Volleyball battles in series split with Temple

After winning their conference-opening match against Temple, on Friday the Bulls battled hard but ultimately lost the rematch on Saturday. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

The USF volleyball team (3-3, 1-1 AAC) were back in the Corral for a two-day battle against the Temple Owls (5-1, 1-1 AAC) on Friday and Saturday. The teams split the series 1-1.

On Friday, the Bulls took down the Owls in five sets.

USF started strong by taking an early lead in set one and winning 25-22. But the Owls snagged the second set win 21-25, and dominated the third 6-25. USF bounced back in the fourth set 26-24 and ultimately won the match 17-15 in the fifth and final set.

However, it was a different story Saturday afternoon when they fell short 1-3.

The Bulls weren’t as lucky after winning their first set 25-20. Temple took the second 20-25 and the third was tightly contested throughout.

Temple held a five-point advantage throughout the opening stages of the set, but USF recovered and eventually saw sophomore blocker Ally Barnhart land the kill to tie the score 18-18.

“We rallied back to get into that set because they separated the score early,” coach Jolene Shepardson said. “So that was growth in itself. We really came back strong and we stayed patient.”

After USF attempted to close the margin, Temple took the set 26-28 and ended up winning the match 18-25 in the fourth.

Shepardson said while the team didn’t produce wins on either day, she is still proud of the players for persevering under pressure.

“It was a great battle both yesterday and today. [I’m] proud of our players for making adjustments because we’re a very young team and so they’re learning a lot of things on the fly,” she said.

“It was a battle to the end. They came out but we want to be in those battles. We want to be in those tight scores and handling that pressure and [to] keep growing in that sense.”

In addition to the noted growth by Shepardson, several new career records were made Friday.

Freshman hitter Marta Cvitkovic tied her career-high with 23 kills on 60 attacks. Redshirt-freshman blocker Makayla Washington posted a new career-high with 15 kills. Freshman hitter Agata Plaga returned from an injury and posted a career-best 14 digs while Junior setter Masha Idjilov’s 55 assists marked a new personal milestone.

“I want to see us grow as competitors and be able to battle pressure,” Shepardson said. “We did a great job of that yesterday. [On Saturday], Temple brought it again. I want to get a little bit more competitive minded and start seeing things more clearly in those challenging pressure moments.

“We want to be a great team.”

Up next, the Bulls will be traveling to Greenville, North Carolina to face East Carolina on Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. and Feb. 19 at 2 p.m.