Volleyball Wraps Up Nonconference Play at Thin Air Challenge

Libero Gretchen Reinert (left) has 10-plus digs in all 10 matches this season, including a career-high 22 digs twice.
Libero Gretchen Reinert (left) has 10-plus digs in all 10 matches this season, including a career-high 22 digs twice.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Santa Clara volleyball looks to close out nonconference play with another winning weekend at the Thin Air Challenge. The 8-2 Broncos face Montana at 9 a.m. Pacific and Denver at 5 p.m. on Friday (Denver – Hamilton Gymnasium), followed by Air Force at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday (Colorado Springs, Colorado – Cadet East Gym). 

SCU has won at least two matches in each of the first three weeks of the season. The team defeated San José State in four sets, fell to Marist in three sets and took down Northern Colorado in four sets last week as co-hosts of the South Bay Battle.


Air Force
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Through 10 matches, Santa Clara owns a sizeable edge in hitting percentage (.285 to .102), aces (68 to 45) and blocks (91 to 45) over the opposition. The Broncos won six in a row to start the season and eclipsed their win total from last year with a victory against the Spartans to improve to 7-1 at that time. The team has hit .300 or better six times on the year after topping .300 once in 2018.

Michelle Shaffer tied the program record of eight aces in a single match and became the first Bronco to hit that mark in 30 seasons (1989) as the team rolled through the second, third and fourth sets to defeat the Bears. The Thousand Oaks, California native is the fourth Bronco to serve up eight aces in a match and the first in the rally scoring era, which began in 2001. She had three aces in four points as part of a 7-0 Bronco run in the second set and five aces in six points as part of a 12-0 Bronco run in the fourth set en route to all-tournament team honors. 

Alexa Dreyer also landed a spot on the all-tournament team last week. She totaled 26 kills on .407 hitting and posted 11 blocks in 11 sets. The San Mateo, California native racked up 10 kills in the win over the Spartans and hit .615 with nine kills in the win over the Bears. She has four or more blocks in five of 10 matches and is hitting .404 for the season.

Julia Sangiacomo's 122 kills (3.7/set) are tops on the team. She led all Broncos with 32 kills in three matches last week. Allison Kantor finished just behind Sangiacomo with 20 kills last week. Kantor has taken 25 or more swings eight times on the year, and the outside hitter has posted a .440 or better hitting percentage four times.

Taylor Odom collected 17 kills on .389 hitting and had 12 total blocks (1.2/set) in the South Bay Battle. She leads the Broncos with 47 blocks (1.38/set) this year.

Gretchen Reinert, in her first season as a starting libero, has double-digit digs in all 10 matches, including a career-high 22 twice (vs. UT Martin Aug. 30, at Fresno State Sept. 6).


Michelle Shaffer had Santa Clara's first triple-double since 2003 (16 seasons) on Aug. 31 in a four-set victory over Marshall. She notched 12 kills, 24 assists and 11 digs.

Allison Kantor served up four consecutive aces in the first set of a sweep victory over Indiana on Aug. 31.

Julia Sangiacomo was named West Coast Conference Player of the Week on Sept. 2, 2019 following the first action of her debut season at the Indiana Invitational.

Santa Clara started 6-0 for the fifth time in program history (1979, 2002, 2005, 2016) and won all four matches to claim the Indiana Invitational crown on opening weekend (Aug. 30-31).


Erin Lindsey is in her first season as head coach of Santa Clara in 2019. Lindsey joins the Broncos after winning a national championship as an assistant coach at Stanford in 2018. She is the 10th head coach for a program that dates back to 1963 and enters her second stint as a head coach after leading Dartmouth from 2011 to 2015. Her overall record as a head coach is 62-71 (8-2 at SCU) and she is the first head coach in Santa Clara history to start 6-0 in her debut season.


• The Broncos return 13 players from 2018, 12 of whom saw the court last season; they posted a 6-24 record. 2019 returners accounted for the following percentages of last year's team stats:
1,220/1,315 kills (93 percent)
839/1,224 assists (69)
87/109 aces (80)
1,039/1,615 digs (64)
191.5/214.5 blocks (89)

• Senior Alexa Dreyer and sophomore Michelle Shaffer played in all 30 matches and all 108 sets a year ago. Shaffer, a 2018 West Coast Conference All-Freshman Team selection, led the team with 297 kills (2.75/set) and ranked second with 294 digs; she had the second-most digs among WCC freshmen. Dreyer led the team in hitting percentage (.273), total blocks (93) and block assists (87).

• Sophomore Liliana Light took the court in 27 of 30 matches, primarily as a setter, and led the team with 687 assists (6.87/set). She finished third on the Broncos in digs (187) and posted six double-doubles.

• Senior Michelle Gajdka and junior Allison Kantor each appeared in 25 matches as outside hitters. Gajdka had 10-plus kills in four straight matches from Aug. 25-31. Kantor started 20 of the last 21 matches after appearing in four of the first nine matches, all off the bench.

Brittany Gillingham (24 matches), Gretchen Reinert (23), Kamrin Caoili (22), Taylor Odom (20), Anna McCreadie (17), Alex Anthony (14) and Kathryn Decker (14) round out the returners that took the court. Natalia Rentsch did not play last season.

• Santa Clara welcomes five newcomers: freshmen Claire Doud, Haley Flanagan, Katie Lawton, Kamaile Manol and Julia Sangiacomo.

• By Class: Seniors (4), juniors (3), sophomores (6), freshmen (5).

• By State: California (11), Washington (3), Oregon (2), Colorado (1), Hawai'i (1).

• The Broncos were picked to finish 9th of 10 teams in the 2019 West Coast Conference preseason poll. BYU was the unanimous pick to win the conference title.


• 2019: 0-8 | 2018: 10-21
• Picked to finish 9th of 11 in 2019 Big Sky preseason poll (Northern Arizona picked to win)
• All-time series: Santa Clara leads 2-1
• Last meeting: Sept. 13, 1997 – Santa Clara won 3-0 @ Fresno, California
• Last Montana win: Sept. 7, 1990 – 3-0 @ Logan, Utah

Montana has been swept in all eight matches on the season, including contests last week against Cal State Bakersfield and UTEP as host of the Farmers State Bank Invitational. Amethyst Harper leads the team with 50 kills (2.27/set) in 2019. The Grizzlies are being outhit .340 to .118 on the year.


• 2019: 6-3 | 2018: 27-3 (NCAA Tournament First Round)
• Picked to finish 1st of 9 in 2019 Summit preseason poll
• All-time series: Santa Clara leads 2-0
• Last meeting: Sept. 21, 2002 – Santa Clara won 3-0 @ Denver
• First Meeting: Sept. 26, 1998 – Santa Clara won 3-0 @ Santa Clara

Denver started the season 5-0, dropping only one set through the first five tilts of the season. The Pioneers defeated the WCC's Loyola Marymount Lions in five sets, then fell to No. 2 Nebraska and High Point in three sets last week at the Ameritas Players Challenge (Lincoln, Nebraska). Lydia Bartalo leads the team with 98 kills (3.16/set) and Denver is +43 on points decided on serves.

The team has reached the NCAA Tournament and won at least 23 matches in five straight seasons.


• 2019: 2-7 | 2018: 17-15
• Picked to finish 9th of 11 in 2019 Mountain West preseason poll (Colorado State picked to win)
• Saturday marks the first meeting between the Broncos and Falcons

Air Force lost all three matches at host of the Amy Svoboda Memorial Classic last week, falling in five sets against UC Irvine, three sets against Loyola and four sets against Virginia Tech. Bailey Keith posted 18 kills against the Hokies; she leads the team with 93 kills (3.58/set) for the year.

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