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Volleyball Return Home to Face Two WCC Opponents

Oct. 29, 2007

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WHAT'S ON SCHEDULE: Saint Mary's volleyball will return home for two West Coast Conference matches this week. The Gaels will seek revenge against No. 15 San Diego and San Francisco on their home court, McKeon Pavilion. Saint Mary's will first face the San Diego Toreros on Thursday, November 1 at 7:00 PM, and the visiting San Francisco Dons on Saturday, November 3 at 7:00 PM. The Gaels went 0-2 against these two squads in the first round of WCC action, but look to make up for their losses on their home floor.

LAST WEEK'S RECAP: Saint Mary's traveled to the Pacific Northwest last weekend, where they faced Portland and Gonzaga. The Gaels got off to a good start against the Portland Pilots on Thursday night, winning on the road in four games (3-1). Junior Taylor Groess tallied 16 kills in the game, while posting a .452 hitting percentage. Freshman Megan York tabbed a match-high 19 kills, and also added 18 digs for her 14th double-double of the year. The Gonzaga Bulldogs proved to be too much for the Gaels on the road, defeating Saint Mary's 3-1 in the Kennel on Saturday night. York chipped in her 15th double-double of the season, posting a match-high 18 kills and 12 digs. The Gaels are currently tied for fifth in conference with a 4-5 record in WCC play and 12-9 overall.

WHO'S HOT?: Junior Taylor Groess has added a boost for the Gaels at both the outside hitter and middle blocker positions for the Gaels. Against Portland the Encinitas native recorded 16 kills on 31 swings with only two errors, for an impressive .452 hitting efficiency. Groess also added two blocks and an ace in the four-game match. Against the Bulldogs the junior posted 11 kills and three blocks for the Gaels. Groess currently ranks second on the team in kills per game with 3.36, and has also added 47 blocks, 65 digs, and eight aces on the year.

SCOUTING THE TOREROS: San Diego currently ranks second in the West Coast Conference and is ranked No. 15 by the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll. The Toreros are 6-2 in WCC play, with their second loss coming to San Francisco over this past weekend. San Diego is lead by senior middle blocker Laurel Abrahamson, posting 3.92 kills per game on the season, while recording an impressive .397 hitting efficiency. Amy DeGroot leads the Toreros in kills per game with 4.11, while also adding 2.70 digs. Against San Francisco Abrahamson led the way, posting 18 kills with .471 hitting percentage.

SAINT MARY'S VERSUS SAN DIEGO: The Gaels are 6-27 all-time versus San Diego, last defeating the Toreros on October 21 in 2005. In Saint Mary's first meeting of the year against the Toreros they forced San Diego into a five-game thriller, losing 11-15 in the fifth set. San Diego's outside hitter Amy DeGroot tallied a match-high 24 kills in the win, while Saint Mary's Megan York tabbed 18 kills and 16 digs. The Toreros were up two games to none, when the Gaels turned up the heat to win the next two. In the fifth and final game the Toreros turned up the pressure, winning 15-11.

SCOUTING THE DONS: The Dons come off a huge win over the weekend, defeating their first ranked opponent of the year in No. 12 San Diego. San Francisco made quick work of the Toreros, winning 30-26, 30-22, 30-26. The Dons were led by freshman opposite Sarah Mandala, posting 18 kills and attacking for a .300 hitting efficiency. Mandala was the only Don to record double-digit kills, and also added four blocks and five digs in the match. Following her outstanding performance in the win over the Toreros, Mandala was named WCC Player of the Week for her efforts. The Dons out blocked the Toreros 13-4 in the match, and recorded a .241 hitting percentage to San Diego's .092. On the year San Francisco is led by senior outside hitter Kristin Hasselberg. Hasselberg has posted a team-high 3.73 kills per game on the season.

SAINT MARY'S VERSUS SAN FRANCISCO: The Gaels are 26-19 all-time versus San Francisco. Saint Mary's lost to the Dons in the first round of WCC play, but look to extend their winning record on their home court. In the two teams' last match-up, on October 4, the Gaels were led by Megan Burton and Shannon Lowell with 11 kills apiece. Hasselberg and Mandala posted 16 and 14 kills respectively, leading their team to a 3-0 win over Saint Mary's.

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 sponsored the team by pledging money per dig by Saint Mary's in their selected match, versus Loyola Marymount on October 18, or making a flat donation. The money raised by each institution goes directly to the Susan G. 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. The Gaels scooped up 60 digs in their designated "Dig for the Cure," raising $850 thus far. Donations will continue to be accepted throughout the month of October.

ACE FACTOR: The Gaels recorded a season-high 16 aces as a team on October 25th against the Portland Pilots. Junior Nikki Gonzales recorded a career-high seven aces in the four-game match, while sophomore Alita Fisher added five. Kelly Huston tabbed two aces for the Gaels, while Megan York and Taylor Groess tabbed one apiece. The 16 aces helped lead the Gaels to a 3-1 win over Portland. The Gaels were just two aces shy of breaking the school record of 18 aces by the Gaels versus Hofstra in 1995. Gonzales was only one ace shy of recording the most aces in a match by an individual.

SMC RANKS AMONG THE BEST IN THE COUNTRY: As of October 21 the Gaels are ranked 13th in blocks per game in the NCAA Division I. The division includes 325 teams from around the country. Megan Burton and Shannon Lowell are also among the best in the nation, individually ranking 30th and 31st in blocks per game. Outside hitter Megan York has also played a major role in adding to the Gaels national numbers, ranking 26th in the NCAA Division I in kills per game.

FISHER DIGS HER WAY TO THE TOP: Sophomore libero Alita Fisher currently ranks second in the WCC in digs per game in conference play. Fisher is currently second with 5.32 digs per game, behind San Francisco's Hayley Carroll with 5.48. In the Gaels match against the Pepperdine Waves the sophomore libero scooped up 31 digs in five-games, averaging 6.2 digs per game.

OTHER GAELS WHO RANK IN TOP-10 IN WCC PLAY: Megan York, third (4.74 kills and 5.26 points per game), Taylor Groess, 13th (3.00 kills per game), Nikki Gonzales, second (.58 aces per game), Alita Fisher, 6th (.41 aces per game), Shannon Lowell, third, (1.41 blocks per game), Megan Burton, sixth (1.04 blocks per game), and Kapua Kamana'o, sixth (10.44 assists per game).

YORK RECORDS 15 DOUBLE-DOUBLES: Megan York has tallied a total of 15 double-doubles in 21 matches. Her 15 double-doubles rank second in the WCC behind LMU's senior Heather Hughes. Her last double-double came against the Gonzaga Bulldogs when the freshman totaled 18 kills and 12 digs.

YOUNG GAELS LEAD THE WAY: Freshmen Megan York and Shannon Lowell are key components of this season's squad. York has posted 15 double-doubles as a freshman and ranks third in the WCC play in kills per game. York has not left the floor in any game this year, and has recorded double-digit kills in all of the Gaels matches this year (21 Total). Middle blocker Shannon Lowell has ignited for the Gaels in WCC play, placing third in the conference in blocks per game. Lowell averages 1.41 blocks per game in conference play, and has also tallied 181 kills on the season.

FISHER ETCHES NAME IN NCAA RECORD BOOKS: Sophomore libero, Alita Fisher, tallied 39 digs (13 digs per game), in the Gaels 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.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE GAELS: Saint Mary's continues West Coast Conference play against Santa Clara on November 9. The Gaels will start play against the Broncos at 5:30 PM on Friday, November 9.