South Florida plays its last game today before the Bulls start Conference USA play Friday.
The Bulls posted an 11-4 non-conference record with only Florida International remaining at home, before East Carolina and Charlotte travel to the Corral Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The preseason, as USF coach Nancy Mueller calls it, has been a successful one with wins against top-tier teams, including Georgia Tech and Kansas State.
“We had ups and downs and learned a lot; opposing teams helped us prepare for the conference schedule,” Mueller said. “We have gotten ourselves where we would like to be, even if we finished at 15-0. They always say you learn more from losses, and we have.”
One thing the Bulls learned from their losses, as well as their wins, was that they need to jump out on teams right away.
Only three times this season have the Bulls been beaten in the first game. Two of USF’s losses have come after the Bulls dropped the first game. Each of those matches went five games.
“We learned a lot about ourselves as far as that we want to jump out right away. We want to keep it at three or four games and not get it to five,” Mueller said. “We need to be aggressive and stay aggressive with defense and blocking.”
Another thing the Bulls discovered from the preseason was its depth. The entire roster saw playing time this season.
“Depth in almost every position was awesome,” Mueller said. “I think that’s a huge advantage for us because we have people with more playing time, and that can be a huge advantage for us.”
USF also had a good preseason on the service side of the ball. The Bulls tallied 112 aces with an average of 1.96 per game.
“I think we served great, but I think we can get better in blocking and side-out offense and first-ball kills,” Mueller said.
Some of the final things USF needs to work on against the Golden Panthers are consistency and accuracy.
“We need to have a consistent hitting percentage. We need some consistency across the board with every player.
“Accuracy is one of the things that we’re working on,” Mueller said. “We have a lot of tools to use, and I think hitting efficiency is something that we need to work on.”
So far this season, the Bulls are hitting .237 while holding their opponents to .208. Last season the Bulls hit .253 for the second best mark in the conference.
The Bulls hope to finish the preseason by polishing off the kinks against the Golden Panthers (4-11) and perfecting their hitting and depth.
“It’s going to be good competition before we get into this weekend,” Mueller said. “We had a good preseason, and we are ready for conference play.”
Oracle Assistant Sports Editor Bryan Fazio covers USF volleyball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org