By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA –The Bulls definitely dig the dramatics.
The USF volleyball team served up two big comebacks before putting St. John’s away in the fifth to post a 21-25, 27-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-7 victory before a crowd of 381 at the on-campus recreation center.
The huge Big East win gave the Bulls (8-10) a sweep of their weekend competition and helped them improve to 4-2 in the conference.
“We used our whole roster today. Talk about a team win,” head coach Claire Lessinger said.
The match ended on a kill by Kimika Rozier, but the final statement in the fifth set was sparked by three service aces Valerie El Houssine.
“When Val rotates back to that service line, you just breathe a sigh of relief because she’s going to go at it aggressively,” Lessinger said. “I told these guys whether we win or lose, we go down aggressive, we don’t go down passive and that kid has so much confidence on the service line.”
The Bulls got aggressive to even the match up twice with solid comebacks in the second and fourth sets.
USF trailed, 22-16, in the second and trailed, 24-21, before a St. John’s service error opened the door for the Bulls to take charge. J’beria Davis’ block cut the deficit to two, Andrea Rodriguez Gomez came through with a kill, and Rodriguez Gomez and Kayla Walton combined on a block to tie it all up.
Walton ended up giving the Bulls a 26-25 advantage with a kill and Rodriguez Gomez and Walton teamed back up for a block that gave USF the second set.
“It wasn’t really until that fourth set that I felt like we hit a stride,” Lessinger said. “I was so impressed with our serving and blocking, and then great performances out of Val and Andrea.”
El Houssine was back at it in the fifth set.
Two of her three service aces busted the match’s finale open and gave the Bulls a 7-5 lead. USF never trailed from there while holding St. John’s (9-13, 0-5) to a .100 hitting percentage in the fifth set.
Shelbie Dailey set the stage for the victory with 48 assists, while Walton finished strong with 11 kills. Senior libero Janice Rivera increased her superb career digs total with 15 in USF’s final home match until Friday, Oct. 28 against Louisville.
The Bulls will step out of conference play for match in Fort Myers on Wednesday against Florida Gulf Coast University at 6:30 p.m. After that, USF plays at DePaul on Friday and Notre Dame next Sunday.