Having won the Panhandle Conference Championship and putting up an overall record of 19-3 the Santa Fe Saints are poised to make a run at the FCSAA/NJCAA District Volleyball Tournament in Bradenton, FL this weekend with an opportunity to advance to the NJCAA National Tournament held in Hutchinson KS. November 15-17. "For us to be successful in any match we have to be defensive minded," said Head Coach Nick Cheronis. "It is really important for us to frustrate attackers with our serving, blocking and digging."
Two of the Saints setbacks came against nationally ranked teams, Miami-Dade #1 and St, Petersburg State College #11, both of which will compete in this weekend's tournament as will Florida State College @ Jacksonville who the Saints beat twice in three matches. "Our schedule has prepared us well for the upcoming playoffs. This region is loaded with top ranked teams, so we don't have to travel far to get national caliber competition," said Cheronis. The Saints dropped their regular season finale to Miami-Dade, but Coach Cheronis feels the experience of playing the two-time defending state and national champions will prepare his squad for what to expect in the days to come. "As a competitor, you always need to know what the bar is to be the best. Miami Dade has been the bar for a long time and now we know more about what we will need to do in the future to be successful."
As a team the Saints rank fourth in the nation with 2.63 blocks per set led by sophomore middle blockers Brooke Ruud with 1.33 and Jocelyn Garcia with 1.21. Another sophomore, outside hitter Leah Wilcox, leads the Saints with 3.57 kills per set (#19 nationally) and 4.0 points per set, tied for 23rd. Sophomore Aspen Dangren averaged 2.97 kills per set.
"At any level of play, if your older players are not leading, you will eventually be in trouble. Fortunately, for us, that has not been a problem. This is easily the best group of sophomores, in terms of leadership, that we have ever had here."
The Saints will open their tournament play this weekend with a match against Indian River State College at 1:00 pm Friday. SF defeated The River 3-2 in their only match this season on September 22nd. "Indian River always has a unique approach to winning games. We don't see their system with any other team we play. The good news is we have played them and that will help, but when you don't play against it often then it causes real problems trying to score points off the serve."
Win or lose the Saints will play again at 7:00 pm Friday against an opponent to be determined by first round play.
Three teams from the eight-team state tournament will advance to the NJCAA national Tournament. All games this weekend will be webcast on the FCSAA Digital Network at https://team1sports.com/fcsaa/.
For all SF Athletics schedules, stats and more, visit santafesaints.com.