The USF Lady Dons (1-0, 0-0 WCC) kicked off the 2017-2018 season on Friday night against the Cal Poly Mustangs (0-1, 0-0) of the Big West Conference. USF looked to start the season off on the right foot in front of an eager War Memorial crowd, and they did exactly that. Senior Guard Anna Seilund set the tone early for the Dons, scoring 8 of the team’s first 12 points as they jumped out of the gates on a 15-5 run. Seilund finished with game-highs of 19 points and 8 assists on a scorching 8-10 shooting, an outstanding opening night performance. Her jump shot was lethal from all over the floor, finishing 3-5 from distance while consistently hitting from midrange off the bounce.
Cal Poly, however, regained their footing as the first quarter progressed, finding success with the mid-range jumper. Cal Poly’s Senior Guards Lynn and Dynn Leaupepe led the early comeback effort, and put in 16 and 11 points, respectively, as the Mustangs narrowed the Dons’ lead to just 2 going into the second period 17-19. The Mustangs’ Junior Center Devin Stanback made her presence felt as well, attacking the low block en route to 17 points on just 9 shots.
After a mostly back-and-forth second quarter, USF began to stretch their lead as halftime approached behind more strong all-around play from Seilund. Going into the half, they led 44-36.
As the second half commenced, the Dons received a spark from junior Guard Shannon Powell, who scored 14 second half points, finishing with 17 total points and 5 assists. Powell cut her way through the lane and made multiple impressive finishes while converting 5 of her 6 free throws. Powell, a transfer from Cochise College in Arizona, continues to gain comfortability with the offense and all signs point towards her being an integral part of the team this season.
The Dons carried their momentum through the third quarter and into the fourth, where they were able to stretch the lead out to as many as 20 behind great team play. However, they committed a few untimely turnovers (19 total) as Cal Poly intensified their defensive effort. They allowed the Mustangs to narrow the gap to as little as 9, before the Dons finished the team’s strong night with an 83-71 win.
USF shot a respectable 46 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point land, but converted just 58 percent of their free throws. They managed to stifle the Mustangs shooting, as they were successful on just 42 percent of their shots from the field and an anaemic 24 percent from beyond the arc.
The Dons also prevailed in the rebounding battle 45-39, in large part thanks to senior Forward Michaela Rakova, who notched a double-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists in the opener. Senior Guard Kalyn Simon also added 10 points on an efficient 3-5 from the field, including 2-3 from downtown. Each of the three Lady Don seniors made huge contributions, and all hopes are that they can provide stability and reliability throughout their final season at USF.
Next week, USF continues their out of conference play with a road trip to Greeley, Colorado to face the Northern Colorado Bears (1-0, 0-0). The Bears are coming off a win against DePaul University, who were ranked 25th nationally in the Week 1 NCAAW AP Poll, and should provide a tough early season test.