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Women's Volleyball Begins WCC Play

Sept. 24, 2007

WHAT'S ON SCHEDULE: The Gaels wrap-up their home stand and begin West Coast Conference play versus Gonzaga and Portland over the weekend. Saint Mary's will first host the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Thursday, September 27 at 7:00 PM and then face the Portland Pilots on Saturday, September 28 at 1:00 PM. Both games will be held at McKeon Pavilion.

LAST WEEK'S RECAP: Saint Mary's came out on top last weekend, defeating Cornell and CSU Bakersfield on their home court. The Gaels made easy work of Cornell, sweeping the Big Red, 30-11, 30-27, 30-12. Shannon Lowell recorded impressive numbers in the match, posting six kills on 12 swings, for a .500 hitting efficiency. Lowell also added a game-high seven blocks. CSU Bakersfield proved to be more of a challenge, pushing the Gaels to a five game battle. Saint Mary's prevailed in the match-up, finishing off the Roadrunners 30-17, 30-22, 30-32, 25-30, 15-13. Freshman Megan York tied her career-high with 26 kills, while also adding 21 digs, two blocks, and one ace.

WHO'S HOT?: Junior outside hitter Taylor Groess continued her high-level of play over the weekend. Against Cornell Groess posted 10 kills on 25 swings for a .320 hitting percentage. The junior was also deadly at the service line, tallying two aces in the game. The next night Groess showed why she ranks ninth in the West Coast Conference in kills per game, recording 21 kills in the match. Groess displayed her versatility in the five-game nail-biter, scooping up eight digs and adding two aces and two blocks in the match. In both matches Groess played a vital role in the Gaels success, extending their record to 8-4 on the season.

SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS: Gonzaga ranks first in the WCC in winning percentage, posting an 11-4 record in the preseason. The Bulldogs are led by seniors Heather Dunn and Becky Jones. Dunn is averaging 12.11 assists per game, while Jones has added 3.02 kills and 3.69 digs per game. Fifth-year Head Coach Kip Yoshimura has guided Gonzaga to wins over Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, and Morgan State, to name a few.

SAINT MARY'S VERSUS GONZAGA: The Gaels have faced the Bulldogs 40 times in program history, recording a 19-21 record. In 2006, Saint Mary's split with Gonzaga and the last time the two teams faced was November 16 in 2006, when the Gaels captured a 3-1 victory on the road.

SCOUTING THE PILOTS: Portland's newcomers have made a promising impact on the Pilot roster, as the team has posted a 7-6 preseason record. Freshman libero, Danielle Dupar, has tallied a team-high 3.47 digs per game, while freshman outside hitter Jessica Clemens has recorded 3.02 kills per game. Returning for the Pilots is junior middle blocker Ashley Grayson. Grayson has contributed a team-high 3.08 kills per game with a .312 hitting percentage, while also adding 44 total blocks and 15 aces on the year.

SAINT MARY'S VERSUS PORTLAND: The Gaels hold a 20-20 record against the Pilots in the history of the program. Saint Mary's 10-match win streak was broken in their last match versus Portland, when they lost their final match of the 2006 season at the Chiles center in a five-game barn-burner.

BURTON TOPS WCC IN BLOCKS: Sophomore middle blocker Megan Burton ranks first in the West Coast Conference in blocks per game. Burton posts a 1.56 bocks per game average, with 70 total blocks on the year. Burton ranks fourth in hitting percentage on the year, recording a team-high .351 hitting efficiency during the preseason.

YORK RANKS AMONG THE BEST IN WCC: As a freshman York is among the best in the WCC, placing second in kills per game, with 4.82, and second in points per game, with 5.54. York's versatility is also demonstrated in the defensive category, placing seventh in digs per game with 3.73.

OTHER GAELS WHO RANK IN TOP-10: Alita Fisher, third (4.43 digs per game), Brittany Barker, fifth (1.15 blocks per game), Taylor Groess, ninth (3.57 kills per game), Kapua Kamana'o, seventh (9.60 assists per game), and Christy Payne, sixth (0.41 aces per game).

YORK RECORDS EIGHT DOUBLE-DOUBLES: York has tallied a total of eight double-doubles in 12 matches. Her eight double-doubles ranks her tied for second in the WCC, behind senior LMU's senior Heather Hughes with nine. The freshman outside hitter tied her career-high in kills against CSU Bakersfield, tallying 26 kills in the match. The outside hitter also contributed 21 digs in the win over the Roadrunners.

FISHER ETCHES NAME IN NCAA RECORD BOOKS: Sophomore libero, Alita Fisher, tallied 39 digs (13 digs per game), in the Gael's three-game win over Fresno State. Fisher's performance ranks her third in NCAA record books for digs in a three-game match. Two other players share the position with Fisher, while the number one spot is held by Sydney Donahue with 50 digs. Fisher shattered her previous personal best, 28 digs, which came in a five-game match versus Pepperdine in 2006. Fisher was two digs shy of capturing the individual record for most digs in a match, which is held by Julie Sinclair with 41 digs in 1989.

KAMANA'O POSTS PERSONAL BEST: Freshman setter Kapua Kamana'o tallied a career-high 76 assists versus UC Santa Barbara. Kamana'o's previous best was 63 assists versus Arizona. The record for most assists in a match is held by Traci Hajdukovish, with 86 assists in 1990.

GAELS DIG FOR THE CURE: This fall, West Coast Conference women's volleyball teams won't be playing just for wins, but helping in the fight against breast cancer. All eight WCC schools are participating in the "Dig for the Cure" program to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Gael fans can sponsor the team by pledging money per dig by Saint Mary's in their selected match, versus Loyola Marymount on October 18, or can make a flat donation. The money raised by each institution goes directly to the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. "The WCC is proud to participate in the `Dig for the Cure' program," said WCC Commissioner Michael Gilleran. "This is an excellent opportunity for our student-athletes to use their talents to help a very worthy cause." The Dig for the Cure campaign was originally started in 2003 by Charlotte Head Coach Lisa Marston, and has spread to numerous other volleyball programs across the country since.

SAINT MARY'S PICKED TO FINISH SIXTH IN WCC: The Gaels were picked to finish sixth place in the WCC by the conference's coaches, released earlier this month. The Gaels earned 27 overall points, while also receiving one first place vote. Saint Mary's finished tied for fourth in conference last season with a 6-8 record. Pepperdine was picked to finish first, receiving five first place votes after advancing to the NCAA Tournament last season. San Diego was picked to finish second, Santa Clara was picked third, and Loyola Marymount was picked fourth. Just edging out the Gaels for fifth place was San Francisco with 30 points. Following the Gaels, Gonzaga and Portland were picked seventh and eighth, rounding out the 2007 preseason poll.

BURTON RETURNS AS THE ONLY PLAYER TO RECEIVE WCC HONORS IN 2006: Megan Burton returns to the Gaels after a stellar freshman season. Burton was named to the WCC All-Freshmen team in 2006 and will continue to display her talents in 2007. In 2006 she ended the season with 115 kills (.233 hitting percentage), 93 total blocks, and 15 aces. Burton is not only valuable for her court skills, but is also highly praised by Browning for her leadership and work ethic.

BARKER ENDS 2006 SEASON WCC BLOCK LEADER: Junior Brittany Barker led the WCC in blocks per game with 1.59 in 2006. In only 80 conference games Barker accumulated 111 block assists and 16 solo blocks. Barker also led the team in blocks throughout the season, ending the year with 127 total blocks. This is the second straight year that a member of the Gaels led the conference in blocks; graduated senior Christina Kirk held the honor in 2005.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE GAELS: Saint Mary's will travel across the Bay on Thursday, October 4 to play the San Francisco Dons in their first Bay Area match-up of the year. The Gaels will then continue play on the road, making their first Southern California trip of the year to face No. 15 San Diego on Saturday, October 6. The match marks the Gaels fourth ranked opponent of the year.