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Volleyball hits the road with momentum

Before the season started, USF volleyball coach Claire Lessinger said she was eager to see what kind of team she had.

A 6-2 start in which USF’s only losses have come to top 10 teams has given her a pretty good idea.

“I knew the team had the talent to be really good this year,” she said. “I’ve been really pleased with our focus so far, and the girls have done a great job with preparing match-by-match and executing as well as they have.”

Coming off a straight sets win against rival UCF on Tuesday, the Bulls play at College of Charleston (2-7) at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday against Lafayette (7-1).

This is the Bulls’ second road tournament of the year, as they’ve already captured the Hurricane Invitational in Miami.

One of the reasons for the Bulls’ successful start is senior outside hitter Marcela Gurgel, Lessinger said. Gurgel enters the tournament as only the fourth player in USF history to reach the 1,500-kill plateau.

“She had to come into this team her freshman year and fill a very significant role. The fact that she’s done what she’s done is no surprise to me,” Lessinger said. “Now, she’s surrounded by possibly the most talented team she’s ever had on the floor with her.”

Sophomore libero Janice Rivera has also been a big addition to this year’s team, Lessinger said. Rivera, who transferred to USF from Winthrop before the season, has a team-high 105 digs this year.

“We got really lucky that she expressed interest in transferring here,” Lessinger said. “I don’t even think she’s tapped into what she’s going to mean to this program … She’s a ball hog but in a good way, and that’s what you want your libero to be.”

Senior middle blocker Alli Arbogast is still listed as day-to-day following an elbow injury she picked up Saturday.

“We’re just moving on and making sure Kelsey (Palmer) is ready to fill that role for us and if we get Arbogast back, that’s a big plus,” Lessinger said.