A 10-day layoff didn?t limit the effectiveness of the USF volleyball team as it defeated Florida State in four games Tuesday. The Seminoles proved to be a stern challenge for the Bulls as the near 2 1/2-hour contest ended with USF on top 31-29, 28-30, 30-24, 30-24.
?They beat us in just about every category,? USF coach Nancy Mueller said. ?But, we still managed to get up five or six points every game. Our serving really kept us in the match.? Faith Tarver had three of the Bulls? six aces and Jolene Patton filled the stat sheet with nine kills, 12 digs and a pair of aces.
The Bulls (5-3) went to four games for the first time this season. In their prior seven matches, the Bulls had either swept the opposition 3-0 or been shut out three games to none.
?It was good to see our team finish off an opponent for the first time this season,? Mueller said. ?We had some close games earlier this year, but this was the first time we were pushed to four games.?
The victory against FSU continued the Bulls? unbeaten streak versus unranked opponents in the 2001 season. USF is a perfect 5-0 when facing teams not in the Top 25. Arizona, Florida and Ohio State, all Top 25 foes, have handed the Bulls their three losses this season.
The loss drops FSU to 1-5 this year. The Seminoles lost only 11 matches all last year, including just three outside of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
?They?re still going to be a good team and I expect them to once again be at the top of their conference,? Mueller said. ?Norisha Campbell?s a really athletic middle and she can kill the ball off one foot.?
Campbell supplied the sting in the Noles? attack with 21 kills. The 6-foot-4-inch middle blocker had to deal with the Bulls? rotation in the middle, where four different players saw action. Mueller switched Bonnye Glover, Kristen Richardson, Rachel Jobes and Shameka Mitchell in and out freely to give the Seminoles multiple different fronts.
?Running in four different middles might have hurt our chemistry and continuity,? Mueller said. ?However, I think we made up for it with the confidence boost we got when we brought in multiple players who can step in and do the job.?
The Bulls relied heavily on their upperclassmen to carry the offense. Senior Kelly Mathiasmeier contributed 13 kills on 24 attempts for a .375 hitting percentage. From her position at right side hitter, she also chipped in three blocks. Fourth-year junior Michelle Collier sheltered a huge burden of the offense by attempting 82 attacks. That mark is just 10 shy of her school record for a single match, which she set during a five-game match against Charlotte in 1998. Collier compiled a double-double with 22 kills and 15 digs.
?Now, we have a good win against an in-state rival and chance to look ahead,? Mueller said. ?We?ve got the conference schedule coming up with Southern Miss this weekend and we?re really looking forward to it. We know that we need to improve our consistency and passing, but this is a good step forward.?
Anthony Gagliano covers volleyball and can be reached at email@example.com