Nov. 9, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - It was as if setter Crystal Matich had never left Tuesday night, passing out 42 assists as the No. 22 Santa Clara volleyball team continued to roll by hitting a combined .385 on its way to a 3-0 (30-21, 30-21, 30-18) sweep of the Portland Pilots at the Leavey Center. With the win, the Broncos have now won three in a row and five of their last six matches, creating a significant amount of momentum heading into the final two matches of the 2006 regular season.
Santa Clara (19-6, 8-4 WCC) will return to the Leavey Center Saturday afternoon for a 1 p.m. match against the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Behind the crisp passing of Matich, the Bronco attack thrived. Anna Cmaylo continued to pound the ball with authority, putting down 18 kills at a .556 clip while Kim McGiven hit .393 and posted her ninth double-double of the year with 13 kills and 10 digs. Brittany Lowe added eight kills at a .286 clip while defensively, Lindsy Evans and Megan Pura led the effort up front with four and three blocks, respectively.
"I love the rhythm that Crystal has again with her hitters, by far tonight was the most comfortable match she's played since her return," said head coach Jon Wallace. "Her performance shows with only 10 team hitting errors in three games. The connection between her and Anna throughout the match brought us back to the form we had before her injury."
"I think that most importantly everyone else feels a lot more comfortable, so that helps in making me feel comfortable out on the court," Matich said afterwards. "I'm connecting a lot better with my hitters and that's a good thing to keep going."
The connection between Matich and Cmaylo was solid from the start of the match, as the duo teamed up for three kills over a 7-0 run that also featured three aces by Evans to break the first game open early and give SCU a 9-1 lead.
"At the LMU match, Jon told Kim, Brittany and me that we had to play better for the team, and I know that there's no reason why I shouldn't be hitting over .500 for a match," said Cmaylo. "I know that I can play great every night, and Crystal has been a big part of that since she's been back."
Although Portland offered a short rally to cut things to six at 13-7, a 3-0 run by SCU behind a block from Evans and Pura and an ace from McGiven put the Broncos back up by nine. Another three-point run gave them an 11-point lead at 22-11, and from there the Broncos stifled any Pilot comeback attempt on their way to the 30-21 game one victory.
The second stanza stayed close at the start, until with the Broncos ahead 10-8, a 6-1 run helped by Portland errors gave SCU control of the game at 16-9. With an eight-point lead moments later at 20-12, the Broncos reeled off five straight points behind kills from Matich, Cmaylo, and McGiven to take a 13-point lead at 25-12. Despite the Pilots stealing a few points on the ensuing rallies, the Broncos stayed the course and finished off the game with a Lowe kill and an ace from Nichole Clark.
Santa Clara and Portland battled back-and-forth in the third game, as it was knotted at 10-10 with neither team taking the advantage over the other. But at that moment, the Broncos grabbed the next three point, helped by another combined block from Matich and Pura, and after Portland cut the lead to 13-11 on the next rally, SCU came right back with a 6-0 run featuring three Cmaylo kills. This put SCU firmly ahead 19-11, and the lead was run up to 11 soon after at 25-14. From there the win was academic, as the Broncos continued to apply pressure, until a Clark kill sealed the sweep.
"Its not just winning the last couple matches to get into the tournament, what is important is finishing on a high note and having that winning, smooth feeling going into the postseason," Cmaylo noted on the team's winning run.