The Dons secured a pivotal Orange Empire Conference victory against the Orange Coast College Pirates. They won in four sets by a final of 3-1. With this win, the Dons moved into a tie with Saddleback for second place in the conference.
Orange Coast had a height advantage at the front of the net, yet were outplayed throughout the match due to great ball placement and unpredictable hits. Standing at 5 feet 6 inches, outside hitter Alison Caswell doesn’t dominate the net in a conventional manner. Though she doesn’t overpower opposing teams, she locates her hits and changes the ball speed effectively. She led the team with 15 kills.
“I had to learn it on my own, it’s something that’s always been a part of my game because I’m short,” Caswell said. “There’s big blocks, so if I can’t get around the block, I just had to learn how to see the court and place (the ball).”
Throughout the first set, neither team led by more than four points. The lead alternated between the two teams multiple times. Near the end of the set, the Dons quickly scored two points to take a 22-20 lead and force a Pirates timeout. The Dons then won the set 25-21.
In close matchups, some teams struggle to keep their composure, but for the Dons, they use the adversity as fuel.
“We play better when the (other) team is tougher, because we know not to get comfortable,” Caswell said “We play as a team, and that’s what keeps us going.”
Adversity struck during the second set. Neither team conceded a lead greater than two points. The Dons called their first timeout while down 13-15. However, with a late four point rally, the Pirates began to pull away with the lead. The visitors won the second set 18-25.
With the game tied at one apiece, the third set was pivotal. After falling behind, the Dons scored five straight, taking a 7-3 lead. The Dons then controlled the rest of the set, never losing their lead. The Dons finished the set 25-17, capped off by a blast from outside hitter Matilde Teixeira.
During the last set, the Dons inflated to a huge 10-2 lead. While O.C.C. made a late push, the Dons won comfortably 25-13. The last two sets were displays of dominance by Santa Ana.
Santa Ana’s tendency to miss serves proved to be their lingering weakness. In this game they missed a total of six serves.
“We’ve been struggling a lot with that. It’s not necessarily the strength of the serve or getting the ace, but getting the serve in so that it’s not a free point, if we focus on that, I think we’re solid,” Caswell said.
The Dons are now 13-2 on the season and 6-2 in conference play. Their next game will be at home against Golden West College on Wednesday, Oct. 19.