The USF volleyball team now knows who its quarterfinal opponent will be as the Bulls seek their third Conference USA Tournament championship. With a 26-30, 30-24, 30-26, 30-26 victory against 11th seeded Southern Mississippi Thursday, No. 6 Marquette (18-11, 9-7) advances to meet No. 3 USF (21-7, 13-3) today.
“No, we don’t care who we’re playing,” senior Kelly Mathiasmeier said.
“It doesn’t matter come conference time who’s beaten who or who’s lost to who. (The tournament) is when it matters, that’s when we need to win regardless of what we’ve done in the past. If we play Marquette, we played them in the beginning of the season, so they’re a totally different team now, and we’re a totally different team now.”
That’s certainly true for the Bulls as they have won nine straight matches entering Friday’s encounter. In those nine matches, USF hasn’t even lost one game. That’s a big contrast for a team that lost three of its next four after defeating Marquette 30-22, 27-30, 30-26, 30-24 Sept. 28.
“That nine straight is because of what we’ve been able to create with all of our players and not just with one person playing well or us depending upon one player,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “I guess the point I’m trying to get across is people should be more threatened by us because we’re a good team, not just because we have Michelle Collier. We’re a much more balanced offense than we’ve ever been. I think that’s the reason why we’ve been winning and been so successful.”
Although USF has a pair of C-USA Tournament titles to its credit, they were the first two C-USA Tournaments in 1995 and ’96 under former coach Perri Hankins. That means no one on the current squad, player or coach, has won a postseason title. The Bulls do have a ton of postseason experience, though.
Mathiasmeier and Collier were both on the 1998 team that lost to Louisville in the C-USA finals. Last year’s team won the regular season crown, but again came up short in the finals against the Cardinals.
As successful as the Bulls were during the regular season, USF may have had more victories Wednesday at the conference awards banquet. Collier and Ale Domingos earned All C-USA honors, with Domingos garnering Setter of the Year. Bulls’ freshmen middle blockers Shameka Mitchell and Rachel Jobes both earned a spot on the six women All-Freshmen Team. The lone defeat was Houston’s Jennifer Wittenburg winning Player of the Year honors, denying Collier’s bid for back-to-back awards. Still, the focus now for USF is to win three matches in three days to claim the C-USA title.
“The UCF game, that was the first game that we won of all those games and I said we needed a (one) good game and that was it,” Collier said. “Everybody’s playing together, everybody’s contributing. All 10 players, the coaches, everybody is in one single direction and that’s important. We peaked at the right time and now it’s three games to our goal.”
- Anthony Gagliano covers volleyball and can be reached at email@example.com