It isn’t easy being the champ

After picking up two victories in its first two Conference USA matches of the season, the USF volleyball team fell to .500 in conference play following two losses this weekend.

One year after winning the C-USA crown, the Bulls (8-12, 2-2 C-USA) are struggling to string wins together.

The weekend started out in a 30-28, 30-22, 30-17 loss against Southern Miss Friday, leaving the Bulls searching for answers.

Saturday the Bulls’ fortunes seemed to have changed as USF jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Tulane, but the match ended in a 30-23, 30-28, 18-30, 20-30, 9-15 loss.

“We had two bad losses and this is how the conference is going,” senior Fran Pozzi said. “All the teams are playing hard, and everybody is strong. Since USF won the conference last (season), they are all targeting us.”

In the Bulls’ match against Tulane, boosted by the emotion of parents’ night, USF came out strong, starting with a 10-1 run to open the first game.

“I think everybody loved to have their parents here,” Pozzi said. “We were disappointed about the losses on parents’ weekend, but I think (the parents were) an inspiration to everybody to come and play hard and try to enjoy what we were doing.”

The loss to the Green Wave also marked the return of sophomore Kelsi Andrew-Wasylik, sidelined since she injured her elbow against Florida A&M on Sept. 16.

“She did a great job,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “She did everything we expected.”

In the first four games, Andrew-Wasylik played as a defensive specialist before switching to her previous position of libero in the fifth game.

Andrew-Wasylik was instrumental in the Bulls’ fast start.

“I think we scored six or seven points off her serve alone,” Mueller said. “And that really created momentum for us.”

The momentum lasted for only one more game, when the Green Wave applied the defensive pressure that led to 62 total digs and 16 team blocks.

“I think we were just a bit shocked,” Pozzi said. “I think their defense was the key. They started digging more balls, and we weren’t patient enough to play them back.”

The Bulls’ fatigue toward the end of the match also helped the effectiveness of Tulane’s defense.

“I think it comes down again to consistency and tempo of the game,” Mueller said. “I think we were a little fatigued at the end, and it showed.

“But I think we played really hard, and we gave a lot of heart. I’ll take a match like this compared to the one (Friday) night anytime.”

The Bulls were outplayed against Southern Miss, tallying 42 kills to the Golden Eagles’ 55.

The Bulls’ lack of passing only allowed setter Melayne Wootan to distribute 38 assists, compared to Golden Eagles setter Amy Truong, who had 47.

“I think our passing broke down a little bit, and people started having errors,” Mueller said. “And they couldn’t work out of their rut.”

Since Sept. 26, the Bulls have played two matches each on the weekend. USF’s ability to recover will be severely tested Tuesday as on the back of this weekend’s disappointments, it hosts Miami in the Corral.

“We’re playing hard, but we have to start to win now,” Pozzi said.