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Final stand at The Corral for seniors

With the USF volleyball team’s final weekend at The Corral, seniors Michelle Collier, Ale Domingos, Jolene Patton and Maryann Mooney will add a final chapter to their memories of playing volleyball in front of the Bulls’ faithful.

Collier is in her fifth season, having redshirted in 1999 because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament early in the season. Mooney is in her fourth season with the Bulls despite missing most of the season with an ankle injury. Patton and Domingos both have put in two years with the program after transferring. Patton transferred from the University of Tampa and Domingos from Utah State Junior College.

The most memorable time for the two longer-standing Bulls, Mooney and Collier, is the 2000 season, when USF was the Conference USA regular season co-champion and then lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“The 2000 season was great,” Collier said. “When we beat Louisville at home (8-15, 16-14, 15-11, 15-6) and we beat Cincinnati (15-6, 14-16, 10-15, 15-9) when we won the regular season.”

For Mooney who played in both the 1999 and 2000 seasons, the latter year was more special.

“We had a great run my sophomore year because we had a really tough year my freshman year,” Mooney said. “So my sophomore year was a pretty high point.”

The memories have also built up throughout the years because of the fans and the support the Bulls (23-5, 9-0 in C-USA) receive at the Corral.

“I have two good memories, one is not so good,” Domingos said. “We played Louisville last year, it was a really close game, and we ended up losing it (28-30, 30-26, 32-30, 23-30, 12-15), but it was a good crowd.

“This year when we played Florida State in Game 5 a lot of people were there, and we won.”

The match against FSU Oct. 29 this season was even more special because it was parents night, bringing more fans to witness the victory.

“When we played Florida State and when they introduced us, they delayed us a half hour, so we had more people,” Domingos said. “That was a really nice and a unique moment.”

From the beginning of their careers to their final matches the ladies’ top memories come from the teammates surrounding them.

“The first time I met any of the girls was coming into preseason my freshman year,” Mooney said. Right away, I knew I was coming into a family. It was a great environment.”

The girls have grown both as teammates and players since their arrivals with the memories of the first season still sticking out in their minds.

“It was preseason when I first got here and I could barely speak English and I dislocated my pinky,” Collier said. “That was my earliest memory, being injured right when I got here. I don’t remember most of it just because everything was so new and so overwhelming.”

Domingos also arrived with an injury, which made the memory of her inaugural year stick out even more.

“I didn’t get to play the first couple of matches because I was hurt,” she said. “I remember the first time I wore the USF jersey. We were playing Florida at their tournament that year.

“Even at the preseason I got to meet a lot of the girls, and it just felt good.”

The bad memories don’t overshadow the good, but they still remain in the heads of the USF players.

Whether she wants to or not, Mooney will always have the thoughts of the 2001 season when her ankles limited her playing time.

“Last year was pretty tough,” she said. “Last year was an unfortunate situation that no one could control.”

With both the good and the bad memories, the times with teammates will be the most thought about.

“Every day is an adventure with the team,” Mooney said. “It’s been a great time getting to know the girls because we have a close relationship, because we spend so much time together.”

The final two home matches, against DePaul (5-22, 1-9) Friday and Marquette (11-12, 2-8) Sunday, will be new memories to add to the long list compiled over the seniors’ times at USF.

“It’s definitely going to be a special time because we have been here for so long and because it has been so much fun,” Collier said. “We are going to try and go out there and play the best game ever.”

Bulls move into NCAA regional top spot

The University of South Florida volleyball team moved past Louisville for the top spot in the NCAA Midwest Regional rankings, announced Wednesday by the NCAA.

The Bulls’ Nov. 1 win vs. UAB kept them perfect in C-USA play this season, while Louisville’s 3-1 loss to Saint Louis on the same night gave the Cardinals their first C-USA defeat of the season, leaving USF the only undefeated team remaining.

“Being ranked first in the region is a compliment to what we have achieved thus far this season,” Bulls coach Nancy Mueller said. “There are two weeks left in the regular season, so I hope we can achieve the rest of our goals and sustain our ranking.”

The C-USA regular-season championship will likely go down to the final match as the Bulls and the Cardinals don’t face each other until the final night of regular-season play on Nov. 16.