Seniors to be honored in Sunday’s match

A rather emotional weekend awaits the USF volleyball team, which is playing its best volleyball of the season.

The Bulls (15-6, 7-3), winners of five straight-sets matches, host Louisville (14-9, 7-3) on Friday and will honor their seniors when they host Cincinnati (19-8, 9-1) on Sunday in their last home conference match.

“It’s kind of one of those bittersweet moments,” said USF coach Claire Lessinger. “They’re going to have a lot of support here with their families, and I think the crowd is going to be huge. It’s going to be a true tribute to their careers, and you want to take that moment and kind of enjoy it.”

The seniors have given back this season. Alli Arbogast is tied atop the nation with 1.61 blocks per set.

“I know that this is my last year, so I have to make it good,” Arbogast said. “There are six seniors on this team, and five of us have played together for four years now. I’m not ready for senior day. I wish it wouldn’t come.”

Outside hitter Marcela Gurgel is third on USF’s all-time kills list and leads the team this year with 293 – over 100 more than senior Pamela Luiz, who is second on the team in kills.

However, this weekend’s test will be about USF’s defense, which has an opponent hitting percentage of .158. The Bulls will be up against Louisville’s hitting percentage of .268.

“Game planning and strategizing and then being consistent within that is going to be the key ingredient to potentially knocking one of these teams off,” Lessinger said.

With only four matches left before the Big East tournament, USF sits tied for fourth with Louisville. Cincinnati sits in second behind undefeated Notre Dame. Lessinger said the Bulls have a good opportunity facing two squads close to the top of the standings.

“I think this is a really good situation for us … to get them at the tail end of the Big East season,” she said. “Both teams, as well as us, are playing really well.”

Though the Bulls, graduating Brittany Castelamare, Mollie Echols, Jarka Havlickova, Luiz, Gurgel and Arbogast, will all be playing their final Big East home match, Lessinger said the team can’t allow the emotion to get to them.

“They’re a tight group and they sure have done great things here throughout their careers,” Lessinger said. “Hopefully we can take a step back, reflect, enjoy, and then move on quickly to taking care of business.”