The Bulls continue their month-long road trip this weekend, but the return of Maryann Mooney should re-energize the squad.
The junior has been sidelined for the first 10 matches with an ankle injury. Mooney expects to make her debut today as the Bulls (7-3, 1-0 in Conference USA) take on conference foe Marquette (4-5, 0-1).
“I just think that her confidence on the court spreads to everyone around her,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “And, that?s a little of what we?re lacking here. Even if she?s still injured, just having her on the court helps this team?s confidence.”
Although still hobbled by the injury, which doctors have been unable to diagnose, Mooney intends to bring her fiery demeanor to the court as the Bulls face the Golden Eagles today and DePaul (9-1, 1-0) Saturday.
“Obviously, I missed the competitiveness,” Mooney said. “Although I?ve been there emotionally when we travel, it?s not the same as when I?m on the court. I?m a very vocal person, and now I can bring my leadership back onto the court.”
The injury has, however, had one large impact on Mooney?s game. Instead of occupying her normal spot at outside hitter, the junior from Chicago will switch to the back row, where she?ll play defensive specialist. Even with a noticeable limp, Mooney seemed undeterred in her quest to return to the Bulls? lineup.
“It?s kind of hard playing a new position,” Mooney said. “I?m used to playing middle back when I?m in the back row, and now I?m at left back. But I should be able to adjust. Play through the pain, that?s my motto.”
Mooney played in all but one match last season. She was third on the team with 218 kills and averaged 10 digs a match. As a freshman, Mooney led the team in service aces and was second in digs per game, while registering 10 double-doubles.
“Maryann?s two strengths are her passing and her defense,” Mueller said. “If she can have 50-75 percent of that back, then I think she?ll be OK. When the adrenaline starts flowing, you never know how kids are going to react, but Maryann responds to competition. I think that we?re OK at outside hitter, so I?ll take Maryann wherever I can get her.”
The Bulls? last home game was Sept. 4 vs. Florida Atlantic because the Best Western Invitational scheduled for Sept. 14-15 was postponed following the terrorist attacks. With Michelle Collier, University of Tampa transfer Jolene Patton and Jenny Scholle at outside hitter, there was a possibility that Mueller might have elected to redshirt Mooney due to her injury.
“I didn?t think that was ever an option for me,” Mooney said. “I knew as soon as I was able to play again that I wanted to be back in, no matter if half the season was over or three-quarters of the season. I didn?t see myself sitting out any longer than I had to.”
Anthony Gagliano covers volleyball and can be reached at email@example.com