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Freshmen lead the way for young Bulls

In the case of the USF volleyball team, the word young could be considered more of a compliment than a hindrance.

With the play of freshman outside hitters Ciara Brown and Erin Fairs, the Bulls have jumped to a 7-5 start, including a five-match winning streak that includes two tournament championships.

Coach Courtney Draper said getting quality production from freshmen on a young team is invaluable.

Its huge to be able to get production from them especially when the team is so young, she said. Their consistency will be key for us this season.

This was most evident when the Bulls traveled to the St. Louis Tournament two weeks ago, the second road trip for both Fairs and Brown.

With 17 combined kills in the final match against the host Billikens, the freshmen led the Bulls to a sweep and the first tournament title of the year. Brown was named the St. Louis Tournament most valuable player thanks to her 25 kills and 14 digs during the tournament. She attributed her early success to work during the summer.

I knew I was recruited because I have the skills to play here, so I was working on my game mentally, Brown said. I worked on getting on the line, running, finishing hard, all of that stuff, just being prepared to do that before games and at practice and not allowing upperclassmen to get in your head, cause they may try to.

Draper said she values the consistency that the Aurora, Colorado native brings to the team at the right-side and outside hitter positions.

She got an MVP award in St. Louis, I think because of her consistency, she said, Youll see other players come in and theyll have a good offensive night and their defense will be a little bit off, or the other way around, but she has been great on both sides and a really key piece for the team this season both blocking and attacking.

Fairs broke onto the scene during the teams first win of the season a dramatic, five-set win over University of Central Florida at the Sun Dome Corral. She racked up a career high of 17 kills and added 11 digs to pick up her first career double-double.

Draper said the outside hitters versatility has helped her become a large part of the teams rotation.

She is one of our most versatile players, Draper said. She can run a quick tempo attack and she can also play on the pins with a nice high ball on either pin. In the game against Evansville, a lot of crosses were being blocked so she had her long shot working for us.

Along with Fairs and Brown, setters Wylie Devlin and Natalia Soares another freshman duohave played a big role. Getting playing time in all 12 matches and placing first and second in overall assists with 288 for Devlin and 199 for Soares, Brown said the teams freshman class has gotten into a groove.

I think that Ive seen the most improvement Ive ever seen, personally and with the team, she said. As freshman, weve really improved a lot. This is a really young team, and I think it took a while for us to get to know each other.

Fans can watch Brown, Fairs and the rest of the USF volleyball team tonight at 7:30pm in the USF Sun Dome Corral against Florida Gulf Coast.

Follow @USFOracleSports on twitter for live updates from the game.