Bulls get boost in finale

After failing to convert match point in the fourth set, a young USF lineup rallied to beat Jacksonville 3-2 (25-18, 19-25, 25-14, 24-26, 15-11) on Saturday night, salvaging an otherwise disappointing weekend.

USF lost to New Mexico and Florida Atlantic in the Hilton Garden Inn Tournament before rallying in Saturday’s nightcap.

“This is the first time all year we’ve went with a lineup and stuck with it all five games. It was just clicking,” said coach Claire Lessinger. “Even when we weren’t winning games, it wasn’t because of a lack of cohesion with the team out there. It was just (Jacksonville) picking it up. We found something tonight that clicked, and it was really fun to watch.”

Playing without offensive weapons Allie Boaz (knee soreness) and Maija Strazdina (torn ACL), the Bulls (4-7) relied on young outside hitters Kayla Walton and J’beria Davis.

Walton, a true freshman, recorded a career-high 14 kills. She had previously tallied three all season. Walton also assisted on two blocks.

Davis, a sophomore transfer from Hillsborough Community College, matched Walton with 14 kills. She recorded a match-high 18.5 points, adding two service aces, two solo blocks and one block assist.

Senior setter Mariana Thon paced the offense with 43 assists, as well as one solo block and seven kills.

“Our chemistry is awesome at times, but when we lose it, it’s hard to get back. When we win, it’s so much fun to play on this team. We worked together well tonight,” Thon said.

After winning the first set against New Mexico on Friday night, USF dropped six straight sets, losing 3-1 (25-19, 15-25, 16-25, 13-25) and getting swept 3-0 by FAU (21-25, 19-25, 20-25).

USF junior Janice Rivera was selected to the all-tournament team for the second straight week. Rivera tallied 60 digs during the three matches.

After recording its first home victory of the season, USF now looks forward to next weekend, when it opens Big East play at home against Marquette and Syracuse.

“To have a win rolling into next weekend is great. We needed it for morale, so this helps as we begin preparation for the Big East schedule,” Lessinger said.