Santa Clara 3, Sacramento State 1Dec. 2, 2005

Stanford, Calif. - It wasn't easy, but the Santa Clara women's volleyball team is moving onto the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A qualifier for the Big Dance the last eight seasons, this is the first time the No. 15 Broncos advanced to the second day of competition since the 2000 season. The West Coast Conference Champions took out a feisty and defensively minded Sacramento State team in four games, overcoming a slow start to eventually win 23-30, 30-23, 30-20, and 30-23.

"I think the team knew what we needed to do and it was just a matter of getting it done," explained team captain Kim McGiven about her team's slow start. "We demanded a lot out of each other and it didn't just come out from me or Kristen [Luxton], the other captain. It came from every person on the court and on the team, demanding a lot out of each other and pushing each other... We pulled together and got the job done."

Five Broncos scored in double-digits kills, led by 17 kills apiece by freshman outside hitter Brittany Lowe and sophomore middle blocker Annalisa Muratore. Sophomore middle blocker Anna Cmaylo chipped in with 16 kills, while junior outside hitter Kim McGiven and senior opposite produced 15 and 11 kills, respectively. On defense, sophomore libero Caroline Walters dug a match-high 28 balls, while Lowe, McGiven, and Perret were able to tally 13, 12, and 11 digs, respectively. Up at the net, Muratore led the way with six blocks, while Cmaylo and Perret totaled three rejections each. Sophomore setter Crystal Matich set an efficient offense, guiding the team to a .301 clip while handing out 69 assists in the four-game triumph.

"We hit over .300 tonight and we haven't done that in the last month with some injuries and people being out," said head coach Jon Wallace. "I'm really happy we hit over .300 and that was our goal as a team and a program. We did it tonight and that's a big reason why we won."

In the opening frame, Sacramento State bolted to a 6-2 lead behind the strong serve of Atlee Hubbard. The Broncos would close the gap to 8-6 after a Lowe back row kill, but the Hornets went on an 8-3 run to secure a sizable advantage midway through the first game. Santa Clara tried to rally back from its deficit, but a strong net attack by Sacramento State enabled the Big Sky Champions to easily take game one by a score of 30-23.

The Hornets once again got off to a great start in the second game, establishing a 16-10 advantage thanks to a slew of attack errors by the Broncos. Wallace used a timeout to talk things over with his team at that juncture, and afterwards, his troops came back out onto the court revitalized. Sets to the outside resulted in kills and Santa Clara caught up in a hurry, going on an 8-2 rally to take an 18-17 lead. The Broncos continued to push the pace of the match, stringing together an 8-2 run to take a commanding 26-20 advantage. A kill by Cmaylo tied the match up at one game apiece.

After the eight-minute intermission, Cmaylo continued where she left off, as three early kills by her propelled her team to an early 4-1 lead. Although the Hornets would tie it up at 5-5 after another kill by Hubbard, the Broncos took the lead for good thanks to a combination of strong hitting by Santa Clara and some attacking errors by Sacramento State. SCU would hold a three-point edge for much of the game, though Lowe's difficult jump floater broke the frame wide-open, as she served for three-straight points to make the score 21-14. Smart hitting by Cmaylo, Lowe, and Perret pushed the Broncos to a game three victory.

The two teams played evenly to start off game four, as both Northern Californian foes were attacking at a high percentage. Santa Clara went on a 3-0 run, capped off by a kill by Lowe, to give it a lead of 11-8, prompting Sacramento State coach Debby Colberg to call a timeout. Despite building a 14-9 edge, the Broncos were unable to put away the Hornets. After an attack by McGiven hit the bottom of the net to make it 16-15 in favor of SCU, Wallace took a timeout of his own to talk things over with his squad. Immediately after the timeout, Lowe had a kill to give her team a boost. A few rotations later, Lowe was behind the service line and once again, her strong serve prompted a string of SCU points, pushing the lead to 26-18. A cross-court kill by McGiven ended the match and gave her team a 30-23 game four victory.

With the win, the Broncos improve their overall record to 24-4 on the year. Action continues tomorrow at Maples Pavilion, as Santa Clara will face the winner of Stanford-Nevada match, with a berth to the Sweet Sixteen on the line.

"We're ready," declared Wallace. "The girls are just now ready to compete at a really high level, excited level. I know tomorrow night we're going to come out, whoever we play, and we're going to play. I can guarantee you that."

-- Courtesy Santa Clara