A good loss and a bad loss

USF volleyball hung tough with No. 11 Florida, then fell to Long Beach State after winning the first two sets. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

GAINESVILLE — Wins and losses aren’t always black and white.

Some wins can feel like losses, while some losses feel better than others.

USF volleyball (3-5) experienced losses on both ends of the spectrum Friday during the first day of the Gator Invitational at the O’Connell Center.

The latter was the case in USF’s first match of the day.

The Bulls fell in four sets to No. 11 Florida (22-25, 20-25, 25-19, 13-25), but they never looked overmatched in the process.

After dropping the first two sets thanks to Gator comebacks — aided by several runs of three or more points — the Bulls ran away with the third.  The difference between the first two sets and Set 3 was being able to separate from Florida (4-2), according to coach Courtney Draper. The Bulls’ largest leads in the first two set were four and three, respectively. In Set 3, USF led by as many as nine.

“Both of the first two sets, we had a lead, but it wasn’t a big enough lead,” Draper said. “And when you play good teams, good teams know how to fight back and find those ways to win. Whereas in the third, I think that we had a big enough spread, and they had made some changes, and so we took advantage of some of their substitutions they had made and executed really well.

“We were hanging with the No. 11 team in the country.”

The fourth, and ultimately deciding, set was the only one where Florida was able to put the Bulls away early. USF fell behind 10-4 and things never got better from there.

“I think our passing might have been off,” sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Pliapol said about the fourth set. “I think we could have communicated better.”

Pliapol and freshman outside hitter Jac St. Cin finished with a team high 12 kills. St. Cin impressed Draper with her hitting percentage of .455, especially given the matchup she had — a member of the 2018 SEC All-Freshman Team.

“She was with Thayer Hall quite a few times. So that’s a big block on the other side of the net,” Draper said. “And she was able to find her way to get some kills, and credit to her centers for giving her good enough to be able to hit a clip of .455.”

USF had a lot to be proud of after the loss, and it looked for a while like the Bulls were carrying that over into their second match of the day.

That just made the Bulls’ five-set loss to Long Beach State (3-5) that much harder to swallow.

USF took the first two sets in the nightcap, then failed to make necessary adjustments, dropping the next three sets and the match (25-20, 25-23, 23-25, 21-25, 14-16).

“I feel like some people took it lightly,” senior outside hitter Jac’cara Walker said. “I don’t really think we adjusted to their adjustments. So in some situations, we’ve got to adjust when they adjust, and they adjusted and we just kind of didn’t.”

Walker added that the adjustments Long Beach State made was that it started to serve short and the Bulls couldn’t handle it.

Also adding to the increasing USF woes as the match went on was the fact the Bulls committed 13 more errors than they did against the Gators.

“Credit to Long Beach for the adjustments they made, but we also made 50 errors, so we gave them two sets that they didn’t even have to earn,” Draper said. “It was almost like they’re starting two games to none in the match when we make 50 errors. We can’t make 50 errors.”

Pliapol had another great match, recording a double-double with 22 kills and 10 digs, as did St. Cin, who recorded nine kills. As much as the loss hurts, the positive stats were a silver lining for Draper.

“This one certainly stings, but it’s a very exciting future,” Draper said. “These are young players that are putting up really impressive numbers.”

Thankfully for Draper and her team, there’s a night to forget about the poor ending to Friday before they play James Madison (4-4) at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the O’Connell Center.

“I’m glad we have a night to sleep on it,” Draper said. “I think it’s hard to play two matches in one day. I told them we looked a little tired in the second one … it’s tough on the bodies, and we don’t have a lot of depth right now because of some injuries.”