Bulls Sweep Winthrop, 3-0, In Home Opener
A week after claiming the Hurricane Invitational, USF (4-0) thoroughly outplayed the Eagles (0-4) in the teams' first-ever meeting, as the Bulls attacked at a .382 clip while limiting Winthrop to a .059 attack percentage.
"The whole match was awesome and a credit to the crowd," said head coach Claire Lessinger. "Wow, it was unbelievable to look at, seeing a standing-room only crowd. Just like how we opened last season, we were hoping to get people back and put on a pretty decent show, and we did."
Senior Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year Marcela Gurgel led all players with 10 kills, while a trio of Bulls - Allie Boaz, Pamela Luiz and Alli Arbogast - each had seven. Junior setter Mariana Thon handed out 21 assists, and sophomore libero Janice Rivera had a match-high 10 digs. Arbogast also added six blocks and two service aces on the night.
Neither team gained an advantage early on in the first set, but with the score tied, 3-3, the Bulls began to take off. Gurgel added two kills as USF went on a 6-1 run, forcing Winthrop to call a timeout down, 9-4.
A kill by Winthrop's Kelsey Hall temporarily stopped the bleeding, but the Bulls would continue to keep the Eagles at bay. A service ace by Arbogast made it 15-8, which led to another Eagle timeout. Senior Brittany Castelamare got the lead up to eight at 17-9 with a service ace, and a short time later senior Pamela Luiz laid down a kill to get the lead to double digits, 22-12.
Arbogast ended the set a few plays later with a kill and the 25-14 first-set win. The Bulls attacked at a .500 clip in the set with 12 kills and only one attack error.
After dropping the first point of the second set, the Bulls never trailed after that, turning that early deficit into a 7-2 lead, highlighted by back-to-back blocks from Arbogast. After Winthrop called a timeout, USF stretched the lead to 9-2 on a kill by Boaz. Winthrop then scored three-straight points, but the Bulls would counter with a 3-0 run of their own to make it 12-5, the last point on a block from senior Jarka Havlickova and redshirt freshman Caitlyn Breen.
The teams would trade points over the next several serves, but a kill by Gurgel that made it 16-9 would force Winthrop head coach Sally Polhamus to call a timeout. USF extended the lead to 10 at 19-9, but the Eagles would go on a 4-0 run to cut the lead to six at 19-13. After Lessinger called a timeout to slow Winthrop's momentum, the Bulls would put the match out of reach.
Arbogast and Gurgel teamed up to block an attack by Winthrop's Baylee Strachan for a 21-13 lead, and after Gurgel's kill made the score 22-14. Breen had a hand in three straight blocks to end the set at 25-14. The Bulls continued to hit well, attacking at a .400 clip in the set while limiting the Eagles to a -.061 hitting percentage.
"I'm just proud of how we dominated," said Lessinger. "We dominated on the defensive side of the ball in terms of our blocking, kind of what our staple is and what we are known for. When it came to crunch time, our blocking showed up and gave us quick points."
Unlike the first two sets, USF could not build an extended lead in the third, as a 7-5 Bull lead turned into an 11-9 deficit after an Eagle service ace. The Bulls then quickly turned the set around after calling a timeout, as the Bulls went on a 6-0 run to grab the lead back and pushed the lead to four at 15-11.
The Eagles would not back down, though, scoring five of the next six points to tie the score at 16-all. After trading points to make it 19-19, the Bulls would use a kill by Luiz and a service ace by Thon to go up, 21-19. After Winthrop called a timeout, the Bulls would run off three-straight points to get to match serve, 24-19. Two straight points by the Eagles prolonged the set, but Arbogast ended the match with a kill for the 25-21 third-set win.
"Our setters did really well distributing the ball," said Arbogast. "We made their blockers workers and I have to give the credit to our setters, giving us the one-on-one advantages."
The Best Western Invitational will continue Saturday at 1 p.m. when Winthrop and FAU collide, while USF will matchup against the Owls later in the day at 7 p.m.
Click HERE for the Best Western Invitational tournament central.
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