USF (12-15, 7-7) vs. St. John’s (29-1, 14-0) When: Today, 3:30 p.m.Where: Fifth Third Arena (Cincinnati Bearcats Arena)
The story: The Bulls must battle the team that enabled them to participate in the Big East Tournament. A week after falling to both Louisville and Cincinnati on the road, the volleyball team travels back to Cincinnati to play No. 1 St. John’s. After falling to the Bearcats 3-0, USF backed into the tournament because the Red Storm defeated Villanova 3-2.
The Red Storm went undefeated in Big East competition and is riding a 20-game winning streak into the tournament. For the first time in the school’s history, St. John’s is nationally ranked at No. 24. The Bulls fell 3-0 to the Red Storm on Oct. 29.St. John’s leads the Big East in assists (1,599), kills (1,735) and digs (1,735).
It is the 23rd time in school history the Bulls have reached the postseason. In that time the Bulls have captured seven conference tournament titles and have posted an all-time record of 51-20. The Bulls have lost their last three matches, all by a score of 3-0. USF is 4-10 away from the Sun Dome this season, including a 1-2 record on a neutral court.
Freshman Marcela Gurgel leads the conference in service aces (97) and is second in kills (432).
Coach Claire Lessinger likes the underdog role her team has taken coming.
“The pressure is definitely on St. John’s to win. No one expects anything from our team,” Lessinger said. “We have to remember anything can be done on any given night. A win will mean a lot to this program.”
Keep an eye on: St. John’s Hui Ping Huang. She leads the team in kills (335) and points per game (4.25) and is tied for the team lead in total points (390.5).