Dons Fall Short at Inaugural Championships

John Holton
Staff Writer

In the first ever WCC Championships for beach volleyball, the Dons took some good shots but sadly were not left standing once the dust settled. On the first day of play USF did not advance in the winner’s bracket but managed to win out in the secondary bracket and keep themselves in the tournament. Moving on to the second day of play the Dons were matched up against Saint Mary’s, who bested them 3-2. Saint Mary’s would continue on in the bracket and end up as the runners-up after being defeated by champion Pepperdine in five straight sets.

The first day of play featured three matches for the Dons. First up were the Portland Pilots who USF managed to make quick work of in five straight sets. In the first match it was sophomore Oluoma Okaro and senior Sara Staengle against the pair of Troutman and Robinson, who they defeated in three sets, 21-15, 20-22, 17-15. The rest of the Dons made quick work of their opponents, defeating each in two sets. Senior Jurja Vlasic and junior Katarina Pilepic won in two identical sets of 21-17. Junior Emily Reed and senior Courtney Sabahi won their match 21-14, 21-16. In the fourth match, sophomore Jessica Gaffney and junior Kiara McKibben took their first set but then nearly gave up the second to the Pilots, yet were able to pull through, 23-21. Finally, as a cherry on top of the now assured victory for the Dons, senior Jessica Keenan and sophomore Kim Gutierrez won their match 21-15, 21-18.

Despite their perfect victory in the first matchup the Dons would not be so lucky in their second, receiving a shutout of their own from the Loyola Marymount Lions. Three of the matches ended in just two sets; only the pairs of Gaffney and McKibben, and Reed and Sabahi were able to push it to three yet still lost in the end. In the final match of the day the Dons needed to come away with a victory if they wanted to move onto the second day of play. Luckily they were able to secure a fairly easy win, winning their first four of five matches. Vlasic and Pilepic had maybe their best match of the day, winning in two sets of 21-14.

After moving on in the tournament the Dons were matched up against Saint Mary’s for their second day of play. USF went down 0-1 to start the match after the Pilots pair of Dodd and Knudsen defeated Okaro and Staengle. The Dons found themselves in an even deeper hole after Vlasic and Pilepic fell, 21-15, 21-12. USF managed to bounce back from this deficit however, with the duos of Reed/Sabahi and Gaffney/McKibben securing their matches in two sets a piece. It all came down to the final match for the Dons, and while they played it very close Saint Mary’s still came out on top in two sets.

This performance at the WCC Championships brings to an end the Dons season. Overall USF went 16-5 over the course of the season and ranked second in the WCC. The beach volleyball team will return next season to compete once again.

Photo courtesy of Dons Atheltics

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