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Two losses force USF into corner

With each win in the volleyball team’s five-game home stand, the Bulls’ momentum snowballed. Now, a winless four-game road trip seems to have melted that pacing, bogging down the Bulls as they fight to make the Big East tournament.

USF (15-12, 5-7) fell in two straight-set matches to the St. John’s Red Storm (20-7, 11-1) and the Connecticut Huskies (20-7, 9-3) over the weekend. Despite sitting at ninth place in the Big East with one week to go, coach Claire Lessinger said she wants her team to remain upbeat.

“We had awful starts this weekend,” Lessinger said. “All I asked from the players was to play each point so we could gain some momentum. Right now, we have to stay optimistic and positive because we have a huge weekend coming up.”

The Bulls have a chance to regroup and close out their Big East schedule at home. They face two must-win games against the Seton Hall Pirates and the Villanova Wildcats, two teams also fighting for a Big East tournament berth.

Lessinger said playing at home gives USF a morale boost.

“Right now, we have the advantage of playing at home,” Lessinger said. “We control our own destiny and we’re optimistic we’ll have a good week of practice, but we have to earn (a tournament berth), because other teams aren’t going to give it to us.”

After the losses, senior middle blocker Nakia Williams and junior outside hitter Marcela Gurgel said they are glad they’ll play the upcoming matches at home.

“It’s really important,” Williams said. “It will be a good change for us to play at home, where we’ve been successful all season long.”

Gurgel agreed.

“It’s our last chance to make the tournament,” she said. “This weekend will be all or nothing for us, and we’re glad we will have our fans cheering us on. We have to come out of the locker room ready to play in order to win.”