One thing is certain about the 2003 Conference USA Tournament. The Bulls have revenge as their motivation.
As the USF volleyball team starts its trek toward consecutive tournament crowns tonight at 8, it does so on an uphill climb.
The Bulls, fresh off a momentum-building victory against then-No. 20 Cincinnati, are seeded No. 9, facing the No. 8 Cougars.
The victor will then square off against the top-seeded Bearcats on Saturday.USF seeks revenge in the opening match, after being defeated by Houston 30-32, 30-27, 36-34, 23-30, 14-16 in the Corral on Oct. 25.
“I’m excited to play Houston, and I think the girls are excited to play Houston,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “Just for the shear fact that it is a revenge match for us. It’s a good solid match. It’s going to be back-and-forth.”
The Bulls suffered the loss despite the fact they had one of the best blocking games in school history, tallying a school-record 48 block assists, along with 26 team blocks.
“I don’t know if we’ll put up similar numbers to that on Friday night, but I think our blocking and our defense are going to be a big factor,” Mueller said. “Mostly in the regard that we need to take out their support with our block. We don’t necessarily need to block every ball.”
After seeing the Cougars earlier in the season, the Bulls are more familiar with their personnel and how they attack.
“We lost to Houston in the regular season, and they pretty much beat us with two very solid players,” Mueller said.
Those two players were middle blocker Loure Dews and outside hitter Cinthia Piva. Dews recorded 10 block assists, two solo blocks and 15 kills, while Piva hurt USF with 24 kills and 12 digs.
Houston’s other outside threat comes from freshman hitter Kelly McAnelly, who in the last meeting with the Bulls recorded 27 kills and 10 digs.
“Their freshman outside hitter had a great match against us,” Mueller said. “So, I think we’re going to have to be ready to play.”
The Bulls have to fight through the hangover of winning the big matchup against the Bearcats to prove they will be ready to play.
“We didn’t have a great week of practice,” Mueller said. “I think they are a little bit distracted coming off the big win. So, I think we need to be very focused.
Mitchell All-C-USA first team
Junior Shameka Mitchell was named to the All-Conference USA first team Thursday, the only Bulls player to be named to an all-conference team this season.
Mitchell leads the team in kills per game (4.72), points per game (5.48) and hitting percentage (.284), and is second on the team in blocks per game (1.03).
Mitchell also ranks second in C-USA in kills per game and points per game, trailing only Julie DuPont of Cincinnati, the C-USA Player of the Year, in both categories.