USF volleyball wastes another fast start in loss to rival UCF

USF middle blocker Joli Holland goes up for a kill during the first set of Wednesday’s loss to UCF. The sophomore finished with seven in the match. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Central Florida’s triumph in four sets left the USF volleyball team with an all-too-familiar feeling Wednesday night.

Two weeks ago, the Bulls fell 3-1 in Orlando, taking the first set before dropping the next three. 

USF notched the first set 26-24 again before an announced crowd of 984 at the Sun Dome, but the Knights pulled away 25-21, 25-22, 25-18 to sweep the season series. 

“There was definitely a lack of execution to the game plan and also opportunities to kill the ball,” Bulls coach Courtney Draper said. “ … There were too many times where our kids forgot where they were supposed to be, and I told them, ‘You don’t get those points back. You have to execute.’”

Although USF (8-17, 5-8) couldn’t secure the win, the energy was on its side. From the beginning of the match when the lights dimmed and the spotlights swiveled, the atmosphere felt different. 

“It was awesome that so many students were here and people from the community as well,” Draper said.

The final result, however, was all too familiar.

Junior outside-hitter Dakota Hampton recorded her 10th consecutive double-double (11 kills, 11 digs) despite not playing in the last half of the fourth set due to an unspecified illness.

“She’s a fighter,” Draper said. “She’s a competitor, and she did the best for her team.”

Freshman setter Molly Burkhardt had 20 assists. Junior outside hitter Denise Belcher added eight kills for the Bulls. 

Jale Hervey paced the Knights with 21 kills.

USF hosts East Carolina in The Corral on Friday night at 7.

“We’ll probably focus more on ourselves than we will on our opponent for Friday,” Draper said. “Just making a few things better on our side so that we’re more efficient.”