University of San Francisco came out with guns blazing from the start last Saturday, Oct. 5 and earned a victory in a three-set sweep (25-19, 25-19, 25-19) against the Portland Pilots. The Dons, now 7-8 overall and 3-2 in the West Coast Conference (WCC), had a strong overall team performance.
In her first start of the season due to injury, senior outside hitter Malina Terrell led the Dons’ offense with 14 kills and a .560 hitting percentage. Freshman opposite hitter Katarina Pilepic contributed 10 kills while junior middle blocker Valentina Zaloznik tagged on 10 points for USF. As a team, the Dons finished the match with a season-high .363 attack percentage against the still winless Pilots (0-15, 0-6 WCC).
Not only was their offense on point, but USF’s defense also played a significant role in the win. Portland senior Autumn Wedan entered the match ranked 10th in the nation and leading the WCC with an average of 4.61 kills per set, but only managed to hit .091 against the Dons defense. With senior libero Rebecca Kopilovitch’s match-high 16 digs and four blocks by redshirt freshman middle blocker Inbar Vinarsky, USF handed the Pilots their 15th loss of the season.
“The girls played with energy; they didn’t wait and they went at it from the start, and they finished. We needed to win today and that’s the most important thing,” Head Coach Gilad Doron told USFdons.com. “Hopefully, we gained some confidence and we can go up and see what we can do against the best.”
On the previous Thursday, Oct. 3 the Dons suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 loss against the resilient Gonzaga Bulldogs in their WCC home opener. USF looked dominant in the first two sets when they beat the Bulldogs 25-15 and 25-20. However, even with Zaloznik leading the team on offense and defense, her 16 kills on .467 hitting, eight digs and five blocks were not enough to give the Dons the win. The Bulldogs came back strong in the third set and continued to rally from behind, eventually taking the last three sets to emerge victorious.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Gonzaga who came in and worked very hard together,” Assistant Head Coach Ken Ko told USFdons.com. “Usually that is exactly what we rely on – togetherness, resilience and fighting for every point no matter how difficult the situation is. Tonight we got a taste of our own medicine against us.”
“It wasn’t our best match today, that’s for sure, but we were still up after two,” Doron said. “We let them make a run in the third game and it was just enough to give them hope. Even though we tied it at 23, from that point it seemed to be all Gonzaga needed.”
The Dons are now back on the road for their next two games, facing No. 16 San Diego tonight at Jenny Craig Pavillion and then heading to Provo, Utah to face Brigham Young, who is currently undefeated in conference play, on Oct. 12.