To say the 2005 season was a good year for Santa Clara’s 11th-ranked women’s volleyball team would be quite an understatement. In providing the collegiate volleyball world with perhaps the best Cinderella story of the year, the Broncos finished their season in a most unlikely place—San Antonio, Texas, which was the site of this year’s national championship semifinals. Though the team has been to the NCAA tournament 10 times and was initially unseeded, Santa Clara advanced to the “final four” for the first time in program history.
Santa Clara took down three ranked teams during the three-week tournament, including South Bay rival and then-fifth-ranked Stanford in the second round, its first victory over the Cardinal in 20 tries. In addition, a 3-0 triumph over then-No. 19 Pepperdine and a thrilling 3-2 victory against then-No. 4 Arizona enabled the West Coast Conference Champions to punch their tickets to the Alamo City.
Leading the charge to San Antonio was senior opposite Cassie Perret, Santa Clara’s first First Team All-American. The Menlo Park native was also named the West Coast Conference Player of the Year after averaging 3.22 kills, 2.20 digs, and 0.82 blocks per game, while hitting at a .370 clip. Sophomores Anna Cmaylo and Crystal Matich earned All-American honors as well, both having been named to the Third Team. As a dominating middle blocker, Cmaylo put down 3.26 kills per game at a very efficient .361 hitting percentage to go along with her stellar defense up at the net. She also led the team in total blocks, with 118, and in blocks per game (1.17). Matich quarterbacked the team all year and established herself as one of the best playmakers in the country, guiding the team to an overall hitting percentage of .288 and handing out 13.98 assists per game. Santa Clara’s team has now earned a total of five All-American honors, with middle blocker Becky Potter earning Second Team honors in 2002 and Third Team accolades in 2003.
Other Bronco members contributed greatly to the successful tournament run, including All-WCC First Team selections Kim McGiven and Brittany Lowe. McGiven, a junior outside hitter, was the leading attacker for the Broncos, putting away 4.15 kills per game. Lowe’s fantastic all-around play on the left side garnered her WCC Freshman of the Year accolades. Sophomore libero Caroline Walters was the mainstay in the back row, doing a great job passing and digging the ball. For masterminding his squad’s great performance in the 2005 season, head coach Jon Wallace was named the West Region Coach of the Year.
The Broncos are the only unseeded team to qualify for the national semifinals in 25 years of NCAA volleyball history. Once in San Antonio, Santa Clara lost a heartbreaking 3-0 contest with the top-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in the semifinal round on Dec. 15, but the team knows they made school history by making it into the NCAA “final four.” Women’s volleyball is the fifth athletic team at Santa Clara to earn a spot in a national semifinal, joining the men’s basketball and baseball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams.
At the end of this amazing season, the Broncos had an overall record of 27-5, tying the 2000 team for the best single-season record in school history. Although Santa Clara will lose Lexie Bothman, Rachel Greenberg, Kristen Luxton, and Perret to graduation, five starters along with its libero will be returning in 2006, setting up future success for the SCU volleyball program.