USF volleyball loses in five-set match against conference rival UCF

The USF volleyball team comes together during a timeout on Friday’s match against UCF. The Bulls were down seven points against the Knights in a crucial fourth set. ORACLE PHOTO/ALLISON FOY

The USF volleyball team played its conference rival, UCF, at The Corral and lost in a five-set match.

The first set was a point-for-point competition that the Bulls ultimately won 25-22. The Bulls (10-3, 0-1) generally had a rocky start in each of the remaining sets and found themselves having to continuously play “catch up” to UCF (10-3, 1-0).

“We know we have to execute better,” assistant coach Benavia Jenkins said. “For instance, that fourth set, we caught up 22-22 [after closing a seven point gap]. That was a crucial moment for us to go ahead and finish it out while we had great momentum. We just kept making crucial mistakes at the end…we need to execute better as a team.”

A win in that fourth set would have closed out the match with a win for USF. However, UCF managed to beat them 25-23 in another point-for-point battle.

Even after the Bulls' tough defeat tonight, Jenkins was especially impressed with the performance of their middle blockers during the game.

“I think our middles work very hard. So shout-out to the middles for their transitioning and for holding the blockers which allowed us to spread out our offense better,” Jenkins said.

Sophomore middle blocker, Jaeden Brown, led the team defensively with one solo block and five block assists.

Outside hitters Jac’cara Walker and Reagan Davey also were strong defensively, having four block assists each during the match.

Tight matches like this are nerve wracking for both the coaches and their players. While it’s normal for emotions to be running high during time outs, Jenkins says that they try to keep their players calm during high stakes sets like these.

“We tell everyone to stay calm,” Jenkins said. “We have this thing where we tell the girls that ‘we play our own game’ and that we can’t control what they’re doing on the other side of the net. But we can control what’s going on on ours.”

USF will travel to Jacksonville to play UNF on Sunday and will resume conference play against Memphis next week.