Volleyball

Volleyball Stays in Golden State for Davis Invitational

The Broncos continue their stretch of nine straight matches away from Leavey Center this week. (Photo by Clayton Christy/Courtesy Washington Athletics)
The Broncos continue their stretch of nine straight matches away from Leavey Center this week. (Photo by Clayton Christy/Courtesy Washington Athletics)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara volleyball plays the last of three nonconference road tournaments for the season this Friday and Saturday at the UC Davis Invitational. The Broncos have a Friday doubleheader with a 10 a.m. match against Boise State, followed by a 5:30 p.m. tilt with Portland State. They cap the tournament versus the host Aggies Saturday at 2 p.m.

The Broncos face Boise State and UC Davis for the second year in a row. Following the best start in program history at 9-0 in 2016, Santa Clara fell 3-1 against both teams at the Boise State Invitational.

Last weekend, Santa Clara went 1-2 against quality competition at the Washington Invitational. The Broncos dropped matches against the No. 8 Huskies and Mustangs — who are both currently 5-1 — before scoring a sweep over Seattle. Half of the six sets in Santa Clara's losses were decided by only two points.

Santa Clara will face a 2016 NCAA Tournament participant for the third straight weekend when it takes the court against Boise State. The Broncos have tournament teams from a season ago on the slate in each of this year's first five weekends (seven in 14 matches overall).

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THE BRONCOS

Jensen Cunningham landed a spot on the UW Invitational all-tournament team by hitting .417 with 26 kills. The accolade marks her second career all-tournament nod after she was named MVP of the Louisville-hosted Active Ankle Challenge in 2016. The senior middle blocker hit .444 against Washington and Cal Poly as part of a weekend in which she committed only six attack errors in 48 attempts. Cunningham also leads the Broncos with 19 total blocks.

Preseason All-West Coast Conference selection Kirsten Mead logged a career-best five straight double-doubles through the Cal Poly match. The senior setter leads SCU with 10 aces (no other Bronco has more than five) and ranks second among teammates with 62 digs.

Michelle Gajdka leads the Broncos with 75 kills, including a Bronco-best 27 over three matches in Washington. The sophomore outside hitter has double-digit kills in four of six matches and a pair of double-doubles. She hit .444 with nine kills in Santa Clara's sweep of the Redhawks. As a freshman in 2016, Gajdka played in 15 matches and finished the season with 16 kills.

As a team, Santa Clara held Washington, Cal Poly and Seattle to .180 hitting. Taylor Odom spurred the Bronco front line with two block solos and 10 blocks overall.

Taylor Laugero, who led the team with 471 digs as a freshman last year, did not play due to injury. Tatiana San Juan led the team with 35 digs last weekend and is averaging a team-high 3.52 digs/set for the year.

THE OPPONENTS

Boise State | Record: 4-2 | SCU Record vs. Broncos: 4-2 | First Meeting: 1986 | Last Meeting: 2016

Boise State enters the UC Davis Invitational following a pair of 2-1 weekends. The Broncos dropped a three-set match against BYU last Thursday before downing Sacramento State 3-2 on Friday and sweeping Missouri on Saturday. Sierra Nobley ranks fourth in the NCAA with 5.29 kills/set. She had 32 kills in the team's win over the Hornets.

Portland State | Record: 5-1 | SCU Record vs. Vikings: 1-4 | First Meeting: 1981 | Last Meeting: 2010

Portland State brings a four-match winning streak to the tournament, and has only dropped two sets in those four contests. The Vikings collected 3-1 victories over Nevada and Arizona State before sweeping Gonzaga to win the Gonzaga Invitational last weekend. They are outhitting opponents .279 to .195 and hold a 61-39 edge in blocks. Mikaelyn Sych ranks second nationally with 2.14 blocks/set and fifth with 45 total blocks.

UC Davis | Record: 4-3 | SCU Record vs. Aggies: 3-1 | First Meeting: 2006 | Last Meeting: 2016

Tournament host UC Davis went 1-2 at the Pioneer Classic last weekend and fell in five sets against Sacramento State on Monday. The Aggies won the UNLV Invitational on opening weekend. Emily Allen is averaging a team-high 2.72 kills/set to lead a balanced attack that features four players with 2.3 kills/set or better.

CUNNINGHAM EARNS ALL-TOURNEY TEAM HONORS

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