Travelling west from the Bay Area for top 10 competition normally means one thing – the Broncos are headed to Hawaii! They play in the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic from Sept. 5-7 at the Stan Sheriff Center. Santa Clara will start off with No. 10 UCLA on Thurs., Sept. 5 at 8 pm Pacific. The Broncos will play host Hawaii, ranked No. 9 nationally, on Friday at 10:30 pm Pacific. SCU will finish with New Mexico State on Saturday at 8 pm Pacific.
With nine newcomers, Bronco head coach Jon Wallace is looking for his seniors and juniors, including Megan Anders, Alyssa Anderson, Haley Cameron and Taylor Milton, to lead the team with their energy. "We need the upperclassmen to carry us for awhile – to bring their energy every point," said Wallace. "We need them to lead by example for the younger girls."
Santa Clara brings a 2-1 record to Hawaii after dropping its first match of the year to CSU Northridge last weekend. Playing three matches in 24 hours, the Bronco then defeated host-Fresno State 3-2 and Rice 3-1 on the final day. Both Megan Anders and freshman Nikki Hess were named to the all-tournament team.
"Last weekend we wanted to get our three freshmen ready to play college volleyball and get two of our sophomores up to speed as well," said Wallace. "We know winning isn't easy and we all have to work extremely hard in each point. We have to be mentally tough to give our team a chance to win a set and then win a match."
Wallace, in his 15th year at the SCU helm, always enjoys the environment at Hawaii with 8,000 fans packing Stan Sheriff Center. "The Hawaii fans, arena and culture are without a doubt some of the best in the country. It will be really fun for our team to perform in this environment."
UCLA, Santa Clara's first opponent on Thursday, comes in ranked No. 10 nationally with a 3-0 record. They went four games on Aug. 31 with West Coast Conference foe LMU. They are led by Karsta Lowe, who is hitting .557 with 5.20 kpg. The Bruins run the 6-2 with Wallace complimenting their experienced outside hitters and good middles. "They are ranked No. 10 in the country, but at this time of the year, anything can happen," said Wallace. "Teams aren't completely gelled yet so we hope to come in and play aggressive in attack mode. If we can do that, we will have a good shot at competing at a high level this weekend."
No. 9 Hawaii won its first two matches last weekend at its own Time Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational. Hawaii opened the year with a 3-1 win over No. 1 Texas – the program's first win over a No. 1 ranked team since 2000 (UCLA). Hawaii lost the final match of the tournament in a heartbreaker to an unranked San Diego team, 3-2. Also a member of the WCC, San Diego has jumped up to No. 14 in this week's rankings.
Hawaii is led by Dave Shoji - in his 39th season leading the Rainbow Wahine. With 1,105 career wins, Shoji enters the Classic just one win shy of tying former UCLA coach Andy Banachowski for the most wins in NCAA Division I women's volleyball history.
"Playing in front of Hawaii crowd is very comforting," said Wallace. "Their fans are very knowledgeable. Very supportive. They are a friendly crowd that gives you a lot of excitement and energy and it will bring the best out of our girls."
The Broncos were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by then- No. 8 Hawaii 3-0 in Seattle last year.
Santa Clara's final opponent on Saturday will be New Mexico State. They carry a 1-2 record to Hawaii, winning 3-0 vs. Nevada to begin their year. They fell 3-0 at Cal and then lost 3-2 to UC Santa Barbara.
Wallace wants the team to approach each match with the same attitude. "This is a great opportunity for us to come together and get better. We have to get better and we have a unique opportunity in front of us to do just that. We have to compete and we need to learn to compete against every team. The other team's ranking or their name on jersey shouldn't have an effect on our team. We need to compete and work on what we are doing and not worry about the other side of the net."