Each week, a member of the Bulls volleyball team will offer her perspective on the team, practices and upcoming games. Their thoughts will be added here, in the players' blog. This week, senior setter Jessica Burghart recaps the season for USF.
SEASON WRAPUP WITH JESSICA BURGHART
It is amazing how fast four months can pass in the blink of an eye. As I reflect back through the months it seems like only yesterday was the first day of preseason.
However, from that day until now this team has accomplished so much. Through all the adversities of a brand new team and coaching staff, this team was able to pull together from the get-go. After winning two preseason tournaments, we found our groove and were a force to be reckoned with in the Big East. Of course, we had some downfalls throughout the season but any great team knows it is not about how many times you fall, it is your ability to get back up and bounce back that matters, which is exactly what this team did.
We had the great ability to fight back no matter what the score. In the end, we found ourselves back at the Big East Tournament as the sixth seed and still hungry for more. One of the greatest moments of this season was taking down Notre Dame in four sets in the quarterfinals, a feat that had never been accomplished for USF volleyball.
It was such a great win for this program and I know that there will be many more to come. It was such an honor to play the past four years for this program. Although my time is done here at USF, I will always be a Bull and this last year is one I will never forget thanks to the amazing girls who make up this team, our coaching staff, support staff, and our fans who supported us through thick and thin.
The success we had this year is only the beginning and I cannot wait to see what this team, full of talented individuals, will do in the future, I know it will be nothing short of amazing!
BIG EAST TOURNAMENT WITH ANDREA RODRIGUEZ GOMEZ
Its crazy to think our 2012 season is ending already. It has
been a blast for our team to have experienced all the challenges given to
us this season. Fortunately, we were able to finish strong
towards the end of season.
This weekend was special to us because it was going to be the last time we would get to experience “The Big East Tournament”, something the upperclassmen like myself have talked about since the beginning of summer, when our 6 incoming freshmen arrived at USF. Personally, I would tell the girls that making the tournament is not only a must, but a good seed and finish is also important.
The time had come to prepare for the tournament after we defeated Georgetown 3-0. The win guaranteed our 6th seed in the tournament, giving us the chance to play the only team who had defeated us 3-0 in conference play - Notre Dame.
Something our coaches talked about throughout the season is how they are impressed with our ability to overcome adversity and fight back. The new staff sees we have heart, and I think that is one of the most crucial skills in our sport that cannot be taught or trained.
With that mindset of fighting, we mentally prepared ourselves to battle Notre Dame. We played beautifully against them and everything clicked for us, allowing us to grab a 3-1 win against the Irish. That win meant so much to our team because it helped redeem our earlier conference loss to them. We had come together and defeated Notre Dame with a complete team effort.
After that win, we were excited to face Marquette in quarterfinals. In conference play we were one of only three teams to take them to five sets, losing 3-2 with a 15-13 score on the last set. We came prepared to defend their extremely unique and fast-paced offense. Unfortunately, they were more efficient and made less errors. They are a great team with a lot of experienced talent.
But that only motivates us even more to prepare for next season. Our young and fresh talent and their early experience will set the tone for new incoming players to be ambitious in practice in order to earn a spot, which will make our team that much better in the future.
This is a team to watch out for, and I have no doubt in my mind that we will continue to improve next year due to our young player’s mental and physical maturity on the court.
FAMU, UCONN and GEORGETOWN WITH WYLIE DEVLIN
After being home for the weekend and successfully sweeping FAMU, the Bulls were ready to take on Connecticut. Connecticut was a rival because in the last match we played against them this year, we lost in a five-set match at home. We were eager to come back into the gym to work hard and defeat UCONN.
We traveled up to Storrs Thursday, eager to play the Huskies. We arrived and had a great practice. Then came GAMEDAY! We all woke up with smiles on our faces, ready to play! In the first set we were not quite clicking, our defense was amazing, but our hitting was not right on point, and we lost the first set. Then came the second game it became the opposite our passing was ok, but our hitting was amazing, and we lost the second set. In the third set we came out on fire, and dominated the set, 25-13. Going into the fourth set meant everything for us. We were determined to win, but UCONN edged out and won the match, 25-19.
Although this was a hard loss for us, we were determined to come back into the gym Saturday and work hard, because Sunday was senior day for the five seniors on our team. Waking up Sunday morning and going to team breakfast, I had a feeling in my gut that this was going to be the game for us, and this game was on the line because if we won we were going to the Big East Tournament.
Our opponent was Georgetown, we had already beaten this team in five the last go around, but we knew they were a great team and had to bring our all. Before the game began, our seniors were announced and walked out with their parents, honoring them for all they had done for the University of South Florida. After a bit of an emotional ceremony, we were all ready to go! The first set came and we were on fire and beat them 25-15. We carried this momentum to the next set, and the score was a bit closer (25-23), but we pulled out and won the second set. As the third set started I saw it in everyone’s eyes they were determined to win and as a result we won 25-22. This win allowed for us to go to the Big East tournament!!! We were all so excited and cannot wait to see what happens next week!
PITTSBURGH ON THE ROAD WITH MIDORI HARRISON
After a tough weekend in DePaul and Notre Dame, our team was ready to come back to the gym and work hard. We needed to focus on the things we need to do in order to win. After a lot of practice and preparation, we traveled to Pittsburgh confident and ready to play a very important match against Pitt.
We arrived on Friday night and had a good practice later that evening. Saturday, we woke up knowing it’s GAMEDAY! The game stated out really tight in the beginning and the Panthers were up 17- 13 in the first set. Coming back fighting, we won the first set.
Pitt won the second and third sets, but thankfully we snagged the four set in order to take it to five. The fifth was really a test of our strength, but we pulled ahead as one cohesive unit in order to win the game.
This was a big win for us, a win that was well deserved and definitely needed. Next weekend is yet another big weekend of play. We will be working hard all this week in practice for these next upcoming games. I have nothing but faith in my team and I know we can come out with W’s the rest of the way.
DEPAUL/NOTRE DAME ON THE ROAD WITH CASEY ALBANO
This past weekend, we played DePaul and Notre Dame in the beautiful cities of Chicago and South Bend. Although DePaul wasn’t one of the highest seeds in the Big East conference, they proved to be a strong team, taking the win from us in four sets. While our hitting percentage was good at a consistent .291, it became a game of siding out, something DePaul did very well. The loss was disappointing, but showed everyone that you can never become complacent. The minute you become complacent is the minute the opponent gains on you, and that’s what we came away with.
After a constructive practice the following day, we begin to prepare for Notre Dame (10-1 in the Big East). We put up a fight, losing the first and last sets by less than five points, but Notre Dame came out on top with the win.
It was a rough overall result from the weekend, but we are learning a lot in the process. We always come back with positivity and a desire to get better. With drive, sweat and heart, we look to use this week of practice, perfecting and preparing for our next big match against Pittsburgh this Saturday. Go Bulls!
UCONN/ST. JOHN'S AT HOME WITH KAYLA BIVINS
Over the past week, we worked on a lot of side-out stuff in practice, and we also worked on serve-receive. We’ve continued our weight room and conditioning workouts, to get ready for our opponents on the weekend.
We prepared well for Connecticut and St. John’s, and going into the locker room up 2-0 on Connecticut, we talked about staying focused for the second part of the match. While we still played hard as a team, we just couldn’t get together in the last three sets, and it didn’t come out the way we wanted it to.
Before every match, coach tells us “This is our biggest match,” and I think we took that to heart Sunday. Friday’s loss was really disappointing for us, and it gave us more reason to go out and play hard on Sunday. We really got together and played well that day.
We all live in the same apartment. When we get home from games or a practice, we’ll cook dinner by ourselves, then I like to go hang out in Wiley’s room or Erin’s room, or whoever, just to check up on each other and talk about the day. We get together whenever we can, but we don’t really have time on a weekend like that to go to the movies, or anything like that. In season, we’re focused on the BIG EAST Tournament. We’ll work hard right now, and the fun will come afterward. Go Bulls!
VILLANOVA/GEORGETOWN AT HOME WITH SHELBEY BLEKE
It was great to be back at home this past weekend. Coming back from a long weekend on the road, we were ready to work hard in practice to prepare for Villanova and Georgetown at home in the Coral.
We picked up the pace and got after it, working together and pushing ourselves to prepare for our upcoming opponents. This hard work and the excitement of being at home with a great crowd greatly influenced our success in a great 3-0 win over Villanova Friday night. We were fired up and ready to play, and we came out knowing the importance of getting the win.
Now that we are getting further and further along in Big East play, each win brings us a step closer to our ambitious goals in the Big East standings. Therefore, our passion and determination was evident as we came out with a bang, fighting hard and efficiently against Villanova. We followed up this performance with practice on Saturday morning, coming in and once again working hard together to create the most out of our time spent in the gym.
We started out Sunday morning meeting at First Watch, one of the team's favorite dining spots, for some quality time spent together over a nutritious and delicious brunch. We started out strong against Georgetown, carrying over the same great rhythm we had against Villanova and in practice the previous morning, and took the first set 25-15 in a great team effort. This successful opening performance was followed by a fight that carried over into four more sets, creating an exciting five-set match. While we struggled in some areas throughout, we ultimately fought hard and picked up each other’s slack, taking the last set 15-10.
After snagging the win, we all felt great about the fact that even though we had our ups and downs throughout the match, we never gave up and always believed in each other. Our ability to focus and our success in performing at these crucial moments gives us a great attitude heading into this practice week to prepare for another weekend at home in the Corral! Go Bulls!
SYRACUSE/MARQUETTE ROAD TRIP WITH CLAUDIA CABRERA
This past weekend, we played Syracuse Friday and Marquette on Sunday. Even though the outcome wasn’t the one we wanted, we are proving we can play with any team in the Big East Conference! We also showed that it doesn’t matter if we are down two sets to none, because the BULLS won’t give up! We showed we will fight to come back, as we did with a very strong team like Marquette.
We were down 2-0 against them, but we didn’t give up. Instead, we fought and came back to a 2-2 tie, but unfortunately fell short in the fifth set (25-11, 31-29, 21-25, 18-25, 15-12). We posted one of our strongest all-around offensive attacks of the season, and out-dug Marquette 65-59 to slow down the Golden Eagles' offense.
We know we need to continue to work hard in practice and at workouts this upcoming week to prepare ourselves for our next two conference matches. We are looking forward to play this Friday at 7:00 p.m. against Villanova, and on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. against Georgetown.
We are thrilled to be back at the Corral, and can’t wait to put on a great performance for our fans and get two big wins for USF Athletics.
LOUISVILLE/CINCINNATI AT HOME WITH VALERIE EL HOUSSINE
This past week, we prepared for our opponents during five days of intense practice. Our main focus was based on one simple, but still complicated idea - siding out efficiently.
By Friday, we were more than ready to take on No. 17 Louisville. We were definitely ready to put the gym on fire to show all the USF volleyball alumni (who flew from all around the world and the country to be there) and all the USF fans that packed the Corral, what it’s like to be a Bull!
Even though our efforts fell short as we lost in four, the coaches were still proud of us, as we played physical to keep up with the Cardinals’ strong offense, led by their senior star outside hitter Lola Arslanbekova.
On Sunday, we had another important match against another very talented team - Cincinnati. Since USF joined the Big East Conference in 2005, the Bulls had never defeated the Bearcats. After an amazing five-set thriller match (20-25, 25-17, 25-19, 23-25, 21-19), USF beat Cincinnati for the first time in seven years.
Even though we went 1-1 again this weekend, we will keep working hard to improve so we can show all of our fans who are packing the Corral every time. This upcoming weekend, we will be traveling and are hoping to start our first conference winning streak as we play against Syracuse on Friday and Marquette on Sunday.
In a nutshell, this weekend showed the world how good USF volleyball can be. The challenge now is to bring that talent and teamwork all day, every day.
RUTGERS/SETON HALL ROAD TRIP WITH CAITLYN BREEN
Last weekend, the Bulls traveled all the way up the East Coast to Rutgers and Seton Hall. Coming out strong to start the weekend, we defeated Rutgers 3-1. The Bulls out-blocked the Scarlet Knights 14-7 and out-dug them, 81-68. With defense leading the charge, our offense followed. It was a great win for the USF Bulls.
On Sunday, we traveled on the short bus ride to Seton Hall. Although we put up a bit of a fight, we lost the match 3-1. The Bulls were dangerously close to forcing a fifth set, coming back from Seton Hall’s 21-14 lead late in the fourth game to tie the score at 22. It was a great effort that unfortunately did not result in a W. Our heads are still held high and we expect to put on a great performance this upcoming weekend against Louisville and Cincinnati for our home crowd and alumni.
USF TOURNAMENT WITH NATALIA SOARES
After two weekends away in North Carolina and Missouri, we finally had a full weekend of play here in the Corral! It was a great feeling to be back in our own gym with all the support from the fans, other USF teams and staff! We were really looking forward to coming back and showing everyone how hard we have been working and how much improvement we have made on the court. After traveling for the past two weekends, our team has gotten so much closer on and off the court, and it was quite apparent during our games.
Friday was our first come-back game against James Madison. We started off kind of slow, but slowly gained speed and confidence throughout the first set. We took them to four sets to seal the win. Set one was a loss, but after that we took them down in our home gym!
On Saturday, we played B-CU. Our defense was fantastic! We really utilized every player that night (all 14 of us). We out-blocked, out-killed, and out-dug the Wildcats. We really worked hard to play as well as we could and to keep proving ourselves. We have been improving with every practice and I think it’s obvious that we are continuing to raise the bar with every game we play.
The last day, we wanted this win so bad to seal our second tournament win! Our team as a whole worked really well, very fluid and together. We were on fire with the blocking, and it really helped our defense get the ball to the setters, which made the whole game much easier to control. This helped us reach our goal of a five-game winning streak and capture our second tournament championship! It was an amazing weekend for the Bulls, and if we keep working hard in the gym, we will be even more prepared for future games - especially on Tuesday against FGCU! GO BULLS!
ST LOUIS TOURNAMENT WITH ERIN FAIRS
This past weekend, we played another tournament, but in St. Louis, Mo., rather than Tampa or North Carolina. This was only my second out-of-state experience with the team, so I was very excited to travel again, and play new teams. In preparation for this tournament we had to focus on our flaws all week from the past tournament in North Carolina. We worked on every position separately to focus more on individual things, and then eventually put all of our skills together. Practice was tough, but we had to stress our weaknesses.
Later in the week, we arrived in St.
Louis to play Southeast Missouri State for our first match. It was a very close
match, using all five sets. We started the 5th set great but slowly let the win
fall through our fingers losing sight of all of our goals. Losing this match in
five sets really motived us to do better and look forward to a great change the
It was game day for us again, but with a different outcome! We started with Evansville, and beat them in four sets! We were very excited after this win, but had to stay focused to play St. Louis later on that day. Personally, I thought St. Louis was the toughest match we played, and we all were prepared at this point. We started and ended the game GREAT! We wanted this so badly and definitely showed it on the court, winning in three sets! I’m so proud of my team and can’t wait to play future matches! IT WAS A GREAT WEEKEND FOR THE BULLS :)
NC STATE TOURNAMENT WITH J'BERIA DAVIS
This past weekend we competed in Raleigh, N.C. We were all really excited about this weekend because not only did we finish with a big win last weekend, but also it was our first traveling experience with each other. Friday was GAMEDAY against North Carolina State.
Although the gym had no air conditioning, we were ready to fight the adversity and grab another win. A few friends and families flew to North Carolina to watch us play, which was really cool because we had a little bit of Bulls Nation in the gym with us. All of the games were very close but we came up short and lost to the Wolfpack in four sets, 23-25, 25-19, 27-29, 20-25.
Saturday came and again, it was GAMEDAY! We had to compete against Virginia Commonwealth University. Our main focus this match was to take care of our side and finish the game. Our serve-receive percentage was great this game! We ended up sweeping VCU, 25-10, 25-20, 25-18. Coach always told us that serve-receive will win you games and it was very evident in this case. We went back to the hotel and rested up a bit for our next match against Kent State.
Five o’clock rolled around and it was game time again. We controlled the first two sets against Kent State, but after the break, Kent State came out for the third game fired up and ready. We lost focus of our side and ended up losing the remaining three sets of the match. We are looking forward to working harder in the gym and playing this weekend in St. Louis!
USF INVITATIONAL WITH CIARA BROWN
As we prepared for the USF Invitational, Coach Draper cut down on a few practices and we focused a lot on scrimmaging each other. Going into our tournament this weekend, we all knew it would be great competition and an opportunity get better. With seven new players and a brand new coaching staff, not many of us knew exactly what to expect.
As an incoming freshman, I had no idea what the other teams would look like or the type of environment we would be playing in. It all hit me at once as we jogged from our brand new locker room to the beautiful Corral we play in. As we jogged, we sang the USF fight song together and as soon as we arrived at the doors, we realized the Corral was packed with Bulls fans covering every inch of the gym.
As the UCF vs. USF game inched closer, we all knew it was going to be a great match. We danced in the locker room and got everyone amped and ready to play! Each set was VERY close and Coach Draper really emphasized "finishing" in this match. We all wanted to finish with the win, so we didn't let up and played with everything we had and when the match finally ended, we had won!
Each and every week my team seems to amaze me. We all have heart and want to work hard in order to get out there and win matches. The last week of preseason brought us closer together and every day we finish a lot better than we were the day before. We are all looking forward to a great season with a great team and amazing coaches.
PRESEASON WITH KAYLA WALTON
With three new coaches, ten new teammates and eight returners, we were all ready to get back in the gym and start practicing last week. We had no clue what preseason would entail, but we were ready for a change. Our first day, we had meetings and went over all the new requirements our coach asked of us. On day two, we started practice. Three-a-days, something none of us were used to. It would be a journey, one we would all have to be in together for it to be successful.
As the practices started we were able to get a feel for our new coaching staff, and were able to start adapting to their fundamentals. As day three and four rolled around we had a little bit of soreness added to our bodies, but we were still working hard and giving maximum effort.
After ten sessions we received a session off so we could watch the Olympic Gold match and cheer on the USA. Unfortunately, Team USA fell short and received the silver medal, as Brazil took home the gold. It was a learning experience for us, because it helped us get more of a feel for the game. Straight from the Olympic match we headed into our last session of the day, and it turned out well. We were on a high from watching the USA match, and wanted to aim for smart shots that would score in a game as they did.
Lastly, the past few days of practice have been going well. We are starting to get into six-on-six, and we're able to compete more between the eighteen of us. All in all, the first week of preseason went smoothly, and as week two comes around our team will start forming its identity for the season. Preseason brings out the best in everyone, as it is a fight every day for the starting spot on the court. Our team has come a long way in this first week and the second week can only bring us up from here.