Santa Clara will play two top 25 teams this week in West Coast Conference action, hosting No. 25 Saint Mary's on Thurs., Oct. 25 at 6 pm. The Broncos will then travel to No. 14 San Diego to play a 1 pm match on Sat., Oct. 27. Santa Clara enters the week at 16-7 and 5-3 in the WCC.
Santa Clara has the reigning WCC Player of the Week in Megan Anders. Anders hit for a .500 clip with 39 kills, averaging 4.88 kpg and 0.50 bpg, leading the Santa Clara Broncos to a 2-0 record last week.
Santa Clara has posted a 2-2 record vs. the four ranked teams from the WCC, which also include No. 18 BYU and No. 23 Pepperdine. Santa Clara lost 3-1 to then-No. 18 San Diego on Sept. 22. The Broncos defeated then-No. 18 Pepperdine 3-1 on Sept. 29 and then fell 3-2 at then-No. 24 Pepperdine on Oct. 13. Last Saturday Santa Clara defeated then-No. 16 BYU 3-2.
Bronco head coach Jon Wallace acknowledges they have a difficult road ahead of them with four of the final eight WCC matches against ranked opponents. "Seven of our nine schools are in the top 50 of the RPI, which means we have our work cut out for us," said Wallace. Santa Clara is ranked No. 41 in this week's RPI.
The Broncos are 2-3 this year vs. top 25 teams this season. "The bottom line, we will still have to continue to get better," said Wallace. "We have a chance to get better this week by playing two ranked teams. We have to truly believe in our style of play and stay patient with it. If we can just hang in long enough, serve tough and play good defense – our belief can carry us to a win."
Hosting rival Saint Mary's on Thursday, who enters with an 11-9 overall record and a 6-3 league record, Wallace is hoping for the same crowd that the team played in front of in its defeat of BYU on Saturday. "I hope we have the same crowd we had at our game on Saturday. They were great," added Wallace. "It really gave us a lot of energy and helped us win game five! Going forward we need our entire team to get better and play together with all of the great opponents we have ahead of us."
No. 14 San Diego is coming off a 3-2 loss on the road to Saint Mary's last Saturday. The Toreros had won 14 straight matches before losing in five in a tight match. They are off until they host Santa Clara on Saturday.
Santa Clara played in its ninth five-set match of the year on Saturday in the win over BYU and the Broncos have posted a 6-3 record this year when going the distance. Wallace believes the more game fives the team plays, the more comfortable they are in playing a game five. "We have been lucky enough to win six of those and that gives us confidence to pull it out the next time."
Anders collected a career-best 25 kills in Santa Clara's 3-2 win over No. 16 BYU, hitting .432 on 44 attempts with one block assist. In the 3-0 non-conference win versus Sacramento State, which entered the match as the No. 3 blocking team in the country, Anders registered an impressive .636 hitting percentage, collecting 14 kills and zero errors with four block assists.
"Megan has been playing at a high level all season and it's fantastic for the conference to recognize her efforts this past week," said Bronco head coach Jon Wallace. "The win over BYU on Saturday was a total team effort. Megan would be the first to say that good passing and strong sets allowed her to have a big night in our victory."
Anders is hitting a team-leading .395 this year, including a .431 hitting percentage in WCC play with 3.22 kills per game. Anders is ranked No. 20 in hitting percentage nationally. The Broncos are ranked No. 24 nationally with 1.53 sapg.
"I agree with Jon on the passing and setting - it was huge on Saturday. I can't say enough about that, especially with Alyssa Anderson always being able to find me. The quick pins on our offensive sets help a lot and I credit the coaches for setting those," said Anders. "I don't keep track of percentages in my head during the match. If it's going well and I am feeling confident, I can for a little more. The win over BYU gave us the confidence we need right now that we can compete against a top 25 team. We are going to face a top 25, top 32 team in the post-season and this helps give us confidence that we can compete with them."
"Megan's ability is one thing, but her drive and desire this year have been that of a champion," added Wallace. "It's great for her to be recognized this week for her work all season."
In addition to Anders, Wallace complimented Haley Cameron as someone who is really coming on strong. "She is carrying more and more of a load every match we play," said Wallace. "Her blocking has been dominating for us as well."
Cameron is second on the team in hitting at .283 and is also second on the team with 0.85 bpg.