The Bulls’ emotions ran high on Sunday as they lost a tough match to Connecticut, 3-0.
“I think the team is just digging deep and trying to find everything within to put up a fight every night,” coach Claire Lessinger said. “They really are competitors, but unfortunately when we get right there, we can’t find that way to get that W.”
In Game 1, Connecticut (12-12, 4-6 Big East) dominated the Bulls (3-18. 1-10 Big East) 30-16 with a relentless offensive attack.
The Huskies have been one of the Big East’s best on offense this season, but they were even more than exceptional in the first game as they hit .633 and logged 19 kills while committing no errors.
The Bulls dropped the second game 30-25 but came out with a vengeance in the third game.
Kristina Fabris, who had 15 kills and seven digs in the match, fired up the Bulls when she received a yellow card after registering a kill. The Huskies’ Megan Crawley also had a yellow card in the game, as both teams were becoming very aggressive.
“They’re an emotional team,” Lessinger said. “That’s why the yellow cards went back and forth; there started to be that emotion through the net.”
The score also went back and forth, and at one time, the Bulls were up 29-25. But errors by the Bulls allowed the Huskies to tie the score at 29-29. More Bulls’ errors allowed Connecticut to take the lead, and Crawley registered her team-leading 19th kill of the match to give the Huskies the game, 33-31, and the match.
“We fought really hard in Game 3,” Fabris said. “We came out on fire. I think after every single game you want to feel like you left it all out there; it would have been nice to finish it off.”
It was a tough loss for the Bulls, and it showed Lessinger that there are some definite problems the Bulls need to fix.
“Our lack of communication, and it comes from people not comfortable stepping up and taking the match into their hands,” Lessinger said. “We need that one player that says, ‘This is my ball, and I’m going to take it; I’m going to be in control.'”
That one player could be junior Johari Williams. Williams was second on the team with 10 kills and also led the Bulls with 11 digs in the match.
“Johari played incredible,” Lessinger said. “She wanted the ball, she was confident in her ability and she put the ball away.”
The Bulls’ offense was also more organized, as freshman setter Kate Verhoff helped the Bulls’ offense register 21 kills in the game.
“Kate’s our quarterback. She did an incredible job,” Lessinger said. “As part of our game plan tonight, I told her to run the floor tonight, do what felt comfortable to her. The strategy tonight was in her hands, and I thought she did that pretty well.”
Even though Connecticut swept the Bulls, the Huskies were impressed with the play of their competitors.
“South Florida’s a great team, and they came out fighting,” Connecticut coach Holly Straus said. “I think our team played with a lot of guts today. It was a great competitive match.”
The loss was the Bulls’ fourth in a row, and they are last in the Big East standings. But for players such as Verhoff, that won’t stop them from playing hard.
“It’s kind of hard to swallow every loss,” Verhoff said. “But right now, at this point in the season, it’s all about pride. We wanted to go out and prove to ourselves that even though we don’t get the results, every time we step on the court we’re getting better.”