After going 1-2 in the season’s opening weekend, South Florida volleyball is starting to come together, posting a four-match winning streak, including going undefeated while winning the second annual Best Western Invitational.
USF is the first-ever winner of the tournament, after the event was cancelled last season due to Sept. 11.
The Bulls (5-2) used their first home tournament of the season to roll past Stetson 30-17, 30-21 and 30-21 Friday.
“I just love playing here. It’s so much fun, and for us seniors, it is our last time,” Michelle Collier said. “So, every time we step on the court we are going to play our best.”
The Bulls showed plenty of teamwork, getting 11 players into the match against the Hatters.
“We definitely played as a team,” senior Alessandra Domingos said. “I think that was the best volleyball I’ve seen us play, it was really solid, and really consistent all the way around.
“I think it should be uphill from now on, it’s just the second weekend of the season, and I thought we were strong.”
Saturday, SMU (3-3) became the only team in the tourney to take the Bulls past three sets in USF’s 30-17, 30-24, 28-30 and 30-23 victory.
USF followed that by capping off the tournament with a 30-24, 30-28 and 30-28 victory against SMS (4-3).
“I think we were really hungry for this tournament, especially the way we finished up last weekend,” Domingos said. “We were not able to pull it through (at the Pepperdine Classic).”
The Bulls recovered from rough hitting the first weekend by improving their hitting percentage over the week during practices. In the three matches, USF hit .362, .266 and .301 respectively.
“I think we had some good performances all the way around,” coach Nancy Mueller said. “We hit over .300 I think for the weekend, so it was a very good weekend.”
Another facet of the game that USF has used practice sessions to improve on is its serving.
The Bulls had 24 aces on the weekend, including four from freshman Leonie Muller against the Mustangs.
“I think our serving was very good,” Mueller said. “Those were two things that we worked on in practice so I know that they are listening. (Muller) is ripping some balls; she has done a nice job.”
USF had three players selected to the all-tournament team: setter Domingos, middle blocker Bonnye Glover and tournament MVP Collier.
“When we’re playing like this it’s all worth it – coming to practice every day and doing everything,” Collier said. “We just played great team volleyball. I’m glad that everybody played well, and everybody deserved all the awards they got.”
Glover opened the tournament by hitting .727, and she connected on 27 kills for the weekend.
Domingos led the team with 139 assists, including 55 against SMU.
“I think when you have a good passing team, as we do, it makes my job a lot easier,” Domingos said. “I always have hitters that no matter where they come from they are able to put it away, and it makes my job easier.”
Collier dominated on the offensive end with 63 total kills, including 28 against SMU.
The Bulls are using the momentum from this tournament to propel themselves towards a hard weekend with games against Kansas State, Michigan State and Georgia State, starting with the Jayhawks Friday.
“(The wins) came at a good time; we have a big weekend coming up,” Mueller said. “We’re progressing, and the girls are very coachable in the things that we need to improve upon.”