Santa Clara Opens NCAA Championship on Friday

Santa Clara Opens NCAA Championship on Friday

Nov. 30, 2004

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This Week
Santa Clara University will face the University of Kansas in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Volleyball Championship. The Broncos (18-8) received an at-large berth and will travel to Seattle for the first and second rounds of the 24th NCAA Championship this Friday and Saturday. The Broncos will face the Jayhawks at the Bank of America Arena at 5 p.m. on Friday. Fifth-ranked Washington and Idaho will face each other in the other game at 7 p.m. The winners will face each other on Saturday at 7 p.m.

The Broncos will be making their seventh straight NCAA postseason appearance. Santa Clara received an at-large berth into the Tournament after placing third in the West Coast Conference.

On the Opponents
Kansas is 18-11 on the season and earned an at-large berth into the tournament. The Bronco program has faced Kansas on one other occasion, a 3-2 season-opening loss at a preseason tournament in 1994. The Huskies (24-2) received an automatic berth after winning the Pac-10 Championship, while the Vandals (17-12) were an at-large bid, after placing sixth in the Big West.

The Rest of the Field
Of the 64 teams selected, 20 are from the West and 14 are from the state of California. West Coast Conference opponents San Diego, Saint Mary's and Loyola Marymount were placed in the draw. SCU went 5-8 against the tournament field during the regular season. Nebraska is the tournament's top seed, followed by Penn State, Hawaii, Minnesota, Ohio State, Texas, Washington and USC.

The Big Ten and Big 12 lead all conferences with seven teams in the tournament. Six teams will represent the Big West and the Pac-10; four teams will represent the WCC and the SEC. In the championship, 31 conferences were awarded automatic berths with 33 teams receiving at-large selections.

Advancing Through the Championship
Regionals will be held December 10-11 at predetermined sites in Louisville, Ky., Minneapolis, Minn., Seattle, Wash., and Green Bay, Wis. The Final Four will be held December 16 and 18 at Long Beach Arena and is hosted by Long Beach State University.

Building a Wall
Santa Clara is currently ranked 10th in the nation in blocks per game, boasting a 3.19 average. Despite missing six of the last eight matches, freshman Annalisa Muratore leads the team with a 1.77 mark, which ranks third in the nation. Anna Cmaylo is next with a 1.17 average. Nora Miller is right behind her, averaging 1.14 blocks per game.

In Other National Stats
Santa Clara is currently ranked 30th in assists (14.87) and Annalisa Muratore is ranked 25th in hitting percentage (.384).

Six Named to All-WCC Teams
Six Santa Clara players have been selected to All-WCC teams. Toni Muratore, Cassie Perret and Kim McGiven were named to the first team, while Annalisa Muratore, Jac Heler and Caroline Walters received honorable mention honors.

Annalisa Muratore was also named the WCC Freshman of the Year. She quickly turned heads with her stellar play, both offensively and defensively. At one point in the season, she led the nation in blocks per game and ranked as high as second in the nation in hitting percentage. The Atwater native finished the conference season averaging 1.97 blocks per game, 3.46 kills per game, 4.64 points per game, and hitting at a .311 clip. Her league season was cut four matches short due to a knee injury.

The Schedule
Santa Clara's schedule once again has invited the nation's best, as the Broncos' slate included matches against four teams that finished last season ranked in the top 10 nationally by the AVCA. Santa Clara held its own against national powers Hawaii and UCLA, which was strong preparation for the West Coast Conference season. The quest for the 2004 league crown was challenging, as six of the eight conference schools advanced to the postseason last year, displaying the national strength of the WCC.

In the Rankings
Santa Clara fell out of the USA Today/CSTV Top 25 Coaches Poll, as selected by the AVCA, for the first time this season. The Broncos opened the 2004 season ranked 22nd. Seven of Santa Clara's opponents were also ranked. The Broncos faced No. 3 UCLA, No. 7 Stanford, 11th-ranked Hawaii, No. 12 California, No. 12 Saint Mary's and No. 19 San Diego.

In the WCC Statistics
Santa Clara is second in the West Coast Conference in blocks (3.19 pg), assists (14.87 pg), kills (16.07 pg) and opponent hitting percentage (.173). The Broncos are fourth in hitting percentage (.228), and sixth in service aces (1.14 pg) and digs (16.46 pg). Individually, Annalisa Muratore leads the league in hitting percentage (.384) and blocks (1.77 pg), and is eighth in kills (3.41 pg). Additionally, Caroline Walters is third in digs (4.88 pg) and Anna Cmaylo is sixth in hitting percentage (.296) and seventh in blocks (1.17 pg). Santa Clara has the most balance in its offense in conference listings, as Toni Muratore is sixth in the WCC with a 3.43 kills per game mark, and Kim McGiven follows at 3.12 for 12th, making the Broncos one of only two league schools with three players ranked in the top 15 in this category. Additionally, Cassie Perret is ranked ninth in blocks per game (1.04), one of only two non-middle blockers listed in the top 10.

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