This weekend is the end of the volleyball season, and that means the culmination of careers. All of the sweat, tears and laughs come to an end Sunday for USF senior Kelly Mathiasmeier when the Bulls (19-7, 11-3 in Conference USA) wrap up their season against Tulane (16-11, 7-7). It will be her final home match before the Bulls travel to Houston for the C-USA Tournament.
“The last time, I know,” Mathiasmeier said. “It’s scary. Two more and I’m done.”
For the Bulls’ the season seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. From their September troubles with ranked foes Arizona and Florida, through the conference season and right up to their current seven-match winning streak, the pace has been dizzying for a squad that never had a weekend off.
“This year especially seems to have flown, but the whole four years have flown by in a blur,” Mathiasmeier said. “I thought high school went by fast, but nothing compares to college.”Before the Bulls can honor Mathiasmeier’s four years of excellence, they must get through Southern Mississippi (8-17, 3-11) and Tulane.
If the Bulls defeat both opponents and Cincinnati, owner of a 16-match winning streak, and defeat Louisville today, USF will earn the second seed in next week’s C-USA Tournament. The Bulls hold a 3-1 victory against Southern Miss Sept. 22.
“We need to win this weekend,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “If we look past them, we’ll lose. Southern Miss we’ve already beaten once, but they’re still a very good team. They’re playing good volleyball in November and that’s what it’s about.”
Certainly Mathiasmeier and the Bulls would cherish a C-USA Tournament title. In her three prior seasons, twice the Bulls were denied in the finals by Louisville.
Earlier this season, the Cardinals downed the Bulls in a five-match thriller in which USF set the conference high in kills for a match but still lost 28-30, 30-26, 32-30, 23-30, 12-15.
“Absolutely, we want another shot at them,” Mathiasmeier said. “It didn’t go our way the first time. We want another shot at them in the tournament. It’ll be sweeter there.”
Mathiasmeier has been one of the most consistent players for Mueller during the last three seasons, playing both setter and right side hitter. So far this season, Mathiasmeier has registered 194 kills in 86 games, tops on the team.
As a member of the USF volleyball team, Mathiasmeier has experienced the highs – last year’s NCAA Tournament team that won 20 straight, a school record – and the lows – the 1999 squad that went 15-18.
She’s seen coaches come (Mueller) and go (Perri Hankins) Still, it’s the one goal that’s eluded Mathiasmeier that she craves most.
“This is our last chance,” Mathiasmeier said. “My really last chance.”
- Anthony Gagliano covers volleyball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org