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Bulls looking towards revenge in tournament

Ah, revenge is sweet. South Florida volleyball has only one Conference USA loss this season, to Louisville Saturday.

USF will possibly get its chance at revenge this weekend in the C-USA Tournament.

The Cardinals lead the series 11-5, having defeating the Bulls eight times in the last nine tries.

USF’s most recent win came in 1997 in a 15-10, 13-15, 16-14, 15-7 home victory.

“They are probably our biggest rivals in the conference,” senior Michelle Collier said. “We have to play our best to beat them.”

The Bulls have possibly one more chance this weekend in the Conference USA Tournament at DePaul.

The Cardinals are seeded No. 1 followed by USF at No. 2.

“Second seed is obviously disappointing,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “We could have played better (against Louisville).”

The Bulls are the co-C-USA regular season champions with the Cardinals.

“We are the co-champs and there is nothing to be sad about that,” Collier said. “We were so close, but we couldn’t quite get the C-USA title, but that just makes us hungrier to play them again.”

Before a possible meeting between the two rivals, the Bulls first have to sit out the first day of the tournament thanks to a first-round bye.

The Bulls will use Friday to practice and watch the TCU vs. Houston match, which will determine their opponent.

The players have been one of the top USF teams to pick up on scouting and team tendencies and will use Friday’s game to prepare for their matchup.

“Our team this year has been one of the teams that I expect them to take the scouting report and say, ‘They have a tendency to do this or that,'” Mueller said.

USF defeated Houston 30-19, 30-26, 30-20 Oct. 25 and TCU the next night 30-27, 30-19, 30-28.

“Both teams are very different in style,” Mueller said. “Houston relies a lot on Jenny Tanneberger and Laura Koster where TCU is a little more balanced.”

The only way the Bulls’ and Cardinals’ paths would meet is if the two play in the championship match.

Louisville, who also has a first-round bye, will play the winner of UAB and Southern Miss Saturday.

The last time the Bulls competed in the C-USA championship, they faced Louisville in 2000. The time before that was in 1998 when USF again, met up with Louisville.

USF lost 16-18, 15-13, 9-15, 15-12, 15-13 in ’98 and 15-9, 15-12, 15-4 in ’00 (scoring switched to the 30-point rally score in 2001).

The year 2000 was also the last time the Bulls were regular season co-champions and made it to the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid.

“I think we are two very different teams,” Mueller said. “We are more well rounded than we were in 2000. In 2000 we relied a ton on Michelle and Rachelle Paul.

“This year we have Michelle, Jolene (Patton) and both our middles and our right side. I think we are much more balanced.”

Collier and Paul were both on the 2000 All C-USA team, and that tradition looks like it may follow suit again with Collier being dubbed as the preseason C-USA Player of the Year.

“I think every team we play is going to key on Michelle,” Mueller said. “I think the entire season she has risen to the occasion.”

The Bulls have learned in the past tournaments that they need to be well rounded and that any team can sneak up and defeat another team.

Last season the Bulls were defeated by Marquette 24-30, 28-30, 32-30, 28-30 in the first round. The Golden Eagles, who were seeded No. 6 in 2001, have only defeated the Bulls twice in the teams’ eight meetings.

“It’s the mentality that it’s a whole new season,” Mueller said. “Once you get in, it’s anyone’s ballgame.”

With the mentality that anyone can win, USF could be upset in the first round or could reach the championship, where they have a chance to defeat the Cardinals and revenge the past two C-USA championship losses.

“I think that we are going to come up with a good game plan against every single team,” Mueller said. “If we can do that, we will be playing on Monday night, but we have to take it one game at a time.”