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Bulls split with DePaul, Notre Dame

After being swept by Florida Gulf Coast on Oct. 12, the USF volleyball team spent all week preparing for vengeance.

Unfortunately, for DePaul, it was next on the Bulls’ schedule.

USF dismantled the Blue Demons with a 3-0 sweep (25-16, 25-15, 25-16) in a key Big East victory Friday night at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

“This was a well-needed win,” USF coach Claire Lessinger said. “We stayed focused from start to finish.”

The Bulls (9-12, 5-3) came out firing on the game’s opening serve and looked nothing like the team that received a beating against FGCU.

The Blue Demons’ only lead of the game was 4-2 at the start of the second set, but the Bulls came roaring back, scoring nine unanswered points to close out the set.

The Bulls were able to hold the Blue Demons (4-18, 1-7) to under 20 points in all three sets, due to the superb blocking, with 14 in the match. USF came into the match ranked 29th in the nation with 2.56 blocks per set.

“I’m so proud of the overall team defense tonight,” Lessinger said. “It started at the service line, where we were very aggressive and continued to the net, where our blocking was extremely disciplined and ended with our backcourt defense doing everything in its power to keep balls off the floor.”

Senior libero Janice Rivera accounted for 17 digs adding to her 1,000-plus career tally. Senior middle blocker Kimika Rozier stepped up with eight kills, seven blocks and led the Bulls with a .636 hitting percentage, while freshman setter Shelbie Dailey chipped in with 28 assists.

However, USF’s confidence and three-game, Big East-winning streak would quickly take a hit in South Bend, Ind. as the Bulls traveled to face Notre Dame.

The Bulls had lost each of their last six matchups with the Fighting Irish, and the seventh was no different.

Notre Dame (12-8, 5-3) proved why they are one of the elite teams in the conference by blanking the Bulls in a 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-19) shutout victory in front of 1,460 fans at Purcell Pavilion.

“We showed glimpses of greatness, but too much inconsistency led to our loss,” Lessinger said.

In the first set the Bulls did not go down easily. It appeared to be a back-and-forth set that

showcased both teams’ offensive powers, not allowing the other to pull away. But at the end it was the Fighting Irish who got the final laugh as they scored two consecutive points to close out the set.

That would be the closest the Bulls came to upsetting Notre Dame before being stumped in the last two sets.

Although the Bulls gave a sluggish performance, they still managed to get 13 blocks as a team.

“Our block put on another show today, but it wasn’t enough,” Lessinger said.

Dailey posted a double-double with 21 assists and 10 digs, while Valerie El Houssine had

another double-digit kills match with 15.

Lessinger is two wins shy of 100 in her career, but has a chance to achieve a milestone as the Bulls continue conference play hosting Louisville on Friday at night followed by Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon.