SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara volleyball concludes its busiest stretch of West Coast Conference play this season on Saturday afternoon in Leavey Center. The Broncos, playing for the third time in five days and fifth time in 10 days, host Portland for a 1 p.m. first serve.
Santa Clara fought in one of its closest matches this season Thursday night against Gonzaga at home. The Broncos (7-9, 0-4 WCC) won the second and fourth sets and got on match point in the fifth set, but were upended by the Bulldogs 25-19, 24-26, 25-18, 18-25, 16-14. The Pilots (11-4, 2-1) are also coming off a five-set match; they downed San Francisco 25-14, 25-27, 22-25, 25-23, 16-14 on the road Thursday night.
The Broncos have lost five straight matches since defeating No. 9 Kansas on Sept. 15 and won only three sets in that stretch. The Pilots are 4-1 in their last five contests.
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Jensen Cunningham (career highs of 19 kills/17 digs), Michelle Gajdka (18 kills/17 digs) and Kirsten Mead (55 assists/13 digs) all recorded double-doubles on Thursday. Cunningham's marked the first of her career. Mead has nine on the season while Gajdka has five. Allison Kantor chipped in a career-best 11 kills, including three in five points as the Broncos rallied in the fifth set.
Santa Clara trailed the match's deciding frame 13-9 against the Bulldogs before going on a 5-0 run. Cunningham and Gajdka each had two kills during the spree that set up match point and Brittany Gillingham added an ace before Gonzaga took the next three points to claim the match. The Broncos played without Taylor Laugero and Chloe Loreen due to injury.
Mead is averaging a single-season best 2.72 digs/set in 2017. She ranks second in the WCC with 600 total assists and third with 10.36 assists/set. The senior setter is second all-time in career assists among Broncos that spent their entire careers in the rally-scoring era. She has 3,624 career assists, and needs 252 more to pass Julie Jamile (1987-90) and move into fifth-place all-time for the Broncos.
Cunningham hit .500 or better three times in a five-match stretch during the middle of September (.611 vs. Idaho, .500 vs. No. 9 Kansas, .500 vs. No. 17 San Diego). Her .346 hitting percentage for the season is 48 points above her career average of .298 and currently good for third in the WCC.
2017 Record: 11-4 (2-1 Away) | SCU All-Time vs. Pilots: 53-10 | First Meeting: 1979
2016: 10/1 Santa Clara Won 3-2 in Portland | 10/27 Portland Won 3-1 in Santa Clara
The teams have split matches each of the last two seasons.
Portland, led by reigning WCC Coach of the Year Brent Crouch, enters Saturday's match as the conference leader in opposing hitting percentage (.166), digs/set (14.32) and service aces (95, also good for 20th in the NCAA). Individually, Katie Barker and Cali Thompson are tied for the WCC lead with 22 aces apiece. Thompson leads all WCC setters with 612 assists.
Season or single-game tickets are available. Click here to purchase online or contact the ticket office weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (408) 554-4660 or [email protected]. Group discounts are also available through our ticket office sales and service consultants. Doors to the Leavey Center, as well as its ticket office, are open one hour prior to the start of the match.
For weekday matches, the Leavey Center lot, located on Accolti Way off El Camino Real, is free beginning one hour prior to first serve. Any other parking facility on campus will be subject to normal daily rates or restrictions, including the main structure, located adjacent to Stevens Stadium on Palm Drive. During the weekend, campus parking facilities are free (except for permit required locations). Click here for a campus map and parking restrictions.
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