TAMPA - Playing its third match in four days did not faze the University of South Florida volleyball team, as the Bulls came away with a 3-1 win against non-conference opponent FAMU Tuesday night at The Corral.
USF (14-6) came out firing in the first set, earning a 25-21 win, before taking command in the second, 25-14. The Rattlers (9-8) turned it around in the third set, preventing the sweep with a 25-21 victory. The Bulls righted the ship in the fourth set, though, and won, 25-15, for their fourth win in a row.
Senior transfer Pamela Luiz led the way for the Bulls with 14 kills with seven digs, while junior Allie Boaz and senior Marcela Gurgel, the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Week, added 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Gurgel left after the second set due to injury and was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
Freshman Maija Strazdina had her strongest game of the year so far, posting six kills and five digs. Junior Mariana Thon led all players with 16 digs and handed out a team-high 24 assists, while senior Alli Arbogast had a match-high eight blocks. Sophomore transfer Janice Rivera also posted double-digit digs with 11.
USF dominated at the net, holding a 13-3 advantage in blocks, while FAMU posted a total of 27 attack errors and hit .101 for the match. USF attacked at a .325 clip.
FAMU scored the first point of the match, but USF would quickly turn that score around, eventually going up by five at 9-4 on a kill by Gurgel, one of her fifth in the set. Boaz and redshirt freshman Caitlyn Breen blocked an FAMU attack to make it 13-9, forcing a Rattler timeout.
USF would not be able to extend the lead, but the Bulls kept FAMU at bay, as a solo block by Gurgel made it 20-17 and led to another Rattler timeout. The Bulls called a timeout of their own after FAMU cut the lead to two at 23-21 on two straight service aces, by Gurgel and senior Jarka Havlickova posted back-to-back kills to end the set, 25-21.
Gurgel and Arbogast continued to lead the Bulls in the second, as again FAMU had a short lead before USF rattled off seven points in an eight-serve span to go up, 10-5, the last two on back-to-back blocks by Havlickova and Arbogast.
The lead continued to grow for the Bulls, as the Rattlers called a timeout at 18-10 as Arbogast had a hand in back-to-back blocks again, as she posted five all-together in the second stanza. Gurgel added three more kills late in the set, and a final attack error on FAMU ended the action, 25-14.
The Bulls struggled out of the gate in the third set, as FAMU won the first three points and boosted the lead to five at 11-6, forcing head coach Claire Lessinger to call a timeout. USF slowly cut into the lead, with a block by Arbogast and Havlickova cutting the lead to two at 15-13.
FAMU stretched the lead back to five, and after timeouts on both sides, Boaz landed a kill followed by Strazdina, her fifth of the set, to make it 23-21 FAMU. The Rattlers, though, won the next two serves to end the set, 25-21.
USF put the match out of reach early in the fourth set, building a commanding 8-1 lead. Despite dropping five of six points from that point, USF would get the seven-point lead right back at 15-8, as the Rattlers called their second timeout of the set looking to halt USF's momentum.
FAMU grabbed the next three points, but USF came right back, as a bad set by the Rattlers pushed the lead back to seven at 19-12. The Bulls won the last four points of the night, with Havlickova sending down a kill to end the match, 25-15.
The Bulls will return to the court and to BIG EAST play Friday at Villanova at 7 p.m. before returning to their home court Nov. 6 following a week-long break.