TAMPA – Despite a near double-double performance from sophomore outside hitter Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.), the University of Connecticut women’s volleyball team fell, 3-1 (21-25, 19-25, 25-18, 16-25), to conference rival USF on Friday night in Tampa, Fla. With the setback, the Huskies drop to 9-5 (2-1, The American), while the Bulls improve to 8-7 (2-1 The American).
Strawberry notched nine kills and eight digs to go along with a team-best three service aces, while senior tri-captain Devon Maugle (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) connected for 10 kills and eight digs in the loss. Junior Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.) finished the night with 10 kills and a team-high four block assists and setters Rebecca Rivera and Sage Esposito recorded 18 and 16 digs, respectively.
UConn grabbed an early 7-to-4 edge in the first set, backed by a pair of kills from Thomas. Defending American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Erin Fairs and the Bulls drew even at nine apiece after two Husky ball handling errors. Consecutive kills by Bree Scarbrouh gave USF its first lead at 10-8 and a third straight slam from Scarbrough drew the first Husky whistle of the match. UConn struggled out of the break, surrendering four straight points as the Bulls charged ahead, 18-12, and forced the final UConn timeout of the set. The Huskies responded with a 3-to-0 run, headlined by a Datti service ace. Two straight USF attack errors pushed the Huskies within one and caused a Bulls breather but the home team could not be denied as USF finished off the set on a 4-to-0 run.
The Bulls started off hot in the second set, moving ahead 5-0. Two Cmajdalka service aces drew UConn within three at 7-4 but USF scored six of the next ten points to move ahead 13-8. With Datti serving, the Huskies scored five consecutive points and pulled even but the home team reeled off a 6-to-2 run, helped by a Dakota Hampton kill to regain the lead for good. A Strawberry slam and a USF attack error pulled UConn within three but the Bulls could not be slowed, as Fairs notched a kill and helped her team grab the second set, 25-19.
The Huskies came out firing in the third set, staking themselves to a 14-5 lead, headlined by two kills apiece from Maugle and Thomas. The Huskies extended their lead to double-digits and ultimately took the second set, 25-18, after a Hampton service error. UConn could not build on its third-set victory as the Bulls took a commanding 12-5 lead in the fourth set and never looked back, winning the frame, 25-16.
The Huskies fall to 7-5 all-time against their conference foes and snap a two-match winning streak.
The Huskies will return to action on Sunday, Oct. 3 when they head to Orlando, Fla. to battle UCF at 2 p.m.