No. 18 San Diego and No. 7 BYU.
GAME DAY LINKS
• Santa Clara: 11-12/4-7 WCC/5-5 Away | Gonzaga: 13-9/8-2 WCC/7-1 Home
• SCU All-Time vs. Bulldogs: 49-12 | First Meeting: 1987
• 2016: 9/29 Gonzaga Won 3-0 in Spokane | 10/29 Santa Clara Won 3-1 in Santa Clara
• Santa Clara has won four of the last six in the series.
Mead, who passed Julie Jamile (1987-90) for fifth place all-time in SCU career assists in a five-set victory over Saint Mary's on Saturday, Oct. 21, is near a both career and season milestones. She needs 42 assists to reach 4,000 for her career and 66 assists to reach 1,000 for the season.
After being limited to six sets in the team's first 17 matches due to injury, Taylor Laugero has played in all 25 sets of Santa Clara's last six contests. The sophomore libero averaged 4.77 digs/set in three matches from Oct. 6-14, including a co-career high 32 digs in a victory at Pepperdine on Oct. 14. The Broncos are 6-3 when Laugero takes the court this season.
Michelle Gajdka has 13-plus kills in six of her last eight matches. She leads the Broncos with 277 kills and 3.18 kills/set. The sophomore outside hitter has produced double-digit kills in 14 of 23 matches to go with eight double-doubles on the year.
Jensen Cunningham has produced 16-plus kills for Santa Clara in five of the last eight matches and 22.0-plus points in four of the last eight contests. The senior middle blocker has hit .444 or better eight times of the season, and taken at least 17 swings in seven of those matches.
Gonzaga enters Saturday's match as the third-place team in the WCC. The Bulldogs won their first six conference matches before falling to the Toreros and Cougars. They had a span of five straight five-set wins from Sept. 21-Oct. 5 as part of a seven-match winning streak. On the season, 20 of the team's 22 matches have been sweeps or gone the distance and Gonzaga is 7-2 in five-set matches.
Penner leads the Bulldogs attack with 200 kills and 2.47 kills/set. Jenna Kuehn tops the team with 22 aces on the season and the Bulldogs feature a balanced service corps; six players have 11-plus aces on the year.
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