It took 30 matches, but the USF volleyball team finally put it all together Saturday, executing their game plan and playing well on both ends of the ball to earn a 3-1 victory against No. 20 Cincinnati. The victory followed a 3-0 loss to No. 19 Louisville on Friday.
“We are ,what, 28 games into the season, and it finally came,” senior Bonnye Glover said. “We knew it was going to click, so (it happened) against No. 20 in the country, that’s a pretty darn good time.”
In both teams’ final match of the regular season, the Bulls earned their first victory against a ranked team this season, handing the Bearcats their only loss in Conference USA play.
“They deserved that win,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “They’ve been working so hard to win and it felt very good to let them win.”
By their own admission, the Bulls have been somewhat unpredictable this season, struggling at different times with passing, first ball kills, and their defense. None of these problems halted the Bulls against the Bearcats, however, as USF notched 64 kills to Cincinnati’s 54.
USF’s defense also held the Bearcats to a 15.1 hitting percentage, tallying 19 blocks.
The Bulls’ persistence on the net allowed them to have a good overall defensive performance, including 66 digs.
“Our blockers did a good job,” Mueller said. “They didn’t necessarily block every ball, but they set up a good block, so we could play defense.”
The Bulls’ 66 digs reflected the all-out effort as USF dived for balls and somehow connected on almost every play where the ball looked like it was headed for the court.
“The whole atmosphere on the court was unbelievable,” senior Melayne Wootan said. “Everyone was working hard, everyone was going after everything and everyone was talking. It was great.”
The Bulls came out strong defeating the Bearcats 30-23 in the first game, then again 30-21 in the second.
The momentum started to slip out of the Bulls’ hands in a 30-19 loss in the third game, but was gained back in the match-clinching 30-21 in Game 4.
“In games Games 1, 2 and 4 we executed our game plan,” Mueller said. “We had a game plan, and we followed it. We were very disciplined, and we worked real hard to execute our game plan.
“When we have a game plan, and we follow it, we’re a tough team to beat.”
While the Bulls executed their game plan against the Bearcats, they split the weekend’s two-match series against C-USA’s top two teams. Friday, the Bulls dropped a 30-26, 30-20, 30-27 match to Louisville.
After its biggest win of the season, USF will look to continue its winning ways when the Bulls open the C-USA tournament on Friday.
USF enters the tournament seeded No. 9, matched up against No. 8 seeded Houston.
“I think we made a statement (Saturday),” Mueller said. “If we can continue to play that well (we’ll be a tough team to beat, but) as I’ve been saying all year consistency has been our biggest problem, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. “Nothing is going to be handed to us.”