By Caitlin Graveson '11
Saint Mary's volleyball began the 2010 season with the goal of repeating on top of the West Coast Conference. Last year, the team not only captured the WCC title for the first time, but tied for the second-best record in program history at 23-5 and made it to the second round of the NCAA postseason tournament.
In August and early September, the Gaels faced top competitors in preseason play, facing Long Beach and Hawaii on home courts. The match-up with Hawaii was a challenge, not only because the school is perennial powerhouse but because former Gael Chateal Satele transferred to her home state and is playing for the Rainbow Warriors.
In mid-September, the Gaels hosted dominant Pac-10 teams Cal and Stanford for the first time at McKeon Pavilion. For results of all the games, go to SMCGaels.com.
"We sought out good competition in our preseason schedule. Every year we have played Stanford, but never at home. We finally get to play them here, and we are excited about that," says head coach Rob Browning.
In addition to losing Satele, three starters graduated in May, but the incoming class looks strong. "We lost four very good players but we are getting four very good recruits," Browning says. "Any one of them … can play quite a bit. Any one is good enough to help us right away."
Senior leadership is also key to the Gaels' success. Outside hitter Megan York, middle blocker Shannon Lowell and setter Kapua Kamana'o were all honored by the WCC last season. Lowell was on the WCC first team while York and Kamana'o received honorable mention.
"I hope to relay my knowledge and experience to the incoming freshmen on and off the court." Kamana'o says. "I would like to be a mentor, but better yet, I hope to lead by example."
For York, the Gael's success comes from "team chemistry," and their ability to play "Saint Mary's volleyball" no matter the opponent.