Dons take on tough competition to open season

Members of the USF women’s volleyball team pose for a team photo. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS M. LEUNG/DONS ATHLETICS

The USF women’s volleyball team began their 2021 season with two competitive matches facing them: an Aug. 27 match against the University of Florida Gators and an Aug. 28 match against the Sacramento State University Hornets. The Dons, coming off of a promising eight-win campaign a season ago through a shortened schedule, looked to build on the same momentum as they eyed their first winning season in six years.  

The Dons played in the Hornet Invitational, a tournament hosted by Sacramento State, against the nationally-ranked No. 6 Gators. It was a long night for the Dons as they lost in straight sets to the Gators (10-25, 12-25, 12-25). The Dons also suffered a loss in almost every statistical category, allowing Florida to almost double their amount of kills in the game by a margin of 35-18 and allowing 10 aces from the Gators. USF also committed triple the amount of errors (21-7) throughout the game’s entirety. 

The loss is primarily pointed to attack errors that were racked up, causing USF to hit -0.041 on the day. That played against the Dons with a top ranked program such as Florida as they countered with 35 kills on 57 swings and hit .491 for the game. The Dons threw out a very young group to counter the Gators which saw nine freshmen out on the court with six of them being newcomers to the program. 

The Dons looked to avenge their loss the next day against the Hornets. This was a much more competitive game for the Dons, which saw them nearly match the Hornets in kills (56-57) and commit fewer errors than the Hornest (20-23). The Dons jumped out to an early 10-3 lead after a strong kill by sophomore Orsula Staka, and the team’s performance resulted in a convincing first set win (25-16). The Hornets did not go down without a fight as they roared back in the next set, responding with a win of their own (18-25). The Dons were not down for long as they responded with another set win which put them up by a score of 2-1. 

The Dons kept up their intensive play throughout the fourth set, but the Hornets ultimately prevailed, leveling the contest at two sets apiece (21-25). This set up a decisive fifth set which the Dons went into with impressive performances from freshmen Shyia Richardson  and Letizia Aquilino, who recorded a team-high 20 digs. Both teams were tied by a score of 9-9, but the Hornets ramped up their play and came away with a victory (13-15), Ultimately, the Dons lost by a score of 2-3.

The Dons will head to Davis, Calif. to face the University of California, Davis Aggies Sept. 3 in hopes of achieving their first victory of the season. 

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