Volleyball Set for Ameritas Players Challenge, to Meet Defending National Champion Nebraska

Santa Clara enters the Ameritas Players Challenge on the strength of a home-opening sweep victory over Sacramento State.
Santa Clara enters the Ameritas Players Challenge on the strength of a home-opening sweep victory over Sacramento State.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Santa Clara volleyball will get a good slate of competition in the second weekend of the season, including defending national champion and fifth-ranked Nebraska. The Broncos take on Wake Forest (8 a.m. PDT) and Ohio (3 p.m.) on Friday at the Ameritas Players Challenge, followed by the tournament host Cornhuskers (noon) on Saturday at the Devaney Center.

The Broncos and Cornhuskers will meet for the first time since they clashed in an NCAA Tournament semifinal match in 2005.

Santa Clara is 2-2 on the season after sweeping Sacramento State at home on Tuesday night. The team went 1-2 last weekend at the Idaho Volleyball Classic, including the first win in program history over New Mexico on Saturday. The Broncos were swept on opening night against Idaho on Friday and battled Grand Canyon in a five-set loss on Saturday.



BTN2Go (Nebraska Match Only | Subscription Required)

Live Stats Wake Forest | Ohio | Nebraska


Freshman Michelle Shaffer has stepped into a starting role and leads the Broncos with 41 kills (2.93/set). She had 32 kills combined matches against New Mexico and Grand Canyon, including 20 against the Antelopes. 

Juniors Ngozi Nwabuzoh and Michelle Gajdka tied for the team lead with 11 kills apiece against the Hornets.

Nwabuzoh is hitting .351 with 37 kills between four matches and 13 sets this season. She registered 32 kills in 15 matches and 21 sets between her first two seasons with the team. Nwabuzoh has hit .310 or better in all four matches and has logged double-digit kills in three straight contests.

Gajdka has at least 11 kills in three straight matches. She played the first two sets of the season at libero. Since returning to her usual post at outside hitter, she has 39 kills in 12 sets (3.25/set).

Sophomore Chloe Loreen has started three straight matches at libero after playing as an outside hitter all of last season. Loreen posted a career-best 26 digs against Grand Canyon and followed up with 19 digs against Sacramento State to make it 45 digs (5.63/set) in her last two contests.

Junior Alexa Dreyer earned Idaho Volleyball Classic All-Tournament Team honors by compiling 27 kills and an SCU-best six aces in her debut weekend with the team. Dreyer served up four aces against the Antelopes and spurred several key Bronco runs during the tournament.

Freshman Liliana Light is averaging 10.36 assists/set (145 assists in 14 sets), including 54 against Grand Canyon.

Roster Breakdown

• The Broncos return 12 players from the 2017 roster, 10 of whom saw the court last season.

Michelle Gajdka and Taylor Odom played in all 30 matches and 115 of 116 sets a year ago. Gajdka led the team with 361 kills (3.14/set) and ranked third with 277 digs. Odom tied for the team lead in block assists (97) and was second with 108 total blocks (.94/set).

Allison Kantor and Tessie Powers each took the court in 29 of 30 matches. Kantor, a 2017 WCC All-Freshman Team selection, posted seven double-doubles on the season and closed out the year with six double-digit kill efforts in her last seven matches. Powers finished second on the 2017 team with 287 digs and posted 10-plus digs 16 times.

Brittany Gillingham (25 matches), Tatiana San Juan (23), Gretchen Reinert (19), Chloe Loreen (16), Anna McCreadie (11) and Ngozi Nwabuzoh (9) round out the returners that took the court. Laura Willems did not play last season and Kathryn Decker redshirted. 

• Santa Clara welcomes six newcomers: UCLA transfer Alexa Dreyer — who joins the team with two years of eligibility remaining — as well as freshmen Alex Anthony, Kamrin Caoili, Liliana Light, Natalia Rentsch and Michelle Shaffer.

• 2017 players lost to graduation: setter and 2017 West Coast Conference assists leader Kirsten Mead (1,232 assists, 10.62/set), middle blocker Jensen Cunningham (team-best 114 total blocks), setter Erin Reineking. Mead also led the team with 33 aces.

Head Coach Jon Wallace

• Jon Wallace, the winningest coach in program history, is in his 20th season at the helm in 2018. His overall record is 363-208 (.636).

• The Broncos have reached the NCAA Tournament 13 times in Wallace's 19 seasons.


• Redshirt juniors Anna McCreadie and Taylor Odom, junior Alexa Dreyer and freshman Liliana Light are the 2018 team captains. 

Class Breakdown

• Seniors: 1 - Tatiana San Juan

• Juniors: 7 - Alexa Dreyer, Michelle Gajdka, Anna McCreadie (RS), Ngozi Nwabuzoh, Taylor Odom (RS), Tessie Powers, Laura Willems

• Sophomores: 4 - Brittany Gillingham, Allison Kantor (RS), Chloe Loreen, Gretchen Reinert

• Freshmen: 6 - Alex Anthony, Kamrin Caoili, Kathryn Decker (RS), Liliana Light, Natalia Rentsch, Michelle Shaffer

• By State: California (13), Oregon (2), Washington (2), Colorado (1)


• Santa Clara and Wake Forest have never met.

Wake Forest is 0-3 to start the season after being swept by Maryland on opening night, then falling to Air Force and UNC Greensboro on Saturday as a co-host of the Spartan-Demon Deacon Classic. Caitlyn Della hit .370 with 24 kills en route to all-tournament team honors.

The Demon Deacons were picked to finish 13th of 15 teams in the ACC preseason poll. They went 13-19 in 2017.


• Santa Clara and Ohio have never met.

Ohio lost its first match of the season 3-1 to Texas A&M on Friday, then was swept by Ohio State on Saturday before capping the weekend with a four-set win over Albany at the Sports Imports Classic. Vera Giacomazzi nabbed a spot on the all-tournament team by posting 94 assists (8.55/set), 49 of which came in the team's win against the Great Danes.

The Bobcats were picked to win the MAC East Division in the conference's preseason poll. They went 17-15 in 2017.


• Nebraska leads the all-time series 6-0 and is 2-0 in Lincoln.

• 12/15/05: Nebraska Swept Santa Clara in the NCAA Tournament Semifinal

Nebraska lost 3-1 against No. 7 Florida on Friday night in the season-opening match, a rematch of last year's national championship tilt. The Huskers — who were ranked No. 2 in the AVCA preseason poll — swept No. 18 Oregon to close out the VERT Challenge at 1-1. 2017 AVCA Second Team All-American Mikaela Foecke hit .375 with 15 kills in the team's win over the Ducks.

The Cornhuskers were picked to win the 14-team Big Ten in the conference's preseason poll. They went 32-4 last season and won the fifth national championship in program history. The team has two national championships in the last three years (2015).


Athletics: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Snapchat (SCUBroncos)
Volleyball: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram