Volleyball team searching for identity

After the USF volleyball team dropped its 12th match of the season Friday, the Bulls may have found their identity with a win over DePaul on Saturday.

With two matches over the weekend, the Bulls were trying to end a three-match losing streak and get back into the Conference USA race.

Amid a relatively large crowd at the Corral, the parents of the USF players got to see their women in action against two steady teams in C-USA.

Costly errors did USF in against Marquette as the Golden Eagles won the first match of the weekend 3-1.

After winning game one of the match, Marquette’s Kimberley Todd stook over offensively.

“We got off to a good start against Marquette in game one,” USF Volleyball coach Claire Lessinger said. “In the other games though, every time we found that intensity and fire it was too late.”

The Bulls kept C-USA Setter of the Week Sarah Vernon in check but didn’t have an answer for Todd, who finished with 24 kills.

In the final game of the match, the Bulls had the opportunity to force overtime and took the game into extra points but couldn’t seal the deal, losing the game 33-31.

“We battled but couldn’t get that one-point lead that would allow us to finish the game,” Lessinger said.

Saturday, USF played like a team with a new fire.

The Bulls came out of the gates early and dominated, taking the first two matches easily. In the third game, USF may have found the identity it had been lacking all season. Trailing 19-9, Lessinger took her final timeout to give the Bulls a breath of fresh air.

Whatever she said during that timeout worked, as the Bulls posted a season-best 21-4 run that left the Blue Demons gasping for air and answers.

It seemed DePaul was going to force its way back into the match, but USF wouldn’t let DePaul get any shot over the net.

“One of our focuses was to be disciplined; we made a lot of great plays on the ball. DePaul keeps you on your toes and our defense kept us in this match,” Lessinger said.

The Bulls tallied 4.5 blocks in game three alone.

All season, Lessinger has been looking for someone to step up and take control of the offense.

Against DePaul, she received a clutch performance from freshman Michelle Stalbaum.

“Michelle stepped up and had a big match for us. She brings a tremendous fire to the game. She was really smart tonight and made some really big mature plays,” Lessinger said.

Stalbaum had 17 kills and 19 digs to lead the Bulls in both categories.

“We’ve been working really hard in practice. Everyone knows we have to win these games in Conference so we can do well in the tournament. Everyone came together,” Stalbaum said.

Women’s soccer splits weekend

It was a roller coaster of a weekend for the USF women’s soccer team.

Friday versus Memphis, the Bulls had their most convincing effort of the season, whipping Memphis (10-5-0, 4-3-0 C-USA) 4-0 at the USF Soccer Stadium.

It was the Bulls’ third consecutive Conference USA victory as well as their third straight shutout.

“It was a very good and explosive game,” coach Logan Fleck said. “I think we had this offense from the get go; it just took us time to get into rhythm.”

Sunday against first-place St. Louis (11-3-1, 7-0-0 C-USA), USF’s three-game winning streak came to an end with a 2-0 loss at home.

“This was a well-played game,” Fleck said. “Both sides played hard. St. Louis is at the top of the table, and we’re going to fight all season long to get another opportunity to play a game at their place.”

The Bulls (4-6-2, 3-3-0 C-USA) have three conference games left, with their next at Houston Friday. St. Louis hosts the C-USA tournament, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 3.