Women’s volleyball loses to Florida in heartbreaking ‘Road 2 Tampa Bay Invitational’ finale

Despite losing both games, South Florida broke multiple records in the ‘Road 2 Tampa Bay‘ invitational. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

In its second match of the “Road 2 Tampa Bay Invitational,” South Florida volleyball lost in a 3-2 heartbreaker to No. 11 University of Florida Saturday at the Yuengling Center. 

Taking the lead early on, the Bulls (0-2) managed to hold off the Gators (2-0) in a 25-22 set, recording 16 kills and 15 aces for the home team.

Despite starting strong, South Florida fell in the second set 25-18. They redeemed themselves in the third set 25-22, putting in a 2-1 lead midway through the match.

By the fourth set, Florida had stormed back 25-16 to tie the game. A 15-8 score in the fifth set by the Gators sealed their victory. 

For Bulls head coach Jolene Shepardson, she believed that her team maintained the same energy as the No. 11 Florida team despite falling short in the fourth set.

“I think [Florida] turned it up a notch, and that’s good for them,” Shepardson said.

“We rose to the same level as well so I’m proud of our players for battling it out against some great players and doing some incredible things that they’re capable of doing repeatedly.” 

The match was close, with USF totaling 55 kills and 10 aces compared to 56 kills and 11 aces from UF.

Regardless of the loss, this tournament was record-breaking for the Bulls with a program-high attendance of 6,877 attendees on Saturday.

Sophomore outside hitter Buse Hazan totaled 20 kills, demolishing her career-high of seven from the night prior. 

Maria Clara Andrade, another sophomore outside hitter, was also a star player this tournament placing 14 kills this game and nine against Georgia Tech yesterday.

Hazan and Andrade’s talent didn’t go unnoticed by their teammates either, as freshman defensive specialist Lia Schneider said she could feel the energy on the court during the game.

“You can just tell [Hazan’s] entire body went into the swing and it was great,” Schneider said. 

“You knew she was going to get a kill. She’s really crafty with her shots, listens to everything people had to say and tooling, which was a big thing in this game. She did really well with that.” 

Shepardson said this is the best chemistry her team has had in years and is proud of the progress they have made despite the early season loss.

“I think they are very supportive of one another [and] really being about one another and staying united,” Shepardson said. 

“It’s nice to have those returners to help build your program [and] having great new talent that buys into it. Having that chemistry is wonderful. I’m really happy with the result and progress that we’ve had.”

Up next, South Florida will host the USF Invitational from Sept. 1-2 at home in the Yuengling Center. The first game is slated for 1 p.m. against Idaho State on Friday.