Big East losses have become an all too familiar occurrence for Georgetown volleyball.
The Hoyas came up on the wrong end of another tough conference match once again on Saturday afternoon as they fell to the South Florida Bulls.
Saturday’s 3-2 (21-30, 30-21, 30-27, 28-30, 15-11) loss runs Georgetown’s conference losing streak to 12 matches, dating back to last season. The last Big East contest the Hoyas won was on Oct. 22, 2005, at DePaul.
Game one against the Bulls (9-10, 4-2 Big East) started close and neither team could gain a sizeable advantage. Holding a slim 22-20 lead, the Hoyas (6-13, 0-6 Big East) went on a six-point run behind the serving of sophomore outside hitter Jessica Buffum.
With the score 29-21 in Georgetown’s favor, Head Coach Arlisa Hagan looked to freshman middle blocker Kiersten McKoy. On her first play of the game, McKoy delivered the game winning kill to give the Hoyas a 30-21 victory.
“Obviously you feel good about yourself when you come in and get the first kill,” McKoy said. “I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive for my team. Every swing I took I went for the kill.”
USF rebounded in game two, gaining a quick lead and never looking back en route to a 30-21 win. Of the Bulls’ 30 points, 20 came on kills, as the Hoyas had trouble digging the powerful spikes.
At halftime, Hagan switched junior outside hitter Katie Nulty to libero because freshman outside hitter Jessica Hardy felt under the weather entering into the match.
“We made that change so we could get a little bit more defense,” Hagan said. “Nulty stepped into a role she’s very comfortable with and did a great job for us.”
Georgetown held leads of 17-13 and 24-23 in game three, but USF turned the tables on the Hoyas, rattling off a six-point run of their own to take control of the game.
On the strength of junior middle blocker Kristina Fabris’ serving, USF gained a 29-24 advantage. Hagan called a timeout and her troops rallied to cut the deficit to 29-27, but the Bulls still won 30-27.
With momentum heavily in their favor, the Bulls controlled the first half of game four. They held an 18-13 lead and looked poised to put the Hoyas away.
Then senior middle blocker Annie Connor put down four kills in the next five volleys to pull Georgetown to within two points at 19-17.
With the score tied at 25, the two teams battled each other in a seemingly endless volley. The Hoyas dove all over the court to preserve the rally, and the Bulls attack was relentless. Buffum hit the deck three times and Nulty and sophomore setter Caitlin Boland each dove twice to keep the ball alive.
“It was really long and tiring,” Connor said. “You’re trying extra hard at the end not to be the person to end it so it almost gets more tiring.”
The volley finally ended with Georgetown freshman outside hitter Kortney Robinson spiking the ball out of bounds, but the play seemed to swing momentum in the Hoyas’ favor.
“That’s what makes volleyball exciting. That was gritty on their side, gritty on our side, and everybody was just working hard,” Hagan said.
Connor recorded yet another kill on the next volley and Georgetown won 30-28 to tie the match at two games each. The fans supporting each team in McDonough Gymnasium loudly applauded the players’ efforts both after the lengthy volley and the final point of the game. The play even surprised the players.
“That was an amazing rally and great volleyball. I’ve never seen a rally that long,” McKoy said.
USF gained a 3-0 lead in game five, and Georgetown tied the score at 8-8 but did not have enough left in them. The Bulls went on a four-point run and won 15-11.
“We just got off to a slightly slow start in game five, and it’s so hard when you’re only playing to 15 and you get down like we did,” Hagan said.
USF held slight advantages in hitting percentage, digs and kills, but Georgetown had small edges in errors and blocks.
Connor led the Hoyas in kills for the second straight game with 20, and McKoy recorded a game high .409 hitting percentage coming off the bench. Defensively, Boland, Buffum and Nulty combined for 42 of the Hoyas’ 66 digs.
The Bulls, who had all seven starters play the entire match, got 21 kills from Fabris and 14 kills and a .391 hitting percentage from senior middle blocker Johari Williams.
Georgetown continues the home stand and looks for that elusive Big East victory as they play host to Rutgers (5-12, 2-5 Big East) this Friday at 8 p.m. in McDonough.