The Dons ended their 13-game losing streak against San Diego on Thursday night with a 78-74 victory over the Toreros in War Memorial Gym. USF was outrebounded by the Toreros 49-30, but managed to hang on for the win thanks to a career-high 28 points from sophomore guard Zhané Dikes.
The Dons captured a 5-2 victory against the Idaho Vandals after falling short 6-1 to the Washington Huskies during a double header in Seattle, Wash. on Feb. 7 and 8.
USF took the doubles matches by storm against Idaho. Freshman Christian Brockstedt and sophomore Thomas Takemoto opened the day with a dominating 8-1 victory over Idaho’s Matt Oddonetto and Andrew Zedde. Idaho’s Jose Bendeck and Cristobal Ramos-Salazar would even the score against senior Germain Bahri and junior Bernard Saraiva in an 8-3 victory, before the Dons pulled away with an 8-5 win from sophomore Nils Skanjaa and junior Rich Van Hout over Idaho’s Odon Barta and Cesar Torres to secure the doubles point.
The Dons also took three out of five singles match wins on Saturday afternoon. Takemoto obtained momentum for the Dons with his commanding 6-0, 6-1, win over Idaho’s Andrew Zedd, giving them back the lead. Redshirt junior James Tallman then pulled out the win in a nail-biter over Artemiy Nitikin, 7-6 (7), 6-3 giving the Dons a 3-2 lead. Following Tallman’s win, Seraiva defeated Odon Barta by a score of 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, sealing the match for the Dons.
“We ended up getting a solid win on the road against a tough team of talented players,” head coach Pablo Pires de Almeida told usfdons.com.
This win came after the challenges that the Washington Huskies posed for the Dons on Friday afternoon. The Dons fought hard but could not overcome the No. 44-ranked Huskies, losing 6-1. The Dons’ only victory would come from Tallman, who outlasted Emmet Egger by the score of 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.
“[Tallman] competed really well, and was able to overcome the home court Husky crowd to get the win,” Pires de Aimes told usfdons.com.
Although the Huskies game did not yield the results that the Dons wanted, the duo of Saraiva and Skajaa gave the top pair of Huskies, Egger and Jeff Hawke, significant trouble before losing in a tie breaker 8-7(3).
After splitting their double header over the weekend, the Dons are now 2-3 on the season. They look to even their record at home on Feb. 15 against the Fresno State Bulldogs at the Cal Club. Matches begin at 1:00 p.m.
What began as a close game between USF and the Gonzaga Bulldogs became a crushing 101-66 defeat for the Dons on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the McCarthey Center in Spokane, Wash. The Dons scored just below their season average of 68.6 points, but were unable to stop No. 22 Gonzaga’s overpowering offense from lighting up the scoreboard.
Despite the lopsided score at the end of the game, San Francisco (8-14, 3-8 West Coast Conference) tested Gonzaga (20-3, 10-1 WCC) throughout the first half. Gonzaga scored the first basket of the contest, but senior guard Alexa Hardick quickly responded with a three-pointer, putting the Dons on top early. Hardick was one of four Dons to score in double digits, notching 11 points in only her second career start.
Junior guard Taj Winston, who scored 10 points, began a 9-0 run for the Dons with a layup of her own. This gave San Francisco its first lead of the game at 31-29 with 7:55 left in the first half. The Dons lead 46-42 with just 2:25 left in the half, but Gonzaga fought back to regain the lead before time was called. The Bulldogs were on top 50-46 when both teams headed to the locker rooms.
Gonzaga began the second half with seven straight unanswered points. They then continued to pull away from the Dons, who struggled with turnovers, committing 23 as a team. Turnovers have been a lingering issue this season for the Dons, who have averaged 15.8 per game as of Feb. 1.
Overall, USF was outscored 51-20 in the second half, turning a potential upset bid into a blowout. Sophomore guard Zhane Dikes was the top point scorer for the Dons, putting up 14 points to go with 5 assists.
San Francisco had better luck in its game on Thursday, Jan. 30, defeating the Portland Pilots 74-73. The Dons were led by Hardick, who had a spectacular game in her first career start, scoring a team and career-high 21 points. Redshirt junior forward Paige Spietz also earned herself a career-high, adding 13 points.
USF had a rough start to the game, starting 0-10 from the field and digging themselves into a seemingly insurmountable 19-0 hole. However, the Dons kept their composure and slowly gained ground on the Portland Pilots. They cut the lead to 13 at halftime, and still trailed 57-42 with 13:20 left in the game, but a 17-0 run gave the Dons their first lead of the night at 59-57.
In the last five minutes of the game there were multiple lead changes, with no team leading by more than three points. With just 3.2 seconds left, Portland’s Amy Pupa scored off of an offensive rebound to put the Pilots up by a bucket, 73-71. Then, in the game’s most crucial moment, sophomore forward Taylor Proctor responded with a three-point play, scoring a basket and hitting the go-ahead free throw with 0.7 seconds left to win the game.
“We were trying to draw [Alexa Hardick] out and pretend that she was shooting the three,” Proctor told usfdons.com. “We had three seconds so that was enough time to settle down, look for a lane and draw the foul, and that’s what we did.”
San Francisco will now return home from their four game road trip that included three unfortunate losses and one inspirational win. In their next game, the Dons are faced with the challenge of avenging a 76-58 loss against the University of San Diego Toreros on Thursday, Feb. 6 at War Memorial Gym.
The Dons fell to the Gonzaga Bulldogs 75-65 on Saturday night at War Memorial Gym to end their three-game winning streak. USF was held to just 34.5 percent shooting from the field and made only 22 free throws compared to the Bulldogs’ 34.
The Dons jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in the first half, with a three-pointer by sophomore guard Avry Holmes starting the scoring as the crowd erupted into cheers. Holmes led the Dons in scoring with 18 points, and shot 38.5 percent from the floor and 50 percent from beyond the arc. After the Dons’ hot start, the Bulldogs picked it up and scored 13 unanswered points, which included an easy dunk by center Przemek Karnowski. With 9:09 remaining in the first half, Karnowski went up for a rebound but collided with a teammate, leading to a cut that continued bleeding and forced Karnowski to be substituted out of the game multiple times. This spawned cheers of “WE WANT BLOOD!” from the USF fans.
The Bulldogs gave up a number of turnovers in the first half, but the Dons failed to capitalize off of them and gave up many of their own, which kept the score in Gonzaga’s favor for the remainder of the half. Though the Dons didn’t take they had a number of big plays at the end of the half including an alley oop dunk by junior guard Matt Glover with 3:07 to go, and another three by Holmes to close the half the way he started it and bring the score to 32-28.
The Dons only scored six fewer points than the Bulldogs in the second half, but Gonzaga was never seriously tested as it held USF’s two leading scorers, senior forward Cole Dickerson and junior forward Kruize Pinkins, to just six points apiece.
“We weren’t efficient offensively,” Head Coach Rex Walters told usfdons.com. “We didn’t make the simple plays. Their length bothers us and I think [Gonzaga Coach] Mark [Few] did a great job in his post defense. That’s the first team that’s been able to double us and take us out of our stuff. They have a great combination of size, athleticism and feel.”
Sophomore forward Mark Tollefson went 50 percent from both inside and outside the arc, scoring the second most points for the Dons at 15 to go with seven rebounds. Gonzaga center Sam Dower, Jr. led the Bulldogs in scoring with 24 points, and made 12 out of his 13 free-throw attempts.
USF had previously bested the Portland Pilots 84-71 at home on Wednesday, Jan. 29. In that game, four Dons scored in double digits and the team finished shooting 56.3 percent from the floor. The loss to Gonzaga drops the Dons down to an overall record of 14-9, and a 7-4 mark in West Coast Conference (WCC) play. USF currently sits at third in the WCC behind Gonzaga and BYU.
The Dons will now leave for a road trip that includes games against the San Diego Toreros on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 7:00 p.m., and the BYU Cougars on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 6:00 p.m.. The Dons’ next home game will be against the Saint Mary’s Gaels on Feb. 20 at 7:00 p.m.
The Dons put forth a strong effort on the road, but ultimately rounded out their season with a tough 1-0 double overtime loss to the Portland Pilots on Nov. 17., after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs 1-0 two days earlier in Spokane, Wash.
Despite the loss, USF played well against Portland, taking 17 shots to their opponents’ 11 and keeping the Pilots (9-11-0, 4-8-0 WCC) scoreless through regulation play. The Dons kicked into a higher gear at the start of overtime — senior midfielder Vegard Karlsen had multiple chances to win the game, but his shots couldn’t find the net. In the second overtime, USF continued to put pressure on Pilots goalie Justin Baarts, but to no avail. In the 106th minute, Portland midfielder Matthew Coffey sent a strong kick past San Francisco redshirt freshman goalkeeper Connor Gaal and into the goal, stunning the Dons and giving the home team an improbable 1-0 victory.
On Nov. 15, USF notched a huge win against Gonzaga (9-6-3, 4-4-3 WCC), jumping out to an early lead on senior forward Liam Kelly’s third goal of the season. In the 18th minute, Kelly controlled a pass from senior midfielder Mauricio Diaz de Leon and capitalized on his scoring opportunity to give the Dons a 1-0 advantage. For the rest of the match, USF junior goalkeeper Chase Hauser was able to prevent the Bulldogs from scoring, saving a penalty kick and helping San Francisco hold on in the final minutes. It was an impressive performance by the Dons, who snapped a three-game losing streak with the win.
Although they didn’t end the year with a winning record, many players turned in successful campaigns and rewarded for their efforts. Karlsen was named to the All-West Coast Conference First Team, while junior forward Miguel Aguilar and Diaz de Leon were awarded Second Team honors.
This season also marked Head Coach Erik Visser’s final year with the team. Visser, who began his coaching career at USF in 2001, announced his retirement on Nov. 20. A two-time NCAA champion as a player for legendary Dons coach Stephen Negoesco as well as a three-time WCC Coach of the Year, Visser leaves the program as a central figure in the history of USF soccer whose impact will be felt for years to come.
In their last two matches of the year, the Dons suffered close losses to Portland and Gonzaga, falling by a score of 1-0 in both games.
On Nov. 19 at Merlo Field, USF (6-10-4, 1-6-2) gave No. 12 Portland (16-2-1, 8-1-0) all it could handle, keeping the score tied until the 67th minute, when Pilots midfielder Ellen Parker found an opening off of a corner kick and gave Portland a lead they would not relinquish.
The loss was a disappointing one for the Dons, but the team proved that they can hang with the best in the conference, let alone the nation. Sophomore goalkeeper Madalyn Schiffel’s four saves put San Francisco in position to come up with a win or tie, and junior Mackenzie Krieser got a good look at the goal in the first half, but in the end the Dons couldn’t outlast the Pilots, who clinched the top spot in the West Coast Conference with the victory.
In their previous game, the Dons fell behind early and were never able to recover. Facing Gonzaga (7-11-1, 3-6-0) on the road, USF came out aggressive and attempted two early shots, but in the seventh minute the tides turned, and the Dons gave up a goal to Bulldogs forward Heather Johnson.
The Dons didn’t let their offensive struggles affect their effort, however, as they worked hard to even the score late in the game. Junior midfielder Jaciara Mello nearly tied the match in the 86th minute, but her shot was saved by Gonzaga goalkeeper Christie Tombari.
San Francisco ended the season in ninth place in the WCC, but their multiple heart-wrenching losses suggest that their record would be much better if the ball had rolled their way a few more times. USF lost five games by just a one-goal margin.
The Dons held high academic standards all season long, with the players combining to average a GPA of 3.36. Also, three different Dons were given All-WCC honors. Junior forward Halle Bissin and Schiffel were both Honorable Mention selections, and freshman defender Jessica Nakae was named to the All-Freshman Team.
In an extremely hard-fought battle between two strong offensive squads, it was the University of Nevada, Reno Wolfpack that came out on top over USF on Friday, Nov. 16. Nevada edged the Dons 92-90, and the tight loss dwarfed what was a fantastic night for senior point guard Cody Doolin, who scored a career-high 33 points. Doolin’s previous career-high in points scored was 28 against St. Mary’s in the 2012 WCC Championship Tournament.
On Monday, The Dons stumbled out of the gate, trailing 25-13 early before recovering to take a 44-39 lead going into halftime. However, Idaho State
USF and Nevada fought until the very end, with the game featuring seven lead changes and many dramatic moments. The Dons excelled on offense in the first half; USF shot 6-for-14 on three-point shots and had a 36-26 lead with 4:16 remaining. The Dons eventually settled with a 43-41 lead at halftime.
San Francisco built a 55-44 lead with 16:04 left in the game, but Nevada came storming back. The Dons could not find a way to stop Wolfpack senior Deonte Burton, who repeatedly broke down the USF defense in the second half. Burton scored 31 points in the game, and 23 of them came in the second half. In less than five minutes of play, the Wolfpack had erased the double digit deficit to take a 63-62 lead with 11:30 remaining in the game.
The game went back and forth until a three-pointer by Burton put Nevada up 75-72 and gave them the lead for good. Still, USF had their opportunities to break through numerous times. With 57.1 seconds remaining in the game, Doolin sped through every Nevada player to make a clutch layup to shorten Nevada’s lead to 90-87. After Nevada was called for a 10-second backcourt violation, Doolin was fouled and made a pair of free throws. Then, with 8.3 seconds remaining, Wolfpack freshman DJ Fenner missed two free throws to keep the score at 92-90 and give the Dons one last chance.
After USF called a timeout, Doolin raced toward the other side of the court only to have the ball stripped by senior Jerry Evans Jr. of Nevada. The Wolfpack kept control of the ball for the remaining seconds and won the game.
Even with the loss, it was hard to overlook Doolin’s presence on the court. He finished the night shooting 12-for-17 overall, and went 3-for-4 on three-point shots and 6-for-8 on free throws.
“(Nevada is) a really a good team, and they play really physical,” Doolin said. “It was a really hard-fought game, and unfortunately we just didn’t come out on top.”
This was the second straight game for the Dons in which they played a very intense, down-to-the wire contest against a physical team. However, USF could not post another close victory as they did against Cleveland State on Nov. 14, as Nevada used their physicality to their advantage, winning the rebounding battle 39-34.
“I missed a few block outs there, and the whole team just needed to rebound a little better. I thought that was the key, they just out-rebounded us tonight,” Doolin said.
While Doolin racked up the points, the rest of the Dons could not follow up his excellent performance. Junior guard Matt Glover and sophomore forward Mark Tollefsen were the only others to reach double digits, with each scoring 10 points. Also, sophomore guard Tim Derksen and senior forward Cole Dickerson missed a couple of three-point shots late in the game that could have shifted the momentum in the Dons’ favor.
The Dons know that they will have to play better late in games in order to thrive in conference play. For now, USF will go on the road for two games to face Montana at 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 22 and Oregon at 5:00 p.m. on Nov. 24.
Photo by Emily Bogden