Volleyball team loses in coach’s debut

In its first match under new head coach Claire Lessinger, the University of South Florida women’s volleyball team lost 3-0 against the fourth-ranked Florida Gators on Wednesday.

The Bulls had the daunting task of facing a team that extended its home winning streak to 45 matches. Playing in front of a crowd of 2,023, the Bulls got a taste of a high-energy atmosphere.

After dropping the first two games of the match, the Bulls came on strong in game number three and got ahead of Florida early.

“I was pleased with our defensive effort,” Lessinger said. “By the third game we had made the proper adjustments and our girls didn’t get frustrated. They really kept up with a high-caliber team.”

After a Gator rally that tied the score at 9-9, the Bulls lead for a short time before the Gators pulled away for good.

Leading the way for USF was junior Flavia Silveira, who notched 10 kills.

“I was very impressed with Slavia’s performance tonight,” Lessinger said. “She found a way to score against a excellent blocking team. She made some really smart plays from the outside position.”

The Bulls were paced defensively by freshman Michelle Stalbaum, a Gainesville high school graduate, who had 11 digs to go along with five kills.

“Michelle had a lot of hometown support tonight and she is going to be a great player for us in the future. She played a great defensive game.”

The Bulls will take this loss as a learning experience as they gear up for this weekend’s tournament.

“This game tested us, and you can learn a lot from a loss,” Lessinger said. “This early test really helped us find an identity that we hope to carry on throughout the season.”

The Bulls host the USF invitational this weekend. Their home opener is this Friday against UT-Chattanooga at 7 p.m