USF (14-11, 5-6 WCC) controlled the entire match against the Bulldogs of Spokane, Wash., winning 25-22, 25-16, 25-17 in three exciting sets.
The first set was the most closely contested, and, other than a early 7-0 run by the Dons, was a back-and-forth battle throughout. The Bulldogs tied the score at 10-10, and again at 22-22 before USF took off on a three-point run for the victory.
Feeding off the momentum of the winning a close first set, the Dons took sets two and three almost effortlessly, completing the sweep of the Bulldogs (9-16, 11-1 WCC).
Freshman outside hitter Ester de Vries led the Dons offensively, with 12 kills on .250 attacking. Following de Vries was sophomore middle block Valentina Zaloznik, junior outside hitter Malina Terrell, and senior outside hitter Jocelyn Levig, each with 10 kills apiece. Terrell chipped in a block and Levig contributed two aces to San Francisco’s offensive effort.
While the offense was clearly a strong point against Gonzaga, Head Coach Gilad Doron attributes the win to the team’s tough defensive play, particularly from redshirt sophomore libero Rebecca Kopilovitch.
“Defensively —21 digs in three games — she (Kopilovitch) just didn’t want any ball to drop, and that is contagious. We have four players in double figures in digs. It starts with the defensive effort and it continues with how we are attacking,” Doron said to usfdons.com. “I think Becky’s effort regardless of the competition is just unbelievable. She’s been rock-solid for us the past few months with her hustle play, with her energy and with the will to just not let any ball get on the floor. It’s definitely great to have her on our side.”
Kopilovitch finished the match with the team lead in digs with 21, followed by senior outside hitter Alycia Cox with 17, senior setter Leanna Ludes with 13 and Levig, who snagged a double-double in kills and digs with 10 of each.
Cox has been challenged with moving positions, and has found success in the back row.
“I’ve been working a lot in practice, working on my footwork, my position, basically just being ready for anything and running it down if I can,” Cox said.
“We have enough talent around us that we can spread that ball better and it’s a function of how well we pass the ball,” Doron said. “If we pass the ball well we can set anyone on any given day.”
The Dons’ defeat of Gonzaga continues a streak of nearly three years in which San Francisco has been victorious against the Bulldogs. USF is not so fortunate to hold a winning streak against rivals Santa Clara, whom they fell to in a very close match last week. But USF will have a chance to redeem themselves in their next match at Santa Clara on Nov. 8.
“We didn’t play as well as we can but….we played hard,” Doron said of the Santa Clara match.
“If each of us individually can do one more good thing, one more support for a teammate, that can really make a difference,” Kopilovitch added.