The USF volleyball team will take on an unfamiliar role against familiar foes this weekend when it hosts Louisville and Cincinnati on Friday and Saturday at the Corral.
Since their inaugural season in Conference USA in 1995, the Bulls (11-18) hadn’t placed worse than No. 2 until this year, capturing first place five times and earning five NCAA berths. This season, the Bulls are eighth in C-USA with a 5-6 conference record.
The Cardinals and Bearcats have been the Bulls stiffest competition for C-USA’s top spot.
This season the Bulls face C-USA’s Nos. 1 and 2, Cincinnati and Louisville, which have clinched their place in the conference standings.
“We’re usually (on) the top the past three years,” said USF coach Nancy Mueller. “Everybody has been gunning for South Florida because of how successful our program has been. It’s kind of nice being in the underdog role.
“This is a big opportunity. We’re in the underdog role. We’re trying to come out and be consistent and execute our game plan.”
The Bulls are motivated by their overlooked position.
“It’s exciting,” senior Bonnye Glover said. “It definitely is for me personally, because I love being (the) underdog. I like that a lot because teams aren’t going to respect us as much as they would in the past because our record doesn’t reflect how good we really are this year.”
The Bulls also have additional motivation against the Cardinals because of the teams’ past history.
Last season the Bulls went undefeated in C-USA until the last match, when the Cardinals defeated the Bulls to share the regular season crown.
The Bulls got their revenge in the conference tournament, defeating the Cardinals in the championship match.
“Last year, Louisville upset us to tie us for the conference champion in the regular season,” Mueller said. “I think it’s important that our team knows that, but they also need to know that we came out and beat them. So Louisville, I think is out for a little bit of revenge.”
Extra motivation will come against Cincinnati, as four Bulls take the Corral floor for the final time.
Seniors Jenny Scholle, Glover, Melayne Wootan and Fran Pozzi play their last home match Saturday, capping their college careers.
“It hasn’t hit me yet, but there are going to be some emotions that are going to run high Saturday night because I’ve spent four years of my life in that gym,” Glover said. “This program means a lot to me, so yeah, it’s going to be tough.”
“It’s going to be crazy,” Wootan said. “I can’t believe four years have already passed, and it’s over, but it’s going to be a lot of excitement and fun.”