Classic will feature tough competition

The USF volleyball team heads into its toughest tournament and begins its toughest non-conference stretch of games in the season at the Kansas State Wildcat Classic Friday.

The Bulls face the No. 12 Wildcats to start the difficult tournament, which should prove to be a character-building experience.

“It is good to play a tough team,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “It brings out the character of our team.”

The Bulls will then face Colorado State, which also has received votes in the Top 25 poll, before facing LSU in their final game of the tournament Saturday night.

“I think we’ll do well,” junior Shameka Mitchell said. “We are working out our kinks that we had last weekend.”

The Bulls split their previous four games, improving their record to 4-3.

After playing with inconsistencies on defense, the Bulls will face the challenge of playing a Kansas State team riding a seven-game winning streak. The Wildcats’ only two losses have come from No. 2 Hawaii and No. 3 Florida.

“It’s just another match with a number in front of it,” Mueller said. “That doesn’t really mean that much to us now. We have to get everybody on the same page, so we are going to be focusing on that.”

The Bulls are trying to get half of its team on the same page, because four players are newcomers.

Freshmen Ashley Reavis, Johari Williams, Nicolette Barron and senior Fran Pozzi have joined the Bulls a year after they defeated the then No. 24 Wildcats 3-1 in the Corral.

“It is going to be interesting to get the energy and feed of the new energy of the girls that haven’t played against Kansas State,” Mitchell said. “I think we will do well. We pretty much prepare them to know that it is like any other game.”

This tournament will also prepare the Bulls for Conference USA play, which is nine games away.

“Tournaments like these are to help prepare us for the conference season,” Mueller said. “Yeah, we’d like to win, but we know it is preparing us for conference.”

The Bulls have a difficult schedule before C-USA play, also playing Georgia Tech and Wisconsin, along with games against the Wildcats and Rams this weekend.

“I think it will be good for us (since) we’ve already had seven matches,” Mueller said. “We played pretty much the gamut from lower seeded teams to higher seeded teams.

“Playing that whole range is allowing us to play better as a team and is allowing us to fit in.”