USF opened West Coast Conference play on the road this season with games against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine last week. On Thursday, Sept. 19 the Dons fell to the LMU Lions in straight sets in Los Angeles, Calif. before heading to Malibu, Calif to play the Pepperdine Waves on Saturday.
The matchup against Pepperdine at Firestone Fieldhouse proved to be a close one, with the Dons eventually taking it 3-2 (16-25, 25-22, 24-26, 25-14, 15-6) and earning their first WCC win of the season.
The Waves, a consistently strong contender for the WCC title, couldn’t compete with the Dons offense, led by junior middle blocker Valentina Zaloznik and freshman outside hitter Katarina Pilepic. The strong duo combined for 35 kills while senior setter Mackenzie Murtagh and freshman setter Kiara McKibben contributed with 26 and 17 assists respectively.
The two teams traded wins throughout the first four sets with Pepperdine taking the first win. However, the Dons managed to start the fifth set strong and bested the Waves 15-6 to emerge victorious.
“This is a great team win for us on the road at a place we only won once before in school history,” head coach Gilad Doran told USFDons.com. “Val [Zaloznik] led our team from the very start till the last point, but we had so many players stepping up in different times and making great contributions today.”
On Thursday, the Dons travelled to the Gersten Pavillion in to play their first WCC game against LMU. USF came up short and lost in straight sets, though they managed to keep the score close throughout most of the game, falling 25-22, 25-26 and 25-22. Pilepic led the team with 12 kills while Zaloznik added eight. The Lions took the victory thanks to their strong offense; they outhit the Dons by 14 percent with 50 kills.
USF finished the road trip with a 1-1 WCC record and are now 5-7 on the season. The Dons continue conference play against Santa Clara on Sept. 26 at Santa Clara, Calif. before hosting Gonzaga and Portland at home on Oct. 3 and Oct. 5.