After six weeks of Big East play, USF’s volleyball team has shown no signs of slowing down after its recent successes.
With their onslaught this past weekend against two perennial powerhouses, the Bulls have opened the eyes of opponents that may have previously believed they could walk all over them.
The Bulls defeated both Connecticut (23-25, 25-19, 25-18, 20-25, 21-19) and St. John’s (21-25, 27-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-7) by scores of 3-2 in front of large crowds at the USF Campus Recreation Center.
USF’s victory against Connecticut came from a back-and-forth game, with the Bulls reaching match point five times before the high-flying J’beria Davis sealed the win.
“This is why this sport is incredible,” coach Claire Lessinger said. “The momentum shifts and the changes in lead. You can just feel it when a team kind of takes over.”
USF took advantage of the many errors committed by UConn and showcased a solid defensive performance. The Bulls held the Huskies to a negative .030 hitting percentage in the second set and had a total of 13 blocks as a team.
“Our defense played well,” Lessinger said. “We were tested at times by UConn’s tough offense, but we stayed focused.”
Offensively, the Bulls scored more than 20 points in every set. Freshman Valerie El Houssine finished with a match-high 21 kills. Shelbie Dailey finished just three kills shy of a triple-double with 51 assists and 12 digs. Kayla Walton came through with 15 kills and Janice Rivera was in double-digits again with 18 digs.
“This is when we see what this group is capable of even though they’re young,” Lessinger said. “When they can play like that in that type of pressure, in this type of environment with a lot on the line, that’s when you see what they’re capable of.”
In USF’s second match against St. John’s, they found themselves in the same scenario, tied at two sets apiece, and once again, the Bulls prevailed. The Bulls played aggressively from the opening serve to the final kill.
“We used our whole roster today; talk about a team win,” Lessinger said. “I told these guys whether we win or lose, we go down aggressive. I was so impressed with our serving and blocking, and then great performance out of Val (El Houssine).”
El Houssine led the Bulls with 21 kills and three clutch service aces.
“When Val rotates back to that service line, you just breathe a sigh of relief because she’s going to go at it aggressively,” Lessinger said.
With both pivotal victories, the Bulls (8-10, 4-2) are making a push toward contending for the Big East title. USF will take a break from conference play as they travel to face Florida Gulf Coast Wednesday night at 6:30.