USF volleyball unable to hang on to short-lived leads in loss to Cincinnati

USF suffered its third loss in a row on Friday to Cincinnati following defeats to the University of Central Florida and Southern Methodist University. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

South Florida volleyball squandered multiple leads in a 3-1 loss to Cincinnati on Friday night at The Corral.

Although the Bulls (9-17, 3-11 AAC) were ahead in each of the first three sets, they continuously faltered down the stretch. USF won the second set, but lost momentum to the Bearcats (8-17, 6-9 AAC) in both the first and third due to service and attack errors.

The turning point of the game came in the third set when Cincinnati scored eight of nine consecutive points after being down 12-9. The Bearcats would go on to win that set 25-20 before closing the game out with a 25-19 victory in the fourth set.

USF had its chances, but struggled to get the ball past the Bearcats’ middle blockers. As a result, junior outside-hitter Marta Cvitkovic — USF’s leader in kills over the last three seasons — mustered a relatively quiet six kills in the game.

Coach Jolene Shepardson praised the Bulls’ performance, even though they ultimately couldn’t pull out the win.

“I just think Cincinnati just played really well,” Shepardson said. “We got stuck in some situations and rotations, but I think that’s the best volleyball we’ve played in some time.”

Individually, sophomore right-side hitter Amanda DeWitt led the Bulls with 17.5 points. Freshman outside hitter Maria Clara Andrade and senior middle blocker Ally Barnhart contributed 16 and 13 points, respectively, to the team’s offensive output.

On the defensive end, senior defensive specialist CC Clausen tallied a team-high 19 digs to keep the ball from hitting the Bulls’ side.

Shepardson was impressed by the team’s performance on both offense and defense.

“Offensively, we were a huge threat. I think offensively that was our best [performance],” Shepardson said. “We were fighting on defense. We had some good slowdowns blocking and some feisty digs.”

Cincinnati has now won 10 straight games over USF. The Bulls’ last win against the Bearcats was Nov. 5, 2017.

After three-straight defeats, USF is now tied with Tulane for the worst record in the AAC. That’s a spot USF has occupied twice over the last three seasons. With just four games left to play, USF will try not to finish in the basement of the conference for a second-consecutive time.

“We’re getting better every day, so I’m really proud that we’re focusing and working hard,” Shepardson said. “We’re not going to change much about what we’re doing. We’re going to recover well, we’re going to get back into the gym, and make sure we take care of the plan and take care of our bodies.”

The Bulls’ next matchup is Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. against Temple. The game will be in Philadelphia.