SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Santa Clara volleyball will make its National Invitational Volleyball Championship debut on Wednesday night. The Broncos face Long Beach State on the road for a 7 p.m. first serve at Walter Pyramid.
The two teams meet for the first time since 2008. The winner faces either UC Davis or Tulsa in the second round on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Santa Clara returns to the postseason for the first time since a 2015 NCAA Tournament appearance. The Broncos (20-11, 10-8 WCC) won four of their last five regular-season matches en route to the 15th 20-win season in program history. They finished fourth (of 10) in the West Coast Conference after being picked to finish ninth in the preseason coaches' poll.
Long Beach State (12-16, 9-7 Big West) also makes its NIVC debut on Wednesday and heads to the postseason for the first time since 2014. The Beach closed out the regular season with a 7-3 mark in the last 10 matches. The team finished fifth (of nine) in the Big West Conference to match their fifth-place selection in the preseason coaches' poll.
Each program boasts a rich second-season tradition. Santa Clara has been to the postseason 17 times (16 NCAA Tournaments), including a Final Four appearance in 2015. Long Beach State has been to the postseason 38 times (27 NCAA Tournaments) and won five national championships.
First Team All-West Coast Conference selection Taylor Odom posted an SCU single-season record and NCAA-best 181 blocks on the season, setting the record in the final match of the season against Pacific on Nov. 26. She totaled 225 kills and led the Broncos with a .324 hitting percentage while hitting .400 or better 12 times. The middle blocker helped the Bronco defense lead the WCC with 305.5 total blocks (15th NCAA) and 2.66 blocks/set (20th NCAA), while holding opponents to a .166 hitting percentage (2nd WCC, 30th NCAA). Her block average of 1.63/set ranks third in the NCAA this season, second all-time for Santa Clara and is a program record in the 25-point format.
Second Team All-WCC/WCC All-Freshman Team selection Julia Sangiacomo ranked fourth in the conference with 372 kills (3.38/set) and third with 445 total points, all of which were tops among WCC freshmen and Bronco-best numbers this season. The outside hitter posted double-digit kills in 22 of 31 matches and had five double-doubles.
All-WCC Honorable Mention selection Allison Kantor finished second on the Broncos with 302 kills (2.9/set), 347 points (3.3/set) and nine double-doubles. The outside hitter was third on the team with 279 digs (2.68/set). She had double-digit kills in 19 of 30 contests.
All-WCC Honorable Mention selection Michelle Shaffer followed up her 2018 All-Freshman Team campaign by leading the WCC and ranking 25th in the country with 49 aces (.43/set, 36th NCAA). She set and hit as a right side prior to a season-ending injury to Liliana Light, and became a full-time setter for the last eight matches of the season. Since assuming the full-time setter role, Shaffer is averaging 10.6 assists/set.
Reinert entered 2019 with 33 digs in her first two years and posted a team-leading 419 digs (3.64/set) for the campaign. The libero posted 10-plus digs 26 times and hit the 20-dig plateau six times, including four of the last 10 matches.
Dreyer finished second on the Broncos with 100 blocks (.93/set). She had five or more blocks 10 times and closed the season by posting multiple blocks in six straight matches.
Kathryn Decker has played in eight straight matches (six starts) after seeing action in only six of the first 23 matches. She has reached double-digit kills in three of the last four matches, including a career-best day with 16 kills and 16 digs in a victory at Gonzaga on Nov. 15.
MISCELLANEOUS SEASON NOTES
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 Northern Colorado 3-1 in the South Bay Battle on Sept. 14. 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 (2001-present). 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.
Shaffer logged Santa Clara's first 20-20 match since 2017 in Santa Clara's matchup against Denver on Sept. 20, posting 22 assists and 22 digs. Shaffer had a 12-kill, 24-assist, 11-dig triple-double Aug. 31 against Marshall, and is the first Bronco since 2003 and second in program history to record a triple-double and a 20-20 match in the same season (Becky Potter).
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. Sangiacomo had 54 kills (4.15/set) on .341 hitting to go along with 25 digs, nine aces, two block solos and 66.5 points en route to all-tournament team honors. SCU was one of only two WCC teams to finish opening weekend undefeated.
Allison Kantor served up four consecutive aces in the first set of a sweep victory over Indiana on Aug. 31.
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). The Broncos also posted their best start through 13 matches since 2014 (10-3, five seasons). The team had a perfect 6-0 record in neutral-site tournament matches and SCU was the only WCC program to win 10 matches in nonconference play.
HEAD COACH ERIN LINDSEY
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 74-80 (20-11, 10-8 WCC at SCU) and she is the first head coach in Santa Clara history to start 6-0 in her debut season.
ROSTER BREAKDOWN + WCC PRESEASON POLL
• 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.
• 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.
LONG BEACH STATE
• 2019: 12-16 (9-7 Big West, 5-6 Home) | 2018: 16-13 (8-8 Big West)
• Picked to finish 5th of 9 in 2019 Big West preseason poll
• All-time series: Long Beach State leads 4-3 (first meeting 1982)
• Last Meetings: 9/19/08 LBSU won 3-0 @ LBSU | 9/20/08 SCU won 3-0 @ LBSU
• Only Postseason Meeting: 12/1/00 LBSU won 3-2 @ San José in the NCAA Tournament
Kashauna Williams leads the Long Beach State offense with 429 kills (2nd Big West, 61st NCAA) and 4.09 kills/set (3rd Big West, 39th NCAA). The Beach ranks second in the conference and 54th nationally with 13.52 kills/set. YiZhi Xue leads the team with 98 total blocks and is second with 246 kills (2.41/set).
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