The Bulls needed four games to get past UAB Friday but they only needed one play to get past themselves.
USF defeated the Blazers 30-22, 30-14, 25-30, 30-14 to improve to 23-5 overall and 9-0 in Conference USA. UAB fell to 10-16 overall and 3-6 in conference play.
With the score 14-12 in favor of the Bulls and the fourth set going back and forth between both teams, UAB hit a volley toward the net and USF sophomore Shameka Mitchell jumped up for the block. One referee ruled that she blocked the ball and another one that she never touched it.
After the play was over, the two referees were split as to which team should receive the point.
The play should have resulted in a USF point because had Mitchell not touched the ball, it would have been too many hits. Had she touched it, it would have been an illegal hit, because the Blazers’ setter had jumped on the attack from the back line.
The play resulted in a replay bringing both coaches off the bench to consult with the referees.
After the delay over what to call on the play, USF’s Michelle Collier scored a kill, giving the Bulls the spark they needed for a run to put the Blazers away for good.
“They were trying to talk crap on the other side of the net,” Mitchell said. “So we basically had to shut them up and let them know who they were out there with.”
With the score 23-12, UAB called a timeout in hopes to extinguish the Bull’s fire.
Mitchell came out of the timeout and hit one of the hardest kills of her career, sealing the Blazers’ fate.
“Everyone was kind of moseying around,” Mitchell said. “Everybody was like, ‘we need to pick up the pace a little bit.’ I saw the over pass and saw the opportunity to do it and just kind of went away with it.”
USF finished the final game with an 18-2 run.
The will of the Bulls was evident throughout the match.
USF started the first game without middle blocker Mitchell, who had been sick. She spent Thursday night in the hospital receiving intravenous fluids.
When the score was 25-22 in game one in favor of the Bulls, Mitchell entered the game.
“I was going to play,” Mitchell said. “I rarely miss a game. (coach Mueller) just wanted to see how it was going to go, see if I was going to be able to play or not.”
The Bulls rallied around her, finishing with a 5-0 run.
Mitchell’s wasn’t the only injury the Bulls were faced with. In the second game, sophomore Rachel Jobes came out of the match after tweaking her knee.
That was the only trouble the Bulls ran into in that game, finishing with 18 digs and holding UAB to a zero hitting percentage.
The injury bug continued to bite USF in the third game.
Freshman Leonie Mueller injured her finger when she collided with a UAB player. This injury is the worse of the two, as Mueller possibly suffered a broken finger.
“That’s huge for us,” Nancy Mueller said. “I don’t know what’s going on with Leonie.”
In the third game, starting setter Ale Domingos was rested, and junior Melayne Wootan had 16 assists until being replaced by Domingos with the Blazers up 28-25.
“I just think that it was one minor change and I thought we could play through it,” Mueller said. “They had a lot fewer mistakes.”
In the only loss of the match, the Bulls were outhit by the Blazers .333 to .200. Karen Boyd hit .875 and Martina Shields hit .857 for UAB. Other than in the third set, neither player hit higher than .200, except for a 3-of-3 outing by Boyd in the first game.
The Bulls have a week off to rest their injuries before hosting DePaul Friday.
“We’re going to get healthy this weekend and go from there,” Mueller said. “Maybe it was the day-after-Halloween thing.”