Dons Denied WCC Dominance

The San Francisco Don’s near dominance of the West Coast Conference has diminished, with their 5-1 record reduced to 5-4 after a week and a half of play without a win. The addition of a home 3-1 loss to St. Mary’s last Thursday and a 3-1 loss at Santa Clara on Saturday puts the Dons on a three game losing streak after dropping a match against Pepperdine two weeks ago.

In what was one of the least engaging home matches of the season so far, the St. Mary’s Gaels of Moraga, CA defeated San Francisco 25-22, 18-25, 25-19, 25-20. Compared to their usual intensity in a close set, USF dropped the first set without much of a fight.

“The one thing that I missed from our team is the focus and the determination
that I saw before,” head coach Gilad Doron said, “We’ll have to figure it out, because every match now has a different magnitude.”

The Dons momentarily came out of their funk for the second set, which they won forcefully 18-25. San Francisco placed 14 kills in set two, compared to St. Mary’s 12.

Freshman outside hitter Vendula Strakova led the Dons offense, totaling 18 kills and three blocks (one solo). Freshman middle blocker Valentina Zaloznik followed with nine kills, five blocks (three solo) and an ace. The Dons hit almost as well as the Gaels, with a .282 hitting percentage to St. Mary’s .295.

“St. Mary’s played really well, got to give them credit. It was a good battle,” Doron admitted after the game.

The Dons lacked their typically strong competitive drive throughout the last half of
the match, allowing St. Maryʼs to take sets four and five without too much opposition.

“For us to beat them last time we made a special effort, this time they made a special effort,” Doron said.

The Dons didn’t have that special effort two days later in Santa Clara either. The
Broncos took the win 26-24, 20-25, 25-29, 25-26 against the downtrodden Dons on Saturday at Santa Clara’s Leavey Center.

San Francisco’s offense struggled severely against their Bay Area rivals, with just
one player with over 10 attempts hitting better than .120. The exception was sophomore middle blocker Malina Terrell, who hit .609 with 16 kills and two blocks (one solo). The Dons hit at .151, compared to Santa Clara’s .264, and fell behind in blocks 12-8.

Junior outside hitter Alycia Cox and freshman libero Rebecca Kopilovitch led the team in digs, each with 14, while junior outside hitter Jocelyn Levig added seven digs to her eight kills.

San Francisco struggled to keep their serves under control – while serving five more aces than their opponent, the Dons recorded nine service errors. The Broncos consistently took advantage of USF’s mistakes.

“We’ve got to find a little more of who we are in the next round,” Doron said, “I think right now as things are kind of shaping up, we are a team in the upper half…can we stay there? Can we move up, can we make a run?”

The Don’s next opportunity for a conference win will be Thursday, October 27th against new WCC opponents Brigham Young. For the Dons annual “Dig Pink” match (for Breast Cancer Awareness Month), they will take on the Cougars at 6:00pm in War Memorial Gym.

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