Using wins and losses as a barometer of success, the USF volleyball team would seem to have excelled during the 2001 season. The team added the program’s 18th 20-win season by finishing the year 21-9.
However, it’s precisely how the year ended that will stick with the memories of this year’s squad.
A heartbreaking Conference USA Tournament quarterfinal upset by No. 6 Marquette was followed by the suspensions of six players. The suspensions in turn caused the Bulls to forfeit their final regular season match against UCF.
It was an embarrassing situation that really ruined an otherwise successful season.
In the end, I think that final week may have been enough to ruin USF’s chances for a postseason berth. The 64-team field was announced Nov. 26, and while in-state rivals UCF, FIU, FAMU and Florida were among the names called, USF was left wondering what happened when they were not one of the 33 at-large selections.
Lacking a quality victory against a ranked opponent, it was plain to see that the two season-ending defeats overshadowed the wins.
The Bulls did manage to sustain two players quitting and a season-long injury to Maryann Mooney to rattle off an impressive nine-match winning streak. Spanning from UCF Oct. 23 to Tulane Nov. 11, USF knocked off nine consecutive opponents in three-game sweeps.
Riding that momentum, USF figured to be a factor in the C-USA Tournament, but then the bottom fell out for this year’s team.
Measuring up to the 2000 team proved to be too much for the Bulls. Expectations were high that USF would build upon that squad’s 28-6 record with an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Junior college transfer Ale Domingos stepped into Melanie Mueller’s position at setter and earned C-USA honors as first-team All-Conference and Setter of the Year. Freshmen Rachel Jobes and Shameka Mitchell, plus former reserve Bonnye Glover combined to offset the departures of middle blockers Rachelle Paul and Crissy Bush. However, in the end, the Bulls’ goal of reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in the program’s 29-year history came up short.
This year’s squad continued USF’s excellence in volleyball, but when the hope is to make a name on the national landscape and go beyond all the boundaries set by previous teams, spending December at home preparing for next year is deflating.
For 2002, the volleyball team must replace its lone senior Kelly Mathiasmeier. In her four years, Mathiasmeier started at both setter and right side hitter when the Bulls needed her.
Mathiasmeier was versatile and durable, appearing in every match in the last two years. The rest of the team returns intact though, which should bode well for the program’s chances for a seventh NCAA appearance.
Domingos will continue to funnel the offense through All C-USA outside hitter Michelle Collier and Jolene Patton on the other side. Lindsay Guidish and Faith Tarver return at defensive specialist with the trio of Jobes, Glover and Mitchell in the middle. With three being company and Mitchell showing some skills in the back row, a move may be imminent for her.
Unfortunately, that means that once again, the pressure will be to take this program to a place it’s never been before: the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
- Contact Anthony Gagliano at firstname.lastname@example.org