USF headed Northwest

The South Florida volleyball team travels to Washington State on Thursday to face off against Seattle University just five days after setting an all-time attendance record of 1,178 at the Sun Dome — and having junior Marcela Gurgel named the Big East Player of the Week.

“I just keep coming back to one word: breathtaking,” coach Claire Lessinger said about the record attendance for the Bulls’ first match of the year.

Gurgel said the crowd was amazing.

“It was so much fun to play with all of those people watching us,” she said. “We just wanted to put on a show for the fans so that they would come back and support us.”

Starting Thursday, however, the Bulls will not have any of the comforts of home.

The Bulls will stay in the Northwest for the Portland Nike Invitational, where they will face host team Portland University, Arizona State University and Kansas State University.

After dominating play this weekend that included two 3-0 sweeps — first of Grambling State and then Eastern Kentucky — and a 3-1 win against Northwestern University, the Bulls look to continue strong play on both offense and defense.

Offensively, no one had a better individual performance than Gurgel, who amassed 36 kills and 15 aces in the weekend’s three matches.

She continues to live up to the reputation she made for herself last season, getting named a 2007 honorable mention All-American and Most Valuable Player of the USF Invitational in addition to Big East Player of the Week.

“Marcela is just a great player. She is really comfortable performing individually and also comfortable just letting the team work as a team,” Lessinger said.

This week’s road matches may prove a challenge, pitting USF against nationally recognized opponents.

“One of the big goals with the scheduling is to give the players the opportunity to play the best. We have the opening weekend jitters out of us and now we’re ready to be tested,” Lessinger said.

Gurgel said the challenges the team will face in this tournament are good.

“The teams we are playing are really good teams,” she said. “We are going to go out there and try to do our jobs and pick up a couple of upsets.”

After playing the next four matches in as many days on the road, the Bulls will have a small break. They will then travel to Alabama University for the Alabama Invitational, which will wrap up a seven-game road trip.

The Bulls next play at home in a day-night double header against Georgia Southern and Harvard on Sept. 19.

“We have to remember every day what our mission is. Each day we have to get better, road or home, game or practice, I don’t care. We have to out-play and out-work our opponents,” Lessinger said.