The USF volleyball team had two goals entering its weekend’s matches: To sweep the weekend series and get as many digs as possible versus Memphis for the “Dig for the Cure” breast cancer campaign.
The team did both.
Saturday versus third-ranked Memphis (24-8, 8-3 C-USA), the Bulls (8-16, 5-6 C-USA) fell behind early after losing the first two games as it seemed the Tigers would cruise to another conference victory.
Although Memphis had USF on the ropes, it couldn’t find the knockout punch as the Bulls stormed back, taking the next two games to send the match to a 15-point sudden-death that the Bulls won 15-8, capping off an improbable comeback victory.
“I feel like when this team has been challenged and they’ve been down 0-2, they come out and play their best volleyball in Game 3, and, unfortunately, we just haven’t been able to afford to wait that long,” USF coach Claire Lessinger said. “But tonight, with the turnaround in Game 3, I just think we got unconscious. I could see it in everybody’s face. We were in the zone, and that’s something we haven’t been in all year long.”
In Game 3 versus Memphis, the Bulls forced the Tigers into 10 errors and cruised to a 30-23 win.
Game 4 was much closer, with USF falling behind early 7-4. A timely 8-3 run helped the Bulls take a lead they would never relinquish. With USF clinging to a two-point lead at 28-26, the Bulls forced two more Memphis errors, sending the match into overtime. With the momentum on the Bulls’ side, the Tigers didn’t stand a chance. USF notched two kills and blocked three shots in overtime to seal the win.
The win was the Bulls’ second of the weekend following Friday’s 30-28, 30-21, 30-27 shutout of the Billikens.
St. Louis (13-15, 5-6 C-USA) entered the Corral Friday with the nation’s second-best offensive player and a chip on its shoulder after falling to Marquette in overtime last Saturday. The Billikens also found a USF team that entered the match well prepared. USF put down St. Louis easily, with three players notching double-digit kills. USF trailed only once in the match when they were down 1-0 in Game 3.
The Bulls notably shut out Aida Antanaviciute, who ranks first in kills in C-USA, with 6.56 a game.
With the two wins, the Bulls have scraped their way back into contention in the C-USA standings, forcing a three-way tie with DePaul, Houston, and St. Louis for the sixth seed.
The Bulls hold tiebreakers over DePaul and Saint Louis.
“It’s awesome to get back into the conference race,” freshman Kristina Fabris said. “We know that we can play with any team in conference and tonight we proved that. We really won as a team.”
The Bulls’ outstanding performance on the court will ultimately help those off the court thanks to the “Dig for the Cure” campaign, an effort that accepts donations for every dig.
The Bulls racked up a season-high 79 digs against Memphis. With such lofty numbers, USF was the second highest-grossing school to participate in “Dig for the Cure”, accumulating over $3,000.
“With some people pledging as much as $10 a dig, I can’t even imagine how much we raised for this cause,” junior Kelsi Andrew-Wasylik said. “I think we proved that USF is here to help. It was a driving force for us tonight.”