Bulls continue bumpy start

Whether it’s because of injury, youth or just inconsistency, USF coach Claire Lessinger’s team hasn’t had the start she envisioned as she tries to build the volleyball program.

After winning the first of three matches this weekend – a three-set sweep of Southern Missouri State on Friday night – the Bulls (3-5) dropped the next two matches, including a straight-set sweep at the hands of Southern Illinois on Sunday, their final game of the Saluki Invitational Tournament in Carbondale, Ill.

“We’re struggling to find that rhythm and that lineup,” Lessinger said. “We’re trying to see what works together – going through the bumps – and the best word to describe it is inconsistent.”

As a team, the Bulls hit .253 in the three-set sweep and collected 34 kills, while committing only 10 errors.

Senior right side hitter Allie Boaz, an Illinois native, collected 10 kills and hit .600 for the night.

“It was comforting and my family is everything. They brought a rowdy crowd with them,” she said. “There was a lot of excitement and cheering going on.”

Senior Mariana Thon collected 30 assists for the match while adding six digs.

On Saturday, the Bulls lost in five sets to Mississippi State. USF once again got an outstanding effort from Boaz, who had 19 kills and hit .324, while collecting three digs. Thon also contributed with 57 assists and seven digs.

However, Lessinger said the Bulls didn’t pass well.

“When we struggle with passing, we struggle overall and we break down,” she said.

Halfway through the first set of Sunday’s finale, sophomore outside hitter Maija Strazdina went up and recorded a kill but landed awkwardly on her left knee. Strazdina, who was leading the team in kills, did not return and will be evaluated this week.

Boaz earned all-tournament honors with 33 kills and a hitting percentage of .304 throughout the tournament, along with teammate junior Janice Rivera, who led the team with 42 digs in the tournament and was a major part of their defense.

USF will play its first home game this weekend after being on the road for three weeks, as the Bulls host the Hilton Garden Inn Tournament. They will play Jacksonville, Florida Atlantic and New Mexico.