Heading into Friday and Saturday’s matches against Charlotte and East Carolina, the USF volleyball team had two things it needed to improve on — kills per game and defense.
The Bulls were able to achieve both of those goals, starting their 2003 Conference USA season by defeating Charlotte 3-1 Friday and ECU 3-2 Saturday.
“I think we definitely got better in those two areas,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said.
The team managed 15 blocks, enough to match their season high.
The Bulls got the help they needed on the net, with freshmen Johari Williams and Nicolette Barron tallying, respectively, five and six block assists in USF’s 27-30, 26-30, 31-29, 30-24,15-13 victory against ECU.
Defense kept the Bulls in the match after the Pirates took a two-game lead.
Besides playing tough defense, the Bulls also displayed the character they will need while trying to defend their C-USA championship.
“We were a little nervous (because of) losing the first two games, and it showed a lot of character winning the next three,” Mueller said. “It felt good to come up with two wins, even though it was a little scary (against ECU). It was a good weekend for us.”
USF was able to use balance in its win,with four players recording double-digit kills.
Junior Shameka Mitchell terminated 22 balls, senior Fran Pozzi put down 16, Williams killed 13 and senior Bonnye Glover killed 10.
“The distribution by Melayne (Wootan) was fairly even, and the players were able to kill balls consistently,” Mueller said. “That was part of the reason why we won.”
Wootan, a senior, dished out 53 assists against the Pirates following her 61-assist performance against Charlotte.
Wootan, who averages more than 40 assists a game, set a new career record against the 49ers while leading her team to a 36.6 percent hitting effort in a 30-22, 28-30, 30-17, 30-21 win.
“I think a lot of it is based not just on what Melayne is doing, but the passes and what Melayne has had to work with,” Mueller said.
Wootan has had an up-and-down season, topping 40 assists seven times but falling below 30 on three occasions.
The lack of assists doesn’t fall wholly on Wootan’s shoulders, though. USF has struggled with its ability to both kill and pass the ball.
“A hitting error may sometimes be the fault of the setter, but it’s given to the hitter,” Mueller said. “Melayne did a good job this weekend distributing the ball.”