ALBUQUERQUE - The University of South Florida (0-1) dropped its opening match of the season 3-1 (29-27, 25-19, 25-19, 25-21) to the University of New Mexico (1-0), the host of the New Mexico Invite Friday night in Albuquerque. The visiting Bulls battled in a hard-fought, four-set match, but eventually fell to the Lobos, who have advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each of the previous two seasons.
Junior outside hitter J’beria Davis paced the Bulls offensively with a team high 17 kills at a .244 clip. Classmate Jessica Burghart dished out a career high 32 assists along with eight digs. Senior libero Janice Rivera featured a balanced performance of six assists and a match high 15 digs.
In what proved to be the first match for a roster filled with six newcomers, the 2011 edition of the USF volleyball squad showcased many positives despite the lack of playing experience in live matches.
“UNM is a very physical team and I was thoroughly impressed with our defense, especially serving and blocking,” head coach Claire Lessinger said. “We had four players in starting roles for the first time and we were composed and disciplined. This group has a ton of potential and talent and we got to see that tonight against a really good team.”
The Bulls raced out to a great start in the opening frame of the 2011 campaign, prevailing 29-27 in a tightly contested set to take the early advantage. USF stymied the host Lobos to a .061 hitting percentage in the opening set, while posting an attack percentage of .149.
UNM rallied behind a raucous crowd to respond with back-to-back wins in the second and third sets with identical scores of 25-19.
USF owned a slim lead down the stretch of the fourth set, but UNM again rallied to secure the victory with a 25-21 to account for the final.
The Bulls return to action Saturday against the New Mexico State Aggies at 7 p.m. (EST).