Volleyball

Volleyball Continues Season’s Homestretch at No. 9 BYU on Saturday

Santa Clara has won six of its last seven matches entering Saturday's tilt.
Santa Clara has won six of its last seven matches entering Saturday's tilt.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Santa Clara volleyball continues a tough road stretch against a second straight ranked opponent on Saturday. The Broncos head to Provo, Utah for a West Coast Conference matchup against No. 9 BYU in Smith Fieldhouse. First serve is set for noon PST.

SCU had its seven-match winning streak snapped at the hands of San Diego on Thursday night. The Broncos battled and forced free volleyball in the second set before falling 25-15, 27-25, 25-12. Ngozi Nwabuzoh posted a career-best eight kills and Kirsten Mead had her 16th double-double of the season.

BYU won for the fifth straight match on Thursday night by sweeping San Francisco 25-12, 25-17, 25-12 at home. The Cougars are tied for first in the WCC with the 11th-ranked Toreros; their only losses have come against USD and Baylor this season.

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THE MATCHUP

• Santa Clara: 15-13/8-8 WCC/7-6 Away | BYU: 26-2/15-1 WCC/10-1 Home

• SCU All-Time vs. Cougars: 4-9 | First Meeting: 1992

• 2017: 9/21 @SCU No. 9 BYU Won 3-0

• 2016: 9/22 @BYU No. 13 BYU Won 3-0 | 11/19 @SCU No. 10 BYU Won 3-0

• Last SCU Win: 9/26/15 3-1 @SCU

• The Broncos have never won at BYU

• BYU has won four straight in the series

THE BRONCOS

Mead leads the WCC with 1,134 assists and ranks second in the conference with 10.50 assists/set. The senior setter has hit a pair of milestones this year by reaching 1,000 assists for the season (Nov. 3 at San Francisco) and 4,000 assists for her career (Oct. 28 at Gonzaga). Mead added to her long list of accolades on Thursday as she was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District® 8 Volleyball First Team.

Reigning West Coast Conference player of the week Jensen Cunningham ranks third in the conference with a .351 hitting percentage, sixth with 108 total blocks and eighth with 1.00 blocks/set. She has double-digit kills 19 times on the year and has hit .433 or better in 10 matches.

Michelle Gajdka, who ranks second on the team with 328 kills, has double-digit kills five times in her last seven matches, including a pair of double-double performances. She has registered 15-plus kills in seven matches this year.

Taylor Laugero was limited to six sets in three matches during the team's first 17 tilts of the year due to injury. The sophomore libero has played in all 45 sets of Santa Clara's last 11 matches and is averaging 3.96 digs/set over that stretch, during which the Broncos are 8-3. Santa Clara is 10-4 overall with Laugero on the court this year.

Senior Erin Reineking, who joined the team during the 2016-17 season, capped Santa Clara's senior day match against the Loyola Marymount with her second-career ace in the deciding set last Saturday.

THE COUGARS

BYU leads the conference in four major categories, including hitting percentage (.273) and opponent hitting percentage (.169). Part of the stout defense is a strong presence at the net, as the team ranks ninth in the NCAA with 2.99 blocks/set and 11th in the NCAA with 301.5 total blocks. 

Individually, Veronica Jones-Perry tops the WCC in four categories and Mary Lake leads the conference in two more. Jones-Perry is sixth in the country with 4.75 kills/set for a Cougars side that has taken 15 of its last 16 sets.

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GO BRONCOS!