Playing in their final match of the USF/St. Mary’s Tournament on Saturday, the USF Dons women’s volleyball team trailed visiting Southern Utah 11-10 in third set.
The Thunderbirds (1-8) had already won the first two sets 25-22 and 26-24, and were on the cusp of a sweep.
Then, with three attack errors, Southern Utah found itself on the wrong end of a 5-1 run by the Dons. After taking a 15-12 lead, USF never trailed in the set again, and won the next three sets en route to a 3-2 comeback win in their second straight five-set match to even their record at 4-4.
“One of the things we talked about was composure, because you never know what you’re going to face, and we did a nice job sticking it out,” head coach Frank Lavrisha said in a streamed postgame interview.
San Francisco looked to tie things up 6-6 in the fifth set, when the up umpire called a cross-court shot hit by the Dons’ Lena Bondar a kill and a point for San Francisco, since even though it went out, it had been touched by Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds head coach urged the umpire to speak with the lines judge. All four officials convened, and the call was reversed, resulting in an attack error for Bondar instead of a kill.
Instead of wilting down 7-5, though, the Dons rallied for a 5-1 run and took the fifth set.
All-Tournament selection Emily Zinger’s successive block and kill made it 12-9, and two more kills from her made it 13-10, and then 14-11. Co-all-tournament honoree Kathya Garcia put away the match with a kill for the 15-11 win.
“That’s the way you want to do it,” Lavrisha said. “You want to take it out to the game and not just leave it on emotion, and be constructive with it. I really like what we did. I would have loved to have played better early.”
Garcia, a JuCo All-American in her first season on the Hilltop, contributed two double-doubles (kills and digs), totaling 37 kills (3.7 per set).
On Saturday, USF held the Thunderbirds to just .084 hitting, including .050 in the third set — which they won 25-21 — and -.114 in the fourth set, which they won 25-15.
San Francisco went 2-0 on the weekend, beating Hofstra on Friday at War Memorial Gym and bouncing back from a tough weekend on the road in Fresno. At the Fresno State tournament from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, the Dons dropped three straight matches, getting swept by American University, then dropping a 3-1 decision to California Baptist and finally losing 3-2 to the host Bulldogs.
The Dons travel to their final non-conference tournament of the season next weekend in Fullerton, Calif. There, they will face Idaho (Friday), host Cal State Fullerton (Friday) and UC Riverside (Saturday). West Coast Conference play opens at home versus Bay Area rival Santa Clara on Sept. 20.