MORAGA, Calif. -- The Saint Mary's volleyball team makes the turn in West Coast Conference play this week, finishing the first half of the season with road matches at Bay Area rivals San Francisco and Santa Clara.
Thursday's match at San Francisco is set for a 6:30 p.m. start on the Hilltop. Links for live video and statistics will be available through both SMCGaels.com and the San Francisco website. The week concludes Saturday when the Gaels head to Santa Clara to take on the Broncos at 1 p.m. Links to live stats and video will be available on both SMCGaels.com and Santa Clara's website.
Saint Mary's enters the week with a 10-5 overall record and 6-1 mark in WCC play. The Gaels enjoyed a strong pair of matches at home last week, weathering a stern test from Loyola Marymount to win in five sets and scoring a sweep over Pepperdine.
The strong showing earned the Gaels a bit of outside recognition, as senior outside hitter Jordan Shaw was named WCC Player of the Week for her standout play in both matches. Shaw finished the week with 37 kills and 20 digs, hitting at a .326 clip to help Saint Mary's earn both wins.
In both wins last week, Saint Mary's set the tone with some impressive serving. The Gaels tallied 18 aces in the two matches combined, with 10 against Loyola Marymount and eight in only three sets against Pepperdine. Shaw led the Gaels with three against the Lions, and Kristina Graven and Dalas Dodd each registered three against the Waves. Mileva Popovic also chipped in with two against Pepperdine.
One constant shown this season has been the depth head coach Rob Browning has been able to draw from, and that's no more evident than on the outside, where Samantha Tinsley and Danica Mendivil have combined to offer great contributions no matter who is on the court. Tinsley enters play this week averaging 2.35 kills and 2.15 digs per set, while Mendivil averages 1.36 kills and 1.92 digs.
San Francisco enters Thursday's match with a 7-10 overall record and 3-4 mark in conference play. The Dons dropped a pair of road matches last week at BYU and San Diego, with each loss coming in three sets.
Junior middle blocker Valentina Zaloznik has been San Francisco's leading offensive option this season, averaging 2.95 kills per set for the Dons. She also leads the team in blocks at 0.92 per set. Freshman Katarina Pilepic has also stood out so far this season, averaging 2.65 kills per set. Senior libero Rebecca Kopilovitch has also been a strong contributor this season with 3.88 digs per set.
Santa Clara heads into Thursday's match against Pacific at 7-9 overall and 2-5 in WCC action. The Broncos suffered the same fate as San Francisco last week, dropping matches at San Diego and BYU. The loss at BYU came in four sets, while the Broncos were swept by the Toreros.
Two players average more than three kills per set for Santa Clara, led by freshman outside hitter Nikki Hess at 3.02, who is also third on the team with 2.47 digs per set. Senior middle blocker Megan Anders averages 3.00 kills per set and 0.89 blocks per set.
After their Bay Area tour this week, the Gaels return to McKeon Pavilion for a pair of important home matches against San Diego and BYU. The Toreros visit first, with a 6 p.m. match on Oct. 24 that is scheduled to be broadcast live by TheW.tv. BYU comes to Moraga on Oct. 26 for a 2:30 p.m. match. Tickets to both games are available through the Tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.