The USF Women’s Volleyball team entered Saturday’s game against Seattle with a subpar record of 1-10, hoping to turn their season around with conference play just around the corner. The Seattle Redhawks entered the game with a 7-8 record, proving they would be a tough test for the Lady Dons.
As the first set started, the Lady Dons jumped out to a very hot start, taking a 5-0 lead. Though it seemed USF had the firepower to continue this dominance, the Lady Redhawks soared back and took a 16-14 lead. But the set proved to be back-and-forth, as it saw two lead changes and three tied scores. USF eventually regained the lead at 22-21 and went on to take the first set with a score of 25-22. Freshman Joan Caloiaro affirmed she was ready as she had 4 kills, 6 assists and 2 digs in the first set alone with a .500 attack percentage.
As the game moved on to the second set, the Lady Dons jumped out on the Redhawks with another quick lead, this time of 7-2. USF tried to make sure they wouldn’t look back as they kept the lead high, eventually taking it to eight points.
Just when the Dons saw a two set lead in front of them, the Redhawks again came back and cut the deficit down to four at 23-19. USF coach Gilad Doron took a timeout to make some adjustments, and USF finished the set with a final of 25-19. Senior Sarah Mandala had a USF set high of 5 kills and Joan Caloiaro once again led the set in assists, this time with 11.
Going into halftime, The Lady Dons were very confident that they would finally add another win to their record, perfect timing for conference play only one week away, but the Redhawks wouldn’t quit. Seattle took the quick lead in the third set. The momentum shifted back and forth and this set saw two lead changes and eight ties. USF finally took the lead at 13-12 and continued to expand it, forcing Seattle to burn all of their timeouts. The momentum stayed with USF as they finished off the Redhawks 25-16 with Jordan Irish finishing the match with a kill.
Freshman setter Joan Caloiaro flirted with a triple-double as she finished with 26 assists, 8 kills and 7 digs; continuing her dominance this season. Freshman Libero Whitney Swain had a match high 15 digs, further establishing her importance to the squad. The Lady Dons finished with a season-high attack percentage of .296 and tied a season-high of served aces with 7.
Senior Sarah Mandala played her first game since September 4th, coming back from an injury very strong with 12 kills, still on pace to possibly break the USF all-time kills record. When asked how she felt about her first game back, Sarah said, “I felt pretty good, although there were many things I could’ve fixed. I was really anxious and energetic and it felt good to be out there with the team.” Since this is Sarah’s senior year, she has already experienced three years of conference play and she feels that in order for this young Dons team to be ready, she needs to tell them that,“it’s much different from preseason. Teams are much better, and [they] have to come with great energy every game and to always be pumped to play [their] next opponent.”
Coach Doron, who won his 100th career game as a head coach on Saturday, said that he felt his team “played pretty good, although [they] must execute better.” He believes that every win is important, as they were shorthanded early on, and they need more team depth and chemistry. Of course coach wanted a better preseason record, but he thinks that they played a very tough schedule, which will only benefit them in the long run. Doron says that they “are a young team and [they] have to watch a lot of tape to get better and [they] must stay confident.”
The Lady Dons will play their last non-conference game before league play on Thursday, September 30 hoping to build this victory into an actual win streak. They will face Pepperdine at home in War Memorial Gym. Coach Doron feels that Pepperdine is a big task for them, but as long as they improve on their win against Seattle and stay motivated, they have a good shot, considering Sarah is back and freshmen Joan Caloiaro and sophomore Hadley Simmons are continuing to hit very well.
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