Three was the magic number for the USF volleyball team Sunday.
USF coach Nancy Mueller and the Bulls beat her mentor, Bill Walton, and the Houston Cougars in three straight games to put USF on a three-match winning streak. It was also the Bulls’ third straight victory vs. Houston – where Mueller was an assistant to Walton from 1995-99 – since the Cougars beat USF Sept. 19, 2000.
“It’s sweet,” Mueller said. “For the sheer fact that it’s Houston, not just because it’s my old school. They were No. 2 in the conference … right now, there’s probably a four-way tie (for second). This was our first really big win of the season.”
Friday, the Bulls dispatched C-USA newcomer TCU 3-0 by identical 30-26 scores. It was the first ever meeting between the two schools, and marked the fourth straight conference win for the Bulls.
“We’re starting to peak,” junior Jolene Patton said. “We’re executing what we want to get done. We’re getting better, which is good because we’re starting to get near the end – good timing.”
The Bulls (15-7, 8-3 in Conference USA) took advantage of the Cougars (11-9, 8-3) on the way to their best offensive day this season. In the three-game sweep, the Bulls hit no less than .280 in any game on their way to a .310 attack percentage for the match. That figure was 57 points higher than the Bulls’ season average, which is second in C-USA. The Bulls knifed the ball through the blocks and used great placement to hit 54 kills, compared to 18 errors on USF’s 116 attempts.
“Ale (Domingos) deserves a lot of credit for setting the game plan like we had scripted,” Mueller said. “I give her a lot of credit for doing her job and executing. We were hitting the ball with good velocity (today).”
Houston took an early 3-1 lead in Game 1. That would be the last time Houston had the lead – in the entire match. The Bulls got a flawless performance from Shameka Mitchell in the first game, as the freshman had six kills on six attempts.
“I was just on, so pumped up to play,” Mitchell said of her first-game performance.
Mitchell and Jobes provided the backbone of the Bulls’ defense as the squad combined for eight blocks against the Cougars. USF kept Houston’s Jennifer Wittenburg, C-USA’s leader in kills per game, in check as the sixth-year senior had 19 kills but hit just .233 due to nine attack errors.
“We played great defense,” junior Jolene Patton said. “Blocking – that was the key to this game because they have some tough hitters. We changed our defense a little bit for Wittenburg, went out there and executed.”
- Anthony Gagliano covers volleyball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org