By Caitlin Graveson ’11
Saint Mary’s women’s volleyball team capped a record-breaking season with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the second round before being beaten by No. 3 Stanford in Palo Alto.
"A lot of things have made this season what is has been,” said head coach Rob Browning. "We have worked hard to develop an understanding of what it means to be a team and of the process involved in pursuing excellence. We — the coaches and players — have built a lot of trust, which is the foundation of great teamwork.”
The No. 21–ranked team captured the West Coast Conference championship for the first time in the College’s volleyball history, earning an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Gaels finished 23–5 overall, the second-best record in school history.
Saint Mary’s garnered eight all-conference awards, including WCC Coach of the Year for head coach Rob Browning, the second coach in program history to receive the award.
Senior Libero Alita Fisher was named WCC Defensive Player of the Year. She set an SMC single-season digs record with her career-high 452 digs. Fisher was also named First-Team All Conference.
Other First-Team All Conference selections are junior middle blocker Shannon Lowell and senior middle blocker Megan Burton. Stellar freshman outside hitter Lauren Corp and setter Missy White were named to the All-Freshman team.
"We knew Corp was going to be a great player and have a big impact this year,” Browning said. "We were not as sure of White. I think she surprised us with how ready she was to complete at this level.”
Three Gaels received All-Team Honorable Mention awards: junior Megan York, junior Kapua Kamana’o and sophomore Chanteal Sataele.
Saint Mary’s only losses during the season were against ranked opponents California (twice), Stanford and the University of San Diego.
In the NCAA Tournament first round, Saint Mary’s defeated UC Santa Barbara. In the second round, Saint Mary’s faced Stanford on its home court, pushing the match to five sets before losing 13–15 in the fifth game.
"We are pleased with how we performed. We know that we are good enough to be in the Sweet 16, but we didn’t make it happen,” Browning said.