Coming off of a four-game win streak, the Dons went into their first West Coast Conference series on Mar. 14-16 against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Benedetti Diamond hoping to set a tone for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, Gonzaga snatched three close games from USF, completing the sweep and handing the Dons an 0-3 start in conference action.
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.
Boasting schools such as Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, the West Coast Conference has always been known for its small schools with top-notch sports programs. In a well-known Division 1 conference, alterations and adjustments are often made that keep anticipation at the highest level, and in the upcoming 2013-14 season, the introduction of new teams and new sports should have USF students and other fans excited for the future.
One of the most notable changes that will begin next season is the installation of a new WCC Basketball Tournament format. In this previous system, a double-bye was given to the top two teams in the conference in the tournament semifinals. This year, with the addition of University of the Pacific, the WCC becomes a 10-team basketball league, meaning that the double-bye will no longer be necessary. Although this may be seen as a disadvantage for the conference’s top teams, it will certainly increase competition and ensure that the WCC champion will have to earn their trophy and fight for their place in the NCAA Tournament.
With the 10-team basketball league in place and the tournament format established, there have still been rumors that a shakeup may occur and that current WCC teams could end up leaving the conference. Due to their consistent basketball dominance and the national attention that they receive, Gonzaga seems to be the school most likely to part with the WCC. The Bulldogs currently have one of the top basketball teams in the country, and in December ESPN’s Andy Katz reported that the Zags “would love to” leave the WCC and join a more nationally recognized conference. As the rumors continue to swirl, the Big East has been brought up as the front-runner to potentially welcome Gonzaga next season. For the 2014-15 season, seven Big East schools (Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence) will be leaving the conference due to their lack of a major football program. These seven teams are hoping to break from the Big East by 2014 and establish a more basketball-based conference, and their departure opens the door for many solid small-market schools looking to gain national recognition and appreciation. Along with schools such as Creighton, Butler St. Louis, Dayton, St. Joseph’s, and Richmond, both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have been mentioned as candidates to join the Big East. However, Gonzaga coach Mark Few has remained relatively neutral on his stance towards the issue.
“We’re happy with where we’re at but we’re going to continue to monitor everything that’s going on,” Few told SWX Right Now, a television station based in eastern Washington. “We built ourselves into a national program and we’re going to do what’s best for Gonzaga through all this. Because of our success we put ourselves in a position to where we’re attractive to other entities out there. But again, we’re going to do what’s best for Gonzaga.”
In the midst of all the possible changes for basketball teams in the WCC, a new sport is being introduced into the conference. Voted in by WCC presidents, softball will be added as a sport for the 2013-14 season, as the conference has recruited enough teams to form a complete league. Along with current WCC teams at Loyola Marymount, Saint Mary’s, Santa Clara and San Diego, Pacific, Brigham Young, Cal State Bakersfield and Utah Valley State will be joining the WCC for softball.
Around the conference, coaches and teams are all excited to play a role in the establishment of softball as an official sport. Also, with the talent that some of the teams have, the 2013-14 softball season promises to be an eventful one.
“I’m glad the WCC has made a commitment to the sport, because they have programs that have a ton of potential,” Pacific coach Brian Kolze told Jagdip Dhillon of Recordnet.com. “It looks like it will be a very good conference because this year’s RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) numbers paralleled the Big West.”
With all of these new teams and sports becoming a part of the WCC, USF athletes and students have a lot to look forward to in upcoming years. Although games against Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are always entertaining, Dons sports teams would certainly enjoy not having to face the two powerhouses multiple times each season. And with Pacific entering the WCC, fans will surely see many fierce, competitive battles between the two Bay-Area schools in the near future. To top it off, maybe the next step for the Dons is developing a softball team to join the new league. Either way, the changes taking place in the WCC ensure that the upcoming seasons will be exciting one for USF athletics, as well as for other programs throughout the conference.
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.
It was an exciting weekend for both the men’s and women’s cross country teams at Fernhill Park in Portland. The women won their fourth straight WCC title and the men finished in fourth place behind Portland, BYU, and Gonzaga.
The women: Junior Eva Krchova finished in first place for the Dons with a time of 20:35 for the 6k course. Freshman Elena Burkard was a close second behind Krchova with a time of 20:36, followed by senior Alice Baker finishing 6th with a time of 20:40, senior Laura Suur finishing 7th with 20:43, and senior Chloe Treleven finishing 10th with 20:53.
Other outstanding performances on the women’s side were made by junior Maor Tiyouri, placing 11th with a time of 20:57, sophomore Kate Jamboretz, finishing 30th with 21:39, and junior Sarah Pearson and senior Hillary Kigar, finishing with a time of 22:16 (41st place) and 22:33 (47th place), respectively.
The USF women finished first at the West Coast Conference with 26 points, while Portland finished second with 52 points, and BYU at third place with 85 points. The Lady Dons had a strong finish and won their fourth straight WCC title. With their competitive mindset and positive attitude, the Dons worked hard to achieve this victory.
The Dons ran together as a group in the top ten, with Krchova leading the way, followed closely by Burkard.
“We both ran together during this race, and kept pace with the other girls in the front. My focus was to stay in the front all the way through and then see what happens at the end,” Burkard said.
“In general, I just thought during the race ‘I want this, I can do this’. It was funny because at Conference was Laura Hottenrott-Freitag (Portland) who beat me at Nationals, and I was like ok, you are not going to beat me again. I was focused on beating her, which I did,” said Burkard.
The rain poured down during the races for both the men and the women, causing lots of mud and rain and making the race both fresh and exciting.
“I really liked this race because it was muddy and rainy, and that is usually what cross country is like in Germany,” said Burkard.
“At the beginning, I thought the course was going to be very flat and fast, but was flat with some hills and a lot of mud…then I really liked it.”
In a few weeks, the Dons will be back again for the NCAA West Regionals, and ready to compete against some of the best runners in the country.
“I’m getting into it, and it’s getting a lot more fun,” Burkard said, “I’m really looking forward to West Regionals, and I’ve only raced in three races up until now. Which, for me, is not that much because I’m used to racing more. I’m very excited.”
The men: In an exhilarating men’s race, the Dons finished fourth, narrowly missing third place by two points behind the Gonzaga Bulldogs with 105 points. Portland finished first with 32 points, followed by BYU with 33, and Gonzaga just two points ahead of USF with 103 points. Jose Madera placed 15th overall with a time of 24:21, with senior Steven Garboden finishing 16th (24:22) and senior Ganbileg Bor finishing 17th (24:24).
“The goals coming into the WCC meet was to perform as well as we could as a team and see how we compared with the rest of the conference,” freshman Eric Causey said.
“We all performed well, but we could have done better. We finished 4th in the conference with a close defeat to Gonzaga.”
Causey finished 25th with a time of 24:46, followed by sophomore Jarrett Moore placing 32nd (25:13), junior Charlie Johansen finishing 40th (25:57), and freshman Nick Hicks placing 43rd (26:13).
“This year has been a huge encouragement to do my best because all they [my teammates] have given and sacrifices made for the team. This year has been so much fun and I’m loving every second of it,” Causey said.
The NCAA West Regionals is a 10k race on the men’s side, a race that is both long and challenging. With two weeks until Regionals, the men are excited and anxious to race again.
“We are all looking forward to Regionals because it will be the race that we peak for and that means our performance will be best. It will be my first 10k and our first 10k as a team this year so it will be a whole different experience.”
The USF men and women’s cross country teams are set to compete at the NCAA West Regionals on Friday, November 9th.
Women’s soccer is back on track after a 2-0 victory against the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Sunday. After their loss at BYU on Thursday, the Dons were fired up and ready to go for the game against the Bulldogs, moving up to 6-6-3 (1-3-0 WCC). Senior step-in goalkeeper Megan Connor had five saves this game and never gave the Bulldogs a slim chance to score. Not too far into the first half of the game, sophomore forward Mackenzie Krieser scored her eighth goal of the season, pushing the Dons ahead 1-0 in the first half.
The Dons led the way in shots on goal, with seven overall attempts. By the second half, the Dons were playing more on the offensive side — sophomore midfielder Abigail Philips capitalized on a corner kick and sophomore midfielder Jaciara Mello scored the second goal. Philips had three corner kicks, with her second corner kick assisting in Mello’s goal in the second half. With two goals from the Dons, and zero from Bulldogs by the 60 minute mark, the Dons embraced their competitive side.
“We’ve been playing so well this season,” Mello said, “there have just been unfortunate, little lapses in our team energy and our team shape. In this game, we just decided that we’re going to do everything we can for each other and to not give up these little lapses in our game that will cost us our goals.”
Mello’s goal with an assist from Philips proved to be the winning goal. She attacked the ball and made the shot into the net close to the end of the second half.
“If the ball is going in the goal’s general direction, I’m going to run to it,” Mello said. This was proven in their game as the Dons played on the defensive side and did not give the Bulldogs any opportunity to score.
“This is one of the first games we’ve played where we played consistent 90 minutes and that really made a difference,” Mello said.
The Dons played swiftly and competitively for both halves, and Krieser and Mello both scored for the Dons to win their first conference game.
“We played BYU on Thursday and got home Friday, and yesterday we had a light training session and got our minds prepared for today. We’ve been busy,” Mello said.
After much intense practice and traveling on the road, it was a well-deserved victory.
“If we play like today then I feel like we have a pretty good chance of winning the rest of our games,” Mello said.
“We have five more games left which we can win, and I think we can if we play like that, play smart and play hard.”
The Dons will take on Saint Mary’s this Friday, Oct. 19 at 1p.m in Moraga, Calif. Their next home game will be against the Santa Clara Broncos on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m.