The brief beach volleyball season, which only began in March, looks toward its conclusion at the West Coast Conference Championship tournament in Santa Monica, Calif. this weekend. USF will fight to come back from their bottom-of-the-bracket position last season.
While 2017 was a recuperating year for the Dons, it appears the Dons are coming back strong this year, after an out-of-the-gates win against Santa Clara University at Stanford University’s kickoff invitational in March. They are ready to take on their old foes with a new – and very young – team.
After the 2016 season, quite a few seniors graduated and left the team at only 10 players for 2017. Now, the team is building their numbers back up, with well over half of the team being underclassmen and six freshmen joining the squad as well. In total, the team has 16 players, which is six more than last year.
The Dons also have a notorious history with some of the teams they will face next week. Saint Mary’s College, for instance, has been the eliminator at the WCC Championships for the last two years. Last year, though, Saint Mary’s wound up only one spot ahead of the Dons in the conference. Games against San Jose State University and Santa Clara have been known to go either way in the past, but an early victory against Santa Clara this season suggested the Broncos may bow to the Dons this season.
The wins in Santa Cruz over the weekend of April 6 and 7 reaffirmed this, as Santa Clara again fell to USF 3-2. The Dons also turned around from their loss to San Jose State earlier in the season and defeated the Spartans 3-2, putting their record with San Jose State at 1-1.
Then, this past weekend, USF secured a 4-1 win against Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif., continuing the upswing for the Dons. While in Santa Cruz it was the 1, 2 and 3’s that pulled USF through. In Rocklin, the hard plays of the 4’s and 5’s kept the Dons’ score up.
These wins gave the Dons hope after back-to-back 0-5 losses against the University of the Pacific on March 24 and the University of California, Berkeley on March 30, as well as losses to Saint Mary’s and San Jose State on March 17 and March 23, respectively.
At the Big West Challenge in March, the Dons fell to both California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and California State University, Northridge, but were able to defeat Sacramento State University 4-1. The Dons have yet to play Loyola Marymount University, who beat them at the WCC Championships in 2016, or Portland State University, who was one of two teams that USF won a single match against in 2017. Historically speaking, Santa Clara and San Jose State have consistently been games that go either way with the Dons.
The Dons are seeded 5th for the WCC tournament, which means their tournament will kick off at 9am on April 20. They will play University of the Pacific, who is seeded number 4, in the first match of the tournament, the winner of which will play Pepperdine.
The winners will go into the postseason to compete against two other West Coast teams and three from the east, along with two additional teams, in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala. Last year, Pepperdine University, who is also in the WCC, went all the way to the NCAA finals game, but lost to the University of Southern California.
Featured Photo: The beach volleyball team has been setting themselves up for success prior to the WCC Championships. DONS ATHLETICS/FLICKR