MORAGA, Calif. -- The Saint Mary's volleyball team returns to the Bay Area this week for one of its busiest stretches of the season as the Gaels will play three matches in three days and they kick off West Coast Conference play and travel to No. 8 Stanford.
Action begins Thursday at 6 p.m. when Saint Mary's welcomes Portland to McKeon Pavilion in the WCC opener for both schools. Friday sees the Gaels take a trip to the South Bay to square off with Stanford at 7 p.m. Play concludes Saturday with a 2 p.m. home match against Gonzaga.
Both home matches will be streamed live on SMCGaels.com, with live statistics also available through the website. Friday's match at Stanford will be televised live by the Pac-12 Network. The match will be streamed live on the Pac-12 website, depending on cable provider. Live statistics for that match will be available through Stanford's website.
Saint Mary's steps back onto its home court with a 4-3 record after going 1-2 at the Ameritas Players Challenge in Nebraska. Tournament action began with the Gaels dropping a four-set match against No. 12 Nebraska, as the host Cornhuskers rallied from a set down to win three in a row. Saint Mary's bounced back the next day with a four-set win over No. 17 Iowa State, and one day later a five-set thriller ended in favor of Dayton.
Even with two losses, the Gaels brought plenty of positives back with them from Nebraska. Libero Sarah Reams was named to the All-Tournament team after racking up 46 digs in three matches. That total included a season-high 26 digs in the match against Dayton.
Setter Dalas Dodd also continued her strong start to the season, tallying 153 assists in the three matches in Nebraska. That brought her assists per set total to 11.48 entering this week's action, a figure good for best in the WCC and 15th in the nation.
Outside hitters Jordan Shaw and Kristina Graven continued to increase their double-double count, with each recording two during the trip. Shaw leads the team in kills per set (3.44) and ranks second in digs per set (2.89) while Graven is right behind her with 3.11 kills per set and 2.78 digs per set.
Portland comes to the Bay Area in search of its first win of the season. The Pilots (0-9) hosted the North Harbour Marriott Challenge last weekend, going 0-3 with losses to Toledo, UC Davis and Oregon State. Outside hitter Autumn Wedan racked up 52 kills over the three-match span, earning All-Tournament honors. Wedan leads the team in kills (159) and ranks sixth in the country with 4.97 kills per set.
No. 8-ranked Stanford enters the week with a 5-2 record, having earned wins over Air Force, Army and Navy at last weekend's Service Academy Challenge in Washington D.C. The Cardinal have three players (Rachel Williams, Brittany Howard, Carly Wopat) averaging three kills or more per set, and rank ninth in the nation as a team in that category. Setter Madi Bugg ranks ninth in the country with 11.65 assists per set.
Gonzaga enters Thursday's match at Pacific with a 4-5 record, but the Bulldogs have played well of late and come to California having won four of their last six matches. Most recently, Gonzaga defeated Akron and Montana State and lost to South Dakota at the Bobcat Classic in Bozeman, Mont. The Bulldogs have been strong at the net this season, and enter this week 19th in the country in blocks per set. Paige Folger leads the way in that category with 1.38 blocks per set.
Saturday's match against Gonzaga is CYO Day at McKeon Pavilion, and kids wearing their CYO volleyball jerseys can receive $1 admission.