The USF volleyball team salvaged a fifth-set victory Saturday against Clemson to finish with a 1-2 record in the season opening Howdy’s Pepperdine Classic.
USF suffered a five-game setback against No. 8 Pepperdine earlier Saturday (26-30, 30-24, 30-26, 25-30, 11-15) in a 2 1/2-hour marathon and seemed headed for another one as the Tigers held a 14-11 lead in the final set. But the Bulls mustered up their stamina to win the set 20-18 and the match 30-19, 26-30, 21-30, 30-22, 20-18.
“It’s important to be in good shape to win those hard fought games,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “They really responded after playing 10 games in a small time to win that second match.
“Last year, I don’t think we won a match where we had to come from behind,” Mueller said. “We gained confidence in ourselves when our backs are against the wall.”
USF used its serving to victimize the Tigers again and again. Led by freshman Corinne Walsh, USF racked up 13 aces against Clemson. USF had combined for just 11 in losses to Michigan and Pepperdine.
“It’s a key for us to put the ball in play aggressively,” Mueller said. “We need some edge in rally scoring, and serving was that for us this weekend.”
In the victory, the Bulls were led by senior outside hitter Michelle Collier and Jolene Patton, who registered 21 and 15 kills respectively. However, the Bulls’ attack stumbled all weekend, hitting .173 vs. Clemson and .133 and .152 respectively against Pepperdine and Michigan.
“Our hitting stunk,” Mueller said. “We have to keep more balls in play. We had plenty of opportunities.
“We’re going to work on drills this week to be more efficient,” Mueller said. “We need to work on our transition offense and get the ball off the net faster to get more rhythm in our offense.”
Sophomore Rachel Jobes put together a fabulous weekend to earn all-tournament honors. Starting with a 17-kill, 10-dig performance against Michigan, Jobes then added nine kills each vs. Pepperdine and Clemson. Defensively, Jobes blocked seven attempts against Pepperdine and four more against Clemson. Jobes also showed off her versatility by playing middle blocker and outside hitter, in addition to displaying some skills in the back row.
Pepperdine came into Saturday’s matchup with a lofty No. 8 ranking, but it was USF that claimed an early lead. The Bulls had a 2-1 lead, but squandered that advantage as the Waves (2-2) rallied in the fourth and fifth sets to steal the match. USF opened the 2001 season with Top-10 foes Arizona and Florida but couldn’t manage to win a set from either one.
Against Pepperdine, the Bulls rode Collier, the preseason Conference USA Player of the Year, who hammered 31 kills and chipped in with nine blocks and two digs. Shameka Mitchell supplied 11 kills and Maryann Mooney provided stellar defense with 20 digs.
“Against Pepperdine, it could have went either way,” Mueller said. “You have to continue to pursue and maintain that efficiency against a top-10 team. You can’t let your guard down.
“It was a dog fight, and we went with several different lineups, but they wouldn’t go away,” Mueller said. “We were disappointed with the outcome, but we learned somethings about ourselves. Once you have the lead, you have to maintain it. You can’t coast.”
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