The Conference USA volleyball coaches must have have been onto something when they picked their preseason poll.
With victories against Marquette and DePaul, the Bulls maintained their tenuous grip on first place in C-USA with a perfect 11-0 mark. However, waiting in the wings tied for second at 10-1 are Cincinnati and Louisville, the Bulls’ opponents Friday and Saturday. The C-USA coaches’ preseason poll tabbed USF third, just behind No. 2 Cincinnati and preseason favorite Louisville.
“All year long, we knew it would come down to those two teams,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “We’ve just played good, consistent volleyball, taking it one match at a time. But we can’t see what Louisville is doing Friday. We have to be ready for Cincinnati. We’re not overlooking any teams.
“But yeah, it’s nice to control your own destiny in the final week.”
The Bulls certainly weren’t looking past bottom-feeders DePaul and Marquette Friday and Sunday. The two victories, which extend USF’s winning streak to six matches, allowed the Bulls’ five seniors to cap their final season with a 15-1 record at home. USF’s lone blemish at The Corral was a four-game setback to then-No. 19 Michigan State Sept. 14. Since that match, the Bulls (25-5) have rattled off 10 consecutive home victories.
“We have great loyal fans,” Mueller said. “We see a lot of the same faces at every home match, so it’s sad to see the home season gone. But we went 15-1 at The Corral, so I can’t complain. (The fans) really got their money’s worth, and we built up some confidence as we go on the road.”
Senior Ale Domingos stole the show in her final two home performances, earning C-USA Co-Player of the Week award along with Cincinnati middle blocker Bonita Wise. The setter from Recife, Brazil, who joined the Bulls a year ago from Utah Valley State Junior College, put all of her skills on display Friday against DePaul on Senior Night.
Domingos registered her sixth double-double of the season vs. the Blue Demons (5-24, 1-11 in C-USA) as the Bulls triumphed 30-23, 30-24, 30-21. Domingos posted 47 assists and 10 digs against DePaul, as well as finishing second on the team with a .425 attack percentage.
“Ale’s done a great job all year, but Friday, she did one thing a lot better, and that was distribute the ball,” Mueller said. “She’s done her job real well. She’s commanding the troops. We ask a lot her, and she likes that. She responds to it.”
Domingos returned Sunday to pile on another 38 assists vs. Marquette to propel USF to a 30-17, 30-28, 30-21 win in the Bulls’ home finale.
Mueller termed USF’s performance Sunday in Game 1 against the Golden Eagles (11-14, 2-10) the Bulls’ best yet.
“For us, it’s just about consistent volleyball,” Mueller said. “Friday night, we just executed our game plan in Game 1 — passing the ball well and getting sideouts. Our blocking and defense could have been better, but again, we served extremely well.”
In Game 1, the Bulls pummeled the Golden Eagles for a .429 attack percentage while strangling Marquette’s offense for a .172 mark. Leonie Mueller tacked on four aces after recording six vs. DePaul Friday.
Seniors Michelle Collier and Jolene Patton closed out their home careers doing what they do best — leading the squad in kills. Collier fired off 16 Friday and another 15 Sunday to further distance herself in the USF record books.
Patton, the University of Tampa transfer, ran second both nights, tallying 12 kills against the Blue Demons, and was again in double figures vs. the Golden Eagles Sunday with 10.