One word can describe what took place in The Corral this weekend: Drama.
The University of South Florida volleyball team ended its eight-game slide by beating Charlotte 3-0 on Friday, but followed the win with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to East Carolina on Sunday.
USF (3-9, 1-1 C-USA) finally had its home opener after playing 11 straight matches on the road. The hometown crowd responded by filling the stands in support.
USF ended its losing skid by dominating a Charlotte team that had a four-match winning streak.
The 49ers only led once in the entire match, up 1-0 in game three. Coincidentally, that was the game in which USF had its best offensive output. First-year head coach Claire Lessinger was pleased with her team’s effort against Charlotte.
“I credit the team,” Lessinger said. “It was a team win all the way around. What we fed off of, what we needed to feed off of was our home environment, our home fans, our home energy, which is something I’ve felt all week in practice. I could tell all week these girls were ready to play at home.”
USF was led offensively by junior Johari Williams, who for the second straight match, led the Bulls in kills with 13.
“The last three matches, Johari has been solid for us and consistent, and I’ve also asked her to step up as a leader on the floor, and she’s responding to that pressure well,” Lessinger said. Defensively, the Bulls stepped it up by adding some key digs. Sophomore Ashley Reavis turned in a game-high 14 digs.
“As a team, we really played with intensity,” Reavis said. “It felt good to be home. We knew that if we got off to a good start we’d be hard to stop.”
In the second game of the weekend, USF could not take advantage of a late lead and lost to the East Carolina Pirates.
The teams went punch-for-punch, with USF winning games one and three. But each time USF got momentum, ECU countered by taking the next game.
In the final game, the Bulls came within one point of finishing off the Pirates. With a 14-12 lead, USF allowed the Pirates to work their way back to a tie.
Due to an untimely kill and a block, the Bulls’ hopes were dashed.
“In the last game, we didn’t play with that sense of urgency that we normally do,” Lessinger said. “We got tentative at the end and East Carolina took advantage of it. They (East Carolina) played like they had nothing to lose.”