Five years and 99 wins later, some things remain unchanged for USF volleyball coach Nancy Mueller. Tonight, she chases win No. 100 against Florida A&M at 7 in the Corral.
In her first season with the Bulls, Mueller had eight players on the team, yet compiled a 15-18 record in 1999. The ’99 squad was also following a team that qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 1998.
This season, Mueller’s Bulls (5-5) once again have eight players and were preceded by a team that participated in the NCAA Tournament.
“We had the same number of people on the roster,” Mueller said. “I think it is a little bit ironic. It wasn’t planned, for sure, you just hope for the best.”
This season Mueller is trying to get a young squad to work together, throwing four newcomers into the mix. With that dominating her focus, she hasn’t had the chance or the time to think about the number of victories she is on the verge of achieving.
“Florida A&M is a really good team,” Mueller said. “I think we will need to be on our ‘A’ game to beat them.”
While the 2003 version of the Bulls has three new freshmen, including promising outside hitters Nicolette Barron and Johari Williams, the 1999 team also had a young promising outside hitter.
Michelle Collier, a 2002 All-American, was in her second season with the Bulls during Mueller’s first season.
Collier sparked another memory of that season for Mueller when she injured her knee in a game against Nebraska during the fifth match of the season, and was lost the rest of the year.
In 2003, middle blocker Rachel Jobes was going to provide the Bulls with a veteran presence on the net, but she also was lost for the season when she needed back surgery two days before the season started.
While the two seasons are filled with parallels, the 2003 Bulls have met tough opponents that are adding to the team’s chemistry and the growing process will continue against the Rattlers.
“This is a young squad with a lot of maturing going on,” Mueller said. “And right now they are stepping up to the plate and doing what they can, which is all I can ask.”