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Volleyball falls short of Big East Championship

The Bulls’ Big East Championship dream came to an end Saturday when they fell 3-1 to second-seeded St. John’s in their semifinal match.

The Bulls started the tournament strong, sweeping Villanova. The Bulls used an outstanding offensive performance to take control over the Wildcats, putting up a .372 hitting percentage.

The Bulls took care of things on the defensive end as well, posting 9.5 blocks to the Wildcat’s three.

The Bulls received excellent play from Marcela Gurgel and senior Kristina Fabris. Gurgel, who made first team All-Big East, tallied 16 kills and nine digs while Fabris (second team All-Big East) had the Bulls’ lone double-double with 16 kills and 11 digs.

“When you have players like Fabris and Gurgel on your team, it is a real pick-up to your team,” coach Claire Lessinger said. “They both know how to lead by example, and they have done a good job at keeping a level head and playing the game the way it is supposed to be played – as a team.”

The Bulls’ victory was short-lived, however. USF came out fighting and won the first game of the match, but fell three straight to St. John’s, ending all hope for the NCAA tournament.

“We were in a great place emotionally and mentally,” Lessinger said. “We played what I thought was our best match against Villanova. We had all the momentum coming into a good St. John’s team, but it is just tough to be as consistent as them.”

Big East Player of the Year Hui Ping Huang (Red Storm) played very well, coming up with 20 kills along with her .415 hitting percentage. As a team, the Red Storm outhit the Bulls .363 to .240.

The Bulls saw outstanding performances from their usual group of playmakers. Fabris led the Bulls again with 22 kills and 14 digs while Gurgel had the only other double-double with 14 kills and 11 digs. Libero Stephanie Augustavo led the Bulls defensively with 17 total digs.

“When I look back at this young team a few months ago and look at them now, they have really grown,” Lessinger said. “We had lofty goals for this team and I think we have achieved them. We worked out our kinks and we learned how to dig deep and win. We really pulled together and made some great strides this year.”

The final game of the season will be played at the Corral on Wednesday at noon against in-state rival Florida A & M.