The USF volleyball team?s troubles with top-25 competition continued this past weekend at the Loyola-Chicago Invitational, but it didn?t stop the team from finishing 2-1 and claiming second place. The Bulls sandwiched victories against Evansville and host Loyola in between their 30-27, 30-28, 30-20 loss to No. 17 Ohio State.
Last weekend, both No. 6 Arizona and No. 9 Florida swept the Bulls 3-0. However, USF only lost two games by more than seven points. Saturday, Ohio State defeated the Bulls three games to none, but the first two games were decided by a combined five points.
?Experience and maturity are where games are won and lost by a few points,? USF coach Nancy Mueller said. ?Playing in a conference like the Big 10 really prepares them for close games. We just don?t have enough confidence yet to win a big match. Patience and persistence are what make ranked teams.?
The Buckeyes finished the tournament 3-0 to take the crown, but it came down to the final match between Loyola and USF for second place. Both teams had lost to Ohio State and beaten Evansville. USF took out the Ramblers in three games, but Loyola extended the first and third sets past the 30-point mark. However, the Bulls rallied behind the stellar play of outside hitter Michelle Collier. USF erased a 12-4 deficit behind Collier?s astounding .449-hitting percentage. In three games, the senior pounded the Loyola defense with 28 kills on 49 attempts and contributed 11 digs to complete her double-double. The fourth-year junior also had a double-double against Ohio State to land her on the All-Tournament team alongside teammate Alessandra Domingos.
?I came determined to kill more balls this weekend,? Collier said. ?Fortunately, it worked out.?
The Bulls enjoyed two more fine outings from Rachel Jobes this weekend. The freshman middle blocker chipped in eight kills to support Collier against Loyola and was 7-11 for a .545 hitting percentage vs. Evansville. Against Ohio State, Jobes was in on eight blocks.
?Rachel Jobes did a great job ? very consistent,? Mueller said. ?Great match (against Evansville) by Rachel in the middle.?
The other freshman on USF?s roster, Shameka Mitchell, also made her presence felt against the Buckeyes. Although 26 attack errors doomed the Bulls, the team would have hit even worse than .127 without Mitchell?s eight kills on 13 attempts.
?We had a great team effort this weekend,? Mueller said. ?Everybody was able to come off the bench and contribute.?
Evansville was unable to compete with the Bulls like Loyola and Ohio State as evidenced by the Bulls? margins of victory. The Bulls won the first game by 17 and the third by 14. The Bulls? attack was highlighted by a .407 hitting percentage in the third game and the team racked up 14 blocks in the match. Kelly Mathiasmeier went 7-10 on the attack and Domingos started a string of three straight matches of 30 assists or more against the Purple Aces.
?By far, (Evansville was) one of the best blocking games we?ve had,? Mueller said. ?We just executed our game plan.
?Almost every game in this tournament we were down, but able to come back ? we just stuck with it.?
Anthony Gagliano covers volleyball and can be reached at email@example.com