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Game-winning kill gives USF volleyball victory over ECU

Sophomore middle blocker Tizi Puljiz delivered the kill that won the Bulls the fifth set 17-15. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF women’s volleyball and East Carolina matched each other kill for kill during Friday’s match, but the Bulls edged out their opponent in the final moments of the fifth set to take a 3-2 victory.

South Florida (7-10, 1-4 AAC) won the first two sets with a score of 25-18, but ECU (8-11, 3-4 AAC) responded by winning the next two sets 25-22 and 25-19. After a reversed score decision, the Bulls were able to prevail in the fifth set 17-15.

In the final set, sophomore middle blocker Tizi Puljiz’s lone kill clinched the match for USF. Puljiz was ready to help her team after sitting out the set prior.

“I really wanted to score and get the W for us, so just swing super hard and as close as I can, that was my mindset,” Puljiz said.

The Bulls’ defense throughout the match was what set the tone for the game. USF held ECU to a hitting percentage of .126, with 44 kills. USF also blocked the Pirates seven times. Sophomore middle blocker Makayla Washington said blocking is what won them the game.

“Our blocking defense was amazing. We lined up the balls perfectly,” Washington said. “We slowed down a lot of hard balls that could have ended in a play for the other team, so I thought that was really good.”

Washington posted 10 kills on the night. She returned from injury Oct. 7 against Tulane, and Friday was her first game in the Corral since August 2021. The sophomore middle blocker was filled with excitement to play in front of the fans again.

“I love nothing more than to be here surrounded by our fans, the people we love, our home court,” Washington said. “For me personally, this is my first time playing on the court in almost two years. It’s unreal. I love being here … it’s nerves and angst at first, but at the end of the day, it’s all you can ask for.”

For South Florida, several players contributed to the winning effort. Junior outside hitter Marta Cvitkovic led the Bulls with 17 kills followed by senior middle blocker Ally Barnhart who posted 10. Senior setter Kelsey O’Loughlin had a double-double contributing 44 assists and 10 digs.

With Friday’s win, the Bulls were able to get back into the winning column after dropping their last five matches.

The Bulls will be back at the Corral to take on Temple on Oct. 16 at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.