The Dons’ storybook season hit a bump in the road this past week, with losses to both BYU and USD in their first taste of conference play this season.
Thursday’s tilt against BYU featured a packed house and plenty of excitement as the Dons entered their match against the NCAA runner-up with a perfect 13-0 record. The offense was firing on all cylinders, with Katarina Pilepic registering 18 kills and Kiara McKibben and Jurja Vlasic recording 29 and 27 assists, respectively. Oluoma Okaro, Jessica Gaffney, and Sara Staengle also recorded double-digit kills with 11, 10, and 11, while Kim Guiterrez was her usual self, tallying 19 digs on defense. Despite the Dons’ offensive and defensive efficiency, along with their ability to battle through four hard sets, the team ultimately fell 23-25 to the Cougars in the fifth and final set.
Sunday’s battle with USD turned out to be a much more abbreviated version of Thursday’s BYU loss, as the Toreros swept the first three sets to walk away with the win. Both the Dons’ offense and defense were noticeably inefficient, with numbers down across the board to season-low levels. Katarina Pilepic was the only scorer in double digits with 10 kills, while Kiara McKibben and Kim Gutierrez saw their assists and digs totals drop to 16 and 6, respectively. As a whole, the Dons’ hitting percentage was a season-low .128, while the Toreros posted a .341 clip.
“I don’t know if it broke our confidence,” said head coach Gilad Doran in reference to the team’s grind against BYU. “I thought we looked a little tired and sluggish today. We weren’t sharp. We weren’t on our game. We didn’t follow our game plan the way we wanted.”
“Obviously, San Diego is a good team and they’ve been winning for a long time. They struggled a few weeks ago, but now it seems that they’re back on. They were hitting over .300 for the match and that’s tough for any team to play them if you can’t stop them. We’re not going to make excuses.”
The Dons now hit the road once again to face the Pacific Tigers in Stockton, California on September 29th, before returning to their home court against Gonzaga on October 1st in what features to be another sold-out game starting at 7 pm.
Photo courtesy of Dons Athletics