After starting the 2003 season 6-10 in non-conference play, the USF volleyball team has successfully put together back-to-back wins for the first time since opening weekend.
The Bulls were able to overcome their season long plague of inconsistencies on offense, by attacking both Charlotte and East Carolina, on their way to their first two Conference USA wins.
In its first 16 matches, USF has averaged 13 kills per game, and had trouble terminating balls right off the other teams serve. In their last two matches, however, the Bulls have been able to up its kills per game to 15.6, and come up with their first chance at a winning streak since August.
“I think we had a great weekend,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “I think we showed a lot of character and a lot of resilience. I think it was a great weekend for us to start out fairly strong.
“It gives us a lot of confidence heading into the season.”
The Bulls’ attempt at continuing to go through C-USA play undefeated will be made more difficult Friday and Saturday when Southern Mississippi (tonight at 6) and Tulane (Saturday night at 7) visit the Corral.
Tonight’s match against the Golden Eagles has been moved up an hour from the Bulls’ usual start time at 7 p.m. to accommodate the USF football team’s game against TCU at 8 p.m.
“I think it probably will hurt attendance a little bit,” Mueller said. “We’re not in town for too many football games, and we wanted to make sure we had our players attend the football game to support our team.
“It will give them a taste of school spirit and a sense of a little more than just volleyball at USF.”
Southern Miss (17-3) will bring a battle of the C-USA undefeated to USF, and, give the Bulls a true test if last weeks offensive surge is for real.
The Golden Eagles are C-USA’s top team at holding opponents hitting percentage down, allowing teams to tally kills only 15.8 percent of the time.
“Southern Miss is a very good team right now,” Muller said. “They are playing very consistent, very confident volleyball. They’re out to beat as many teams as they possibly can.”
The Bulls’ main offensive threat, junior Shameka Mitchell who leads the team with 4.61 kills per game (good for No. 2 in C-USA), will be matched across the net by C-USA ranked No. 3 Nicki Tribble (4.36) of Southern Miss.
“I think we are going to have to contain (Andrea Bush and Tribble),” Mueller said. “They are both players with a lot of experience.”
The Bulls test at offensive consistency won’t rest at Southern Miss, when they face the Green Wave the following night.
Tulane will give the Bulls a challenge putting down the ball, as the Green Wave currently own C-USA’s best blocker in Deva Fowler with 1.37 per game.
Tulane’s defense doesn’t end there, though, as Karlyn Daly is also No. 1 in C-USA in digs with 4.33 per game.
“Tulane is a very good team with a lot of talent,” Mueller said. “When they’re on, they are very difficult to beat. I’m very excited we are playing them at home this year.
“It’s going to be a great match. We’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.”