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One high amid two lows

The USF volleyball team had mixed emotions at the Georgia Tech Invitational this weekend, as the high of coach Nancy Mueller’s 100th career win was followed by two defeats in its final matches.

Mueller’s landmark victory came in the Bulls’ tournament opener against Western Carolina. Subsequent defeats against No. 24 Wisconsin and No. 5 Georgia Tech, however, ended the Bulls’ hopes of overall victory in the tournament.

Denied her 100th win by Florida Atlantic Tuesday, a 30-22, 30-25, 30-19 win against the Catamounts finally nudged Mueller’s win total to three figures in her fifth season with the Bulls.

“It felt good,” Mueller said. “A win’s a win. It’s good to win games, it helps build confidence for this team.”

Mueller currently ranks third on the all-time USF wins list behind Perri Hankins (189) and Debbie Richardson (180), the only coach in school history to reach 100 faster than Mueller, achieving it in her fourth season.

Mueller’s decision to reinstate senior Jenny Scholle to the roster contributed to the Bulls’ success against the Catamounts. Scholle filled in at libero left vacant after starter Kelsi Andrew-Wasylik went down with an elbow injury in Tuesday’s loss to Florida A & M.

Mueller would not comment on why Scholle, who was with the Bulls last season, was omitted from this season’s roster.

Following the high of Mueller’s landmark victory, the Bulls fell against nationally-ranked opposition.

Georgia Tech, ranked No. 5 and one of a handful of teams still undefeated (11-0), proved too potent for the Bulls to contain. The Yellow Jackets’ offense out-hit the Bulls by 22 kills.

“They played very well,” Mueller said. “As far as us, I think we were able to compete at that level. We saw some great things this weekend.”

The Bulls killed 35 balls on 13.4 hitting percentage compared to the Yellow Jackets’ 57 balls on 35.5 hitting percentage.

“We are only killing 13 balls a game,” Mueller said. “I talked to the team about it and said, ‘If we want to win more matches, we have to be more efficient and kill more balls a game.’

“Thirteen kills a game isn’t going to do it. We need three or four more kills a game and we are going to work on that this weekend.”

In addition to the in-depth strength of Georgia Tech’s roster, the Bulls had to counter tough individual competitors such as Georgia Tech’s Lauren Sauer, who had 15 kills on 48 percent hitting.

“She is a great player, and I had a chance to speak with (her) coaches about her a little before the match and they say she performs consistently that way,” Mueller said. “She, right now, is getting to the point were she is becoming very consistent. She is a big physical presence for them and is able to put the ball away.”

The Bulls fared better against Wisconsin, holding in for a tough 30-27, 30-27, 30-26 loss.

USF started the first two games in the lead before the Badgers pulled ahead. In first game, the Bulls led 14-10 and in the second game they opened up a 12-7 lead before succumbing to Wisconsin.

The offenses were closely matched as the Badgers tallied 49 kills and the Bulls 41.

Junior Shameka Mitchell led the Bulls with 16 kills, and senior Fran Pozzi had 11 digs and three aces.

“Shameka played a lot better this weekend than last weekend,” Mueller said. We worked on some individual stuff, and some arm swing stuff, and she was able to apply it.”