After the 2002 season, the USF volleyball team graduated two of its three outside hitters and 1,154 kills (61.7 percent of all its kills) from its C-USA championship season.
At the conclusion of the season, USF coach Nancy Mueller started searching for replacements for Jolene Patton and third-team All-American Michelle Collier.
Monday, Mueller announced the signing of the Bulls’ two new outside hitters, marking Johari Williams, a 5-foot, 9-inch outside hitter from Hamilton, Ontario, and Daniela Bertran, a 5-foot, 10-inch outside hitter from San Juan, Puerto Rico, as replacements for Collier and Patton.
“With the departure of four major contributors from our program, it was crucial we sign prospects with experience,” Mueller said.
“These two signees have a lot of international experience that will help enhance the program.”
They will help to ease the graduation losses of Collier, Patton, libero Maryann Mooney, setter Ale Domingos and Faith Tarver, who didn’t play in 2002.
The 2003 class of Bulls’ volleyball players might have been one of its most successful, receiving many All-Conference USA selections. Domingos was awarded C-USA Setter of the Year twice, and Collier won two C-USA MVPs and a third team All-American selection. But there is no pressure on the young Bulls yet.
“(They might be as good as Collier and Patton) in the future, but they just need to get training and get used to our system,” Mueller said. “They have the potential to be good. They both have a lot of potential to do some great things here.
“As of right now, we are going to get a good look to see what is going to happen in the first couple of weeks in August. It’s a whole new face of a team. We are looking to change some people around if we need.”
With sophomore Jenny Scholle the only returning outside hitter, at least one, if not both freshmen will be forced into the starting lineup immediately.
“(They are going to start right away) because we lost two very good outside hitters,” Mueller said. “We are going to look for them to come in and step up right away.”
Williams should have an easier time with her transition into Division I play because of the high level of play she faced with the Hamilton Seekers, one of Canada’s premier club teams.
“Johari’s outstanding jumping ability and very quick arm swing should allow her to make a quick transition to the university game,” Williams’ club coach, Frank Lilliman, said. “I’m sure she’ll continue to grow under the guidance of Nancy and her fine USF coaching staff.”
Along with Williams’ athleticism and versatility, the Bulls also signed another player who can put the ball down with control in Bertran.
“(Bertran) comes in with a lot of experience,” Mueller said. “She is a good, solid player, and she is going to bring ball control and also has a very heavy ball.”
Bertran was MVP of her high school team four years in a row and was captain of the Puerto Rican Junior National Team.
“Daniela is one of the best high school players in Puerto Rico,” said James Vankirk, who runs the National Scouting Report of Puerto Rico. “With the departure of Michelle Collier, Daniela’s strength and explosiveness as an outside hitter will be an immediate impact for the Bulls this upcoming season.
“I will not be surprised to see her as a finalist for Freshman of the Year in Conference USA.”
Bertran and Williams join Ashley Reavis, a defensive specialist who signed during the fall, as the three new faces on the Bulls this season.
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