A win and they’re in

The volleyball team heads into this weekend’s contests against Big East foes Cincinnati and Louisville in unfamiliar territory. USF holds its destiny in its hands, needing one victory over the Cardinals or Bearcats to capture its first Big East tournament berth.

But the Bulls can clinch a tournament berth as easily as they can lose one. If USF loses both matches over the weekend, their tournament berth will hinge on the outcome of Saturday’s contest between Connecticut and Villanova. If Connecticut wins, the Huskies capture the seventh seed and USF gets the eighth seed by way of tiebreaker over Villanova. If Villanova wins, Villanova gets the seventh seed and Connecticut gets the eighth seed by way of tiebreaker, eliminating USF.

“We don’t have to stress how big these matches this weekend are,” coach Claire Lessinger said. “The players know, but we aren’t bringing it up at all. We are just practicing as if we are the underdog, which we are.”

The credo for the volleyball team this season was to regain the respect it once had. Kristina Fabris returned some of that respect with her Big East Honor Roll award this week.

“We’ve been frustrated with the lack of recognition, but that has been the fire that has pushed us this year,” Lessinger said.

The Bulls’ match up well against Cincinnati. Both teams are strong defensively at the net and are equal on the court in talent. USF is looking to avenge a 3-0 loss to the Bearcats from last season and can also make up last season’s 3-1 loss to Louisville.

The Cardinals will provide a tough test for the Bulls. Louisville is a big team and size is a definite advantage. According to Lessinger, her team will need to play a smart match to have a chance against Louisville.

Lessinger is happy to see a quick turnaround after last season’s 4-24 nightmare of a record, but refuses to look solely at this season as a building block for the program.

“We have our eyes set on bigger things than just reaching the Big East tournament, but you have to plant the seed first,” Lessinger said. “Reaching the Big East tournament is just setting a standard. We are trying to resurrect a program, not build one.”