Volleyball: Zaloznik’s 18 Kills Leads Dons To First Season Win Over Air Force in Three Sets

Junior middle blocker Valentina Zaloznik going up for a kill against Long Beach State. Zaloznik was key to the Dons offense througout the Bay Area Challenge Tournament. (Photo: Courtesy of Dons Athletics)

Junior middle blocker Valentina Zaloznik going up for a kill against Long Beach State. Zaloznik was key to the Dons offense througout the Bay Area Challenge Tournament. (Photo: Courtesy of Dons Athletics)

This past weekend, the USF Women’s Volleyball team hosted three teams at home as part of the Bay Area Challenge Tournament. The Dons welcomed Long Beach State, Air Force Academy and University of Miami to War Memorial Gym for their second weekend of action this season. The Dons finished the tournament with a 1-2 record, defeating Air Force but falling to Long Beach and Miami.

USF’s first game of the weekend proved to be a nail-biter. Facing Long Beach State, the Dons fell behind early, dropping the first two sets of the match 16-25 and 27-29. Put into a must-win situation, USF came back to dominate the Long Beach 49ers in the third set and ultimately took it in convincing fashion, 25-9. The show put on by the Dons in this set brought the large crowd back into the game and gave the players energy that they could feed off.

“It’s always good to come back after the first tournament was away and being home with a lot of people here, which we didn’t expect that much,” junior middle blocker Valentina Zaloznik told USFdons.com.

The Dons then spent most of the fourth set trailing the 49ers until the score was eventually tied at 24 each. USF then took the lead, and with freshman outside hitter Katarina Pilepic’s clutch play, took the set 26-24. The fifth set started out evenly matched, but Long Beach eventually pulled away and won 15-10, sealing their 3-2 victory.

The Dons win in their second game was their first victory of the season. They defeated the Air Force Falcons in three straight sets. For the first half of the first set, it seemed that the two teams were on equal playing fields. The Falcons even held a 15-10 lead at one point, but the Dons went on a 10-1 run and managed to steal the win 25-22.

Following the first set victory, USF started both the second and third sets with the same energy and jumped ahead early. However, the Falcons proved to be resilient and would not go down without a fight. Still, led by Zaloznik’s 20.5 points (18 kills, three assisted blocks and one ace) and senior outside hitter Malina Terrell’s 12 kills, the Dons managed to take the sets 26-24 and 25-18, sweeping Air Force with wins in all three sets.

The final game saw USF playing well but falling 22-25, 17-25, 22-25 to Miami in three sets. With Terrell’s team-leading performance of 14 kills and senior libero Rebecca Kopilovitch’s 19 digs, the Dons fought extremely hard but fell a little short at the end.

“The competition that we had this weekend was excellent,” associate coach Ken Ko told USFdons.com after the match. “So tonight we played great, but Miami played greater. It’s just a function of competition.”

The Dons finished the Bay Area Challenge with a 1-5 overall record for the season. They head to San Diego to play four games in the Aztec Invitational this upcoming weekend, and begin West Coast Conference play against Loyola Marymount on Sept. 19 in Los Angeles, Calif.

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