"I am proud of the glimpses we showed and we definitely know what we are capable of," said head coach Claire Lessinger. "I felt like we lost out on some opportunities. We need to have better endurance and consistency to beat a team like Florida. We had our opportunities and looks but the errors we had just killed us in the end. We have a lot to look forward to with the talent we saw tonight."
Playing in front of a crowd of 3,056, the Bulls (5-1) dropped the first set, 25-13, before getting the USF fans pumped up with a 25-18 win in the second set. The Bulls pulled out to the lead early in the third before the Gators rallied to win, 25-23. Florida (6-0) ended the match in the fourth set, 25-10.
Senior Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year Marcela Gurgel led the Bulls with 15 kills and added 11 digs. Sophomore Janice Rivera posted a team-high 15 digs, while senior Brittany Castelamare handed out 16 assists. Redshirt freshman Caitlyn Breen led the way for the Bulls with six blocks.
"It was amazing how big of a crowd came out and supported us tonight," said Gurgel. "When we pass well, we are able to run our plays. Its an entire team effort."
The Gators outhit the Bulls, .252-.077, while both squads posted 11 team blocks. Florida's Colleen Ward knocked down a match-high 16 kills, while Elyse Cusack had a match-high 17 digs.
USF had no answer for the Florida attack in the first set, as the Gators hit .400 while limiting the Bulls to a -.030 attack percentage. USF fell behind, 9-2, to start the match, and would later fall behind by 10 at 15-5. A mini rally by the Bulls would get the deficit down to five at 18-13, but the Gators ran off seven-straight points for the win, 25-13.
Florida got the early lead in the second, 3-1, but it was all USF for the next part of the set. The Bulls scored five-straight points to go up, 6-4, and a kill by senior Pamela Luiz pushed the scored to 10-5, forcing a Florida timeout.
Florida would get within three at 13-10, but a solo block by senior Alli Arbogast allowed the Bulls to maintain the lead. Four-straight points by the Gators, sandwiched around a USF timeout, got Florida to within two at 18-16. Breen and senior Jarka Havlickova blocked a Gator attack, and Havlickova added a kill the next play for a 22-16 lead. Luiz slammed down a kill to end the set, 25-18.
USF limited Florida to a .132 attack percentage while hitting a solid .270 in the second set.
The Bulls were rolling to begin the third set, as Havlickova added a pair of kills in between a block of a Gator attack with Breen as seven-straight USF points made it 9-3. After Gurgel's kill gave the Bulls a 10-5 lead, the Gators would put together a rally that gave them the lead for good.
A 7-0 run gave Florida a 12-10 lead, which stretched to 16-11 before USF called a timeout. Two-straight attack errors and a ball handling error by Florida allowed the Bulls to get to two at 19-17, while two more Gator attack errors tied it up at 20-all. Havlickova threw down a kill to tie it at 21-21, while she and Boaz had back-to-back kills to get within one at 24-23. The Gators, though, would grab the next point and win, 25-23.
Despite dropping the set, the Bulls outhit Florida, .176-.143.
USF fell behind early, 4-0, to start the fourth, but the Gators would continue to pour it on, jumping out to an 11-5 lead and later an 18-7 advantage before winning the final set, 25-10.
Earlier in the night, No. 3 Washington (7-0) defeated No. 9 Minnesota (6-2), 3-0.
All four teams will return to action Saturday. Either Florida or Washington will leave the weekend with an unblemished record in the young season following their matchup at 6 p.m. USF's and Minnesota will face off in the closing game of the Tampa Twice Tournament at 8 p.m.
"We are looking at a similar type of team in Minnesota in regards to their size, their energy and their athletic ability," said Lessinger. "We just need to focus on the USF side and execute our game plan."