After a disappointing preseason, the USF Women’s Volleyball team hoped to turn things around as the first West Coast Conference league match was played on September 30 at War Memorial. The Pepperdine Waves came up from southern California with plans of their own. After coach Gilad Doron was honored for winning his 100th career game vs Seattle, the match began.
The first set was a close one, as the score went back and forth all the way through. Every time it seemed as if one team had the momentum and was ready to go on a run, the other team tied the game. This set saw 9 lead changes and 19 tie scores alone. Unfortunately, Pepperdine took the first set with a close score of 25-23.
Sophomore Alycia Cox was the star of this set with 5 kills and a served ace to start off the match. The second set was completely different, as Pepperdine seemed to be the clear dominant team, but the score didn’t show that until about halfway through. Pepperdine took a 21-13 lead forcing USF to burn all of their timeouts.
The Dons wouldn’t go away as they brought the lead down to a score of 19-23, forcing Pepperdine to use their timeouts. The Waves were able to make the right adjustments as they finished off the Dons 25-20. Senior Sarah Mandala had a set high 5 kills and freshman Joan Caloiaro had a set high 10 assists.
The third set finally saw the Dons jump out to a quick lead and were able to keep it for a short while, until Pepperdine took the lead away at 14-13. This set saw 7 tie scores and 6 lead changes, but the Waves continued to extend the lead as the Dons started to look out of sync, even being penalized for being out of rotation. The Waves took the set 25-19 and the match 3-0. Alycia Cox finished with a team high of 10 kills, and Joan Caloiaro had a team high of 21 assists. Hadley Simmons led the team in attack percentage putting up a .333 percent effort.
Head coach Gilad Doron said that he wished the team would have “served better and had been more aggressive on their serves. [They] didn’t block as well as [he] thought they should have against a tough and physical Pepperdine team.” It’s obviously disappointing to start off league play with a loss, especially at home, and when Doron was asked what the team would have to do to get ready for Loyola Marymount coming up in two days, he said that they “have to play better with more energy and focus. [They] can’t continue to have the same errors over and over, and more players have to start to step up.”
The Dons would continue WCC play on Saturday, October 2nd against the LMU Lions who came up from Los Angeles. The Dons hoped to change a 0-1 league record to 1-1, while the Lions hoped to get their second league win. This game had a very intense crowd throughout as there was heckling on both sides, making each set all more exciting.
USF continued its pattern of getting into very close games as this one saw 4 lead changes and 8 tie scores. USF had the lead late in the set until LMU tied it up at 20, and their momentum pushed them to taking the set at 25-23. Hadley Simmons hit very well with a .800 attack percentage and Joan Caloiaro had a high of 5 kills and 8 assists. LMU started the second set with all of the momentum and an early lead, but the Dons didn’t quit. The Dons tied the Lions 10 times in this set and after eventually getting the lead at 21-20, the Dons finished off the Lions 25-23 going into halftime with the match tied at 1. Joan Caloiaro continued to dominate with 3 more kills and 10 more assists.
Coming out of halftime, LMU seemed ready to end this match as the third set didn’t see too many ties or lead changes. At one point the Lions opened up an 8 point lead, and kept the lead at 6 or more points throughout the entire set. The Lions easily took this set at 25-14 despite Sarah Mandala’s 5 kills and Joan Caloiaro’s 12 assists. The fourth set didn’t seem too different as it saw 2 lead changes and 2 tie scores. LMU held a small lead throughout, as every time USF seemed to gain momentum, the Lions would take it right back.
They fought all they could but it wasn’t enough as the Lions won the set 25-20 and the match 3-1. For the final stats, Sarah Mandala had a team high 12 kills, and Joan Caloiaro flirted with another triple-double with 8 kills, 39 assists, and 18 digs, also having a team high .353 attack percentage. Overall though, the team only had a .168 attack percentage.
Joan Caloiaro was heckled all game by LMU fans, but still had a very impressive game herself. When asked how she dealt with it, she simply stated that she “just didn’t listen and focused on the task at hand which was the game.” USF has a few days off before their next game which is another WCC matchup. Joan hopes that the team’s 3 upcoming practices will get them ready. The Dons travel to Gonzaga to play the Bulldogs on Thursday, Oct. 7, hoping for their first league win.