By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – The USF volleyball team will start its Big East run with tons of momentum.
The Bulls won their sixth consecutive match by handling FGCU in four sets, 25-14, 25-21, 17-25, 25-16, on Tuesday night at the Corral. USF (8-5) begins Big East play 2 p.m. Saturday at Rutgers and faces Seton Hall 2 p.m. Sunday in South Orange, N.J.
“I think it gives the girls confidence now that we have six wins in a row,” head coach Courtney Draper said. “We’re excited for them to get into Big East play and see where it goes from here.”
Freshman Erin Fairs posted the fourth double-double of her young career with 11 kills and 11 digs. Fellow freshman Ciara Brown helped out with 10 kills in USF’s fifth straight home victory.
“With Big East coming, we’re more focused on our goals,” Fairs said. “The team really put me in the right position and gave me one-on-ones to get the kills I did get.”
USF cruised through its 10th straight set win to open Tuesday’s match. Andrea Rodriguez Gomez, Caitlyn Breen and Fairs each recorded three kills to help the Bulls post a .314 hitting percentage. The USF defense held FGCU to a .083 hitting percentage to start the fourth match in the series’ history.
The Bulls never trailed in the first set, but had some catching up to do in the second. USF trailed, 18-12, before going on a 7-0 run to seize the lead. One of Rodriguez Gomez’s three kills in the set tied things up and one of Fairs’ three kills sealed the deal heading into the break.
“We fell asleep a little bit, but still were able to recover from that deficit thanks mostly to their errors,” Draper said.
FGCU (4-7) didn’t go down without a fight and wound up snapping USF’s set win streak at 11 with a 25-17 decision after the break. The Bulls’ streak started during a 3-1 win over James Madison on Sept. 14 and the team’s confidence skyrocketed during three-set wins over Bethune-Cookman and FIU that secured a USF Tournament victory last weekend.
The Bulls rebounded in a big way in the fourth set by holding FGCU to a .075 hitting percentage. Brown posted five kills to help USF lead from start to finish.
Wyle Devlin recorded her fifth double-double with 27 assists and 10 digs. Libero Claudia Cabrera continued to be a force in the middle with 18 digs.
"Momentum going into the Big East is awesome," Draper said. "I think there is going to be some really tough competition this weekend, but we're looking forward to it."