South Florida bested by Jaguars to close opening weekend

Although the Bulls couldn’t surpass the Jaguars, they posted 59 kills in four sets. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

In the finale of their season-opening tournament, the Bulls lost 3-1 at the hands of South Alabama on Saturday.

Though the Jaguars (2-1) took the victory, the Bulls (1-2) challenged them at every chance they got through four sets. In USA’s winning sets, each of the scores were set at 25-18, 29-27 and 30-28.

Coach June Shepardson was impressed with the team’s composure throughout such a back-and-forth affair.

“This is a very talented team we played today and last night [Ball State],” Shepardson said. “What we’re doing is we’re winning some of those long rallies, where we’re staying patient against great competitors, seeing things clearly and we’re making strong decisions.”

A bright spot for the Bulls was senior Ally Barnhart. The middle blocker posted eight kills and three digs and gave Alabama’s hitters fits throughout. Her versatile scoring and leadership were key to keeping the bulls afloat, especially during the second set.

“She really is a good leader for us, staying steady and she can score in multiple ways,” Shepardson said. “She’s a talented middle blocker. I think she really frustrates our opponent because she’s such a big wall.”

Sophomore side hitter Amanda Dewitt had a team-high 16 kills, and freshman outside hitter Maria Clara Andrade contributed as well. Shepardson spoke highly of the outside hitter’s game and how she’s been able to contribute right away.

“Maria is just a young talent,” she said. “She can do the full game like look at her serving pressure. Look at the back-row offense. Look at her defense. I mean she’s playing the all-around game.”

The kind of chemistry the Bulls played with radiated throughout the arena and contributed to their strong play despite the outcome.

“These young women really care about each other and [the program]. They’re bringing that out on the floor,” Shepardson said. “I really hope we are that team with [a] great chemistry in the end because that’s a hard team to beat.”