Conor McDermott Welch
The Dons split their first two matches of a four-game road stretch against West Coast Conference opponents. They dispatched the Pepperdine Waves 3-1 in Malibu, Calif. on Saturday, and came up short in five sets against the No. 24 LMU Lions on Thursday.
Saturday’s match featured outstanding performances by sophomore opposite hitter Katarina Pilepic, who tallied 15 kills and 12 digs, as well as senior middle blocker Valentina Zaloznik, whose 13 kills during the match ended up sliding her to into seventh place all-time on USF’s kills list. Junior outside/opposite hitter Sara Staengle also made an impact, recording her first career double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs.
The Dons erased an early deficit to win the first set 25-23, but Pepperdine responded in the second set to tie the match 1-1. USF grabbed control in the third set, winning 25-19, and fought off a pesky Waves squad in the fourth set for a 25-20 win to end the match.
Thursday’s matchup with No. 24 Loyola Marymount proved to be a grueling one. LMU took the final eight points of the first set to win 25-17, but the Dons kept composure and collected victories in the next two sets behind superb play from Pilepic, who totalled 19 kills and eight digs on the night. Unfortunately, the Dons were unable to finish off the upset, losing the final two sets by scores of 25-19 and 15-10.
Freshman libero Kim Gutierrez led all players with 24 digs, and sophomore Kiara McKibben added 50 assists and 11 digs.
The Dons rest at 11-9 on the season and 4-4 in the WCC. They will continue conference play tonight at 7:00 p.m. against Pacific in Stockton, Calif.