Rankings running in Bulls’ minds
With South Florida volleyball on a five-match winning streak, the Bulls host their second tournament in as many weeks with the adidas Invitational starting today.
The first game is against No. 24 Kansas State, then Georgia Tech and No. 19 Michigan State Saturday.
“They are three really good teams,” coach Nancy Mueller said. “It’s going to be a very physical weekend. No match is going to be easy by any means.”
Along with the anticipation of playing two ranked teams, the Bulls also face a Yellow Jacket team which last week defeated Louisville, a Conference USA foe of the Bulls.
“(The team) actually gets a little more fired up to play a ranked team,” Mueller said. “The biggest factor for us is we are playing a ranked team at home. We are really fired up to be playing at home.”
With the Bulls’ recent success, victories this weekend might mean a ranking for the first time in Mueller’s four-year tenure.
If the team does earn a ranking, they will still play the same team-oriented volleyball and still command respect from opponents.
“I don’t think we will look at ourselves any differently, but I think we will earn more respect from our opponents,” Mueller said.
“I think we’ve established over the past few seasons that we are a good team, so I don’t think any teams have overlooked us over the last few years.”
With the first game against the Wildcats, the Bulls will continue to play quick, defensively tough volleyball while facing a bigger opponent.
“They’re a physically athletic team. They are very big and very physical,” Mueller said. “They play good solid volleyball. They make few errors, and they keep the ball in play.”
Along with USF’s speed and defense, another strong suit has been its serving.
The Bulls have registered 60 aces to their opponents 32. The Bulls average 2.22 aces per game compared to the Wildcats’ 2.12, Yellow Jackets’ 1.64 and Spartans’ 2.14
Senior Michelle Collier has 15 aces followed by freshman Leonie Muller with 13.
Also, offensively, the Bulls boast a strong attack, featuring 419 kills this season, including the most in any three-game match this season when they tallied 60 against Southwest Missouri State in the Best Western Invitational. Kansas State has 235 kills on the season.
Collier leads the offense with 130 and is the all-time conference career leader with 2,121.
“I think we have our work cut out for us, but I think we are ready for it,” Mueller said. “I think we are ready to challenge ourselves, and I think we are capable.”
Bryan Fazio covers volleyball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org