The shock and surprise of the USF volleyball team’s quarterfinal defeat in the Conference USA Tournament could only be matched by the frustration of the team. After reeling off nine straight victories without even dropping a single game, the Bulls (21-8) were victimized 3-1 by Marquette. The Bulls had dropped the Golden Eagles 3-1 Sept. 28 in Milwaukee, but No. 6 Marquette managed to upset the third seed USF, 30-24, 30-28, 30-32, 30-28 Friday.
“We thought that we were plenty capable of walking right in and beating this team,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “We watched them not play as well Thursday (vs. Southern Miss), and I think that was part of (why we lost).”
The Golden Eagles advanced to the semifinals where they were shut out 3-0 by Louisville. The Cardinals moved on to the C-USA Tournament final for the fourth consecutive year but were rebuked by the fifth-seeded DePaul Blue Demons in five games. DePaul has now earned C-USA’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The Golden Eagles claimed the first game in impressive fashion Friday afternoon, holding the Bulls to a .029 attack percentage.
“We just couldn’t keep the ball on the court,” Mueller said. “It was a lack of execution. We were going one-on-one with the blockers, hitting it right into them and not going around (the block).”The Bulls got significant production from Michelle Collier and Jolene Patton. Collier had a match-high 29 kills along with 15 digs, while Patton chipped in with 15 kills, 11 digs and three aces. Freshman Rachel Jobes tied a C-USA Tournament record with her 11 blocking assists.
None of that, however, was enough to offset 39 USF attack errors or a balanced offensive attack from Marquette. The 39 errors limited the Bulls’ attack percentage to .140 for the match, and 13.5 Golden Eagle blocks didn’t make the USF offense more effective either. Collier and Patton were both in double figures in errors, while Marquette put the clamps on USF’s middle blockers. None of the three USF middle blockers could manage more kills than errors. Shameka Mitchell had four kills with four errors and Jobes could only muster two kills partnered with a pair of errors. Sophomore Bonnye Glover had one kill and five errors on nine attempts for a -.444 attack percentage.
“I think they were tentative, afraid,” Mueller said of her trio of middle blockers. “They had never been in that situation before, and I don’t think they realized what it meant to be in the Conference USA Tournament.”
Conversely, Marquette had five players who registered at least 10 kills. C-USA All-Freshman selection Jennifer Amobi led the Golden Eagles with 21 kills, and All C-USA pick Mehgan Devine had 11 kills and a .455 attack percentage.
The Bulls have a match vs. UCF Wednesday and then must wait until Nov. 26 to see if they are awarded one of the 33 at-large berths for the 2001 NCAA Tournament.
- Anthony Gagliano covers volleyball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org