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USF advances to NIVC quarter finals after beating Buffalo and Saint John’s

Sophomore outside hitter Maria Clara Andrade recorded a new career high 28 kills and junior setter Caroline Dykes recorded a career high 60 assists against St. John’s. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF volleyball beat Buffalo 3-0 and St. John’s 3-2 on Friday and Saturday, to advance to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) quarter finals.

After their division title clinching win against Rice on Nov. 22, Bulls volleyball coach Jolene Shepardson said her team wanted to improve in the NIVC this year.

“In 2018, we went to the NIVC [first round], but we were joking yesterday – we don’t want that first round, we want more than the first round and beyond,” she said.

It’s the Bulls’ (21-11, 13-6 AAC) furthest NIVC run since their semi-final appearance in 1994.

Related: USF qualifies for NIVC for the first time in half a decade

Here’s how USF performed in the first two rounds of the NIVC.

USF 3 Buffalo 0, Friday

As South Florida looked to deliver on Shepardson’s words, the difference between the two Bulls teams would derive from serving performances.

USF recorded six aces, double the number Buffalo (23-9, 13-5 Mid-American Conference) could manage during the game.

South Florida’s winning margin increased each round with scores of 25-23, 25-19, 25-14.

Senior middle blocker Niki Khoshatefeh recorded seven kills in the game, with four in the first set and provided the point to give USF an initial 1-0 hold over the match.

Khoshatefeh had zero offensive errors and recorded a team-high hitting percentage of .700.

USF had a little more breathing space in the second set courtesy of Buffalo racking up 10 errors, more than double of South Florida’s four.

A 5-0 scoring run coupled with four Buffalo errors helped break the deadlock to go from 13-13 to 18-13.

South Florida forced another nine errors from Buffalo in the last set combined with another 5-0 run to end the set with an 11-point lead.

USF 3 St. John’s 2, Saturday

Two notable players proved to be up to the challenge of beating the hosts of the tournament St. John’s – sophomore outside hitter Maria Clara Andrade and junior setter Caroline Dykes.

Both players recorded career highs with Andrade notching 28 kills and Dykes setting 60 assists against the Red Storm (24-11, 13-5 Big East).

USF gave up the first two sets 25-23 and 25-21 and were on the verge of elimination.

Junior middle blocker Tizi Puljiz made a key block to tie the game 18-18 and started an 8-1 run to take the third round.

USF recorded 19 kills in the fourth set. As St. John’s were on game point, Andrade finished a 3-0 run with two kills to make the game score 2-2 recording her 10th kill of the set.

The Bulls started the last round with a 5-1 run but the Red Storm tied the score five times. 

South Florida called a timeout after St. John’s leveled the score 14-14. Sophomore outside hitter Buse Hazan came out with a kill followed by an opposition error to win the game 3-2.

USF will take on hosts of the next round Georgia Southern University on Thursday at 6 p.m.