Bulls take 2-0 lead, lose 3-2

With its loss to DePaul Saturday, the USF volleyball team has already equaled its number of conference losses during the 2000 season: one. After starting conference play with victories against Southern Miss Sept. 22 and Marquette Friday, the Bulls (8-4, 2-1 in Conference USA) lost a deflating five-game match to the Blue Demons (11-1, 3-0) 30-21, 30-25, 26-30, 27-30, 10-15. The 2000 team compiled a 15-1 record in C-USA, losing its first match to Houston before running off 15 straight conference wins to close the season.

“This team only has two returning starters, so I don?t think they feel the pressure of what we accomplished last year,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “That team took its lumps in ?99 (15-18), when they learned their roles and got comfortable with each other.”

The weekend was not without highlights, as the Bulls registered a 30-22, 27-30, 30-26, 30-24 victory against Marquette and junior Michelle Collier continued her rampage on the USF record books. Collier now has 1,813 kills in her career, breaking Nikki Richt?s school record.

“Wow!” said a surprised Collier. “I had no idea (that I was the all-time leader). I just go out and play and don?t worry about the numbers. They?ll come.”

The Bulls couldn?t seem to close out the Blue Demons, even though they won the first two games. Tied at 22 in the third game, the Blue Demons, aided by three kills from All-Conference setter Kara Jakusz, scored eight of the next 12 points to take Game 3, 30-26.

“That?s what can happen in rally scoring,” Mueller said. “Teams can run strings of points on you. They executed their game plan and we couldn?t.”

Game 4 again saw the two squads tied, this time at 26, before the Bulls squandered four of the next five points.

“I can?t explain it,” Mueller said. “We became complacent and relaxed. We were waiting for DePaul to make their mistakes when we should have been trying to finish them off.”

Statistically, the Bulls managed slight advantages in nearly every category. USF?s attack percentage was .230 compared to the Blue Demons? .204. The Bulls had eight more blocks and four more assists than DePaul. However, the Blue Demons showed no signs of struggling in the deciding fifth game as they struck for a .375 percentage.

“We started relying too much on Michelle and not mixing it up,” Mueller said. “We stopped distributing the ball and played as individuals, not as a team. We went on cruise control and DePaul slipped in the back door.”

  • Anthony Gagliano covers volleyball and can be reached at oracleanthony@yahoo.com