In the opening match of West Coast Conference play, USF (8-5) dominated the Santa Clara Broncos (10-4), winning three straight sets in commanding fashion. The Dons looked calm and collected throughout the match, winning by an average of six points each set.
Despite the sweep, San Francisco began the first set a step behind the Broncos. With the help of the supportive home crowd, however, they were able to rally back and tie the set. From that point on the Dons battled it out with the Broncos, tallying 15 total ties in the set. The final tie came at 18-18, but senior middle blocker Valentina Zaloznik blasted a kill through the Santa Clara defense to give San Francisco the lead, and the Dons went on to win the first set 25-22.
Similar to the first set, the Dons ceded an early lead to the Broncos in the second set. This time, Zaloznik and sophomore opposite hitter Katarina Pilepic took over by playing both excellent defense and offense at the net. Their play helped inspire a 15-2 run, and the Dons found themselves ahead 21-13. After junior outside/opposite hitter Sara Staengle’s devastating kill, the Dons had won the set with an impressive lead, 25-15. San Francisco, now two sets up, went into the break all smiles, keeping a calm and confident demeanor.
In the third set, Santa Clara scored first on a kill down the line, but the Dons responded quickly. Zaloznik served the ball to the back of the court, hitting the tape, and putting the Dons up 3-2. From there, they never looked back, winning the third set 25-19 and completing the 3-0 shutout.
The Dons were led by Pilepic, who earned herself a match-high 13 kills. Zaloznik was not far behind, adding nine kills and six blocks to the team’s totals. As a team, the Dons hit .245 to Santa Clara’s .115.
“They rose to the occasion,” head coach Gilad Doron said. “I was very happy the way they came out, celebrating and enjoying the challenge, and not backing off. I was very happy today with how the aggressively the team played.”
The score of USF’s home match against St. Mary’s on Tuesday, Sept. 30 was not available at press time. The Dons will now begin a two-game road trip in Provo, Utah, where they play BYU today at 6:00 p.m.