Weekend split keeps Bulls in middle of Conference USA race

The USF volleyball snapped its three-match losing skid with a 3-0 victory against Saint Louis Friday. Then, on Saturday, the Bulls promptly fell back on the loser’s side with a 3-0 setback against Memphis.

The two matches reinforced the food chain in Conference USA. The Bulls helped keep the Billikens as one of the conference’s three winless teams. Memphis’ shutout Saturday allowed the Tigers to stay a game off the pace in the league. Three teams are undefeated, with the Tigers and No. 21 Louisville at 4-1.

The Bulls (9-14) are mired in-between after losing four of five and eight of their past 11 matches. At 3-3 in the conference, USF is tied with UAB at No. 6. Four other squads are within a game of the Bulls and Blazers. USF has beaten winless Charlotte and East Carolina on the road, but have taken losses at home to undefeated Tulane and Southern Miss.

The Bulls’ lack of offense cost them repeatedly against the Tigers. After a 53-kill performance against Saint Louis, USF couldn’t find consistent sources of offense. While Memphis tallied 23 kills in Game 1 (30-19 Tigers), USF combined for 23 kills in the first two games. Shameka Mitchell led the team with 21 kills and a blistering .405 hitting percentage. Middle blocker Bonnye Glover added 12 kills while hitting .296. However, no one else on the team registered more than Fran Pozzi’s four kills, which she registered on 22 attempts.

Game 3 saw USF put up its best fight, staking itself to a 16-10 lead. An 8-2 Memphis run tied the game, and the score teetered back-and-forth as the teams were tied nine times in the set before Memphis cinched the victory with a 35-33 win.

Pozzi’s struggles against Memphis came a day after she put together the most complete game on the team. Pozzi’s 10th double-double of the season solidified USF’s 30-19, 30-28, 30-18 sweep. Her five blocks were a season high.

But the Bulls weren’t entirely dependent on Pozzi as Mitchell and Glover were also in double digits in kills. Mitchell’s 16-kill, 10-dig night delivered her a double-double. Those three combined to lift the Bulls to a .284 hitting percentage, their best total in five matches. Mixed with a standout defensive effort (11 blocks), USF overcame a .062 hitting percentage in Game 2. Saint Louis was only marginally better, recording 12 kills and eight errors (.098).

Not only did USF display a steady attack, but the Bulls performed their best down the stretch. Tied at 18 in Game 1, USF ran off 12 of the next 13 points to claim the set. A similar situation occurred in Game 3 as Saint Louis scored six straight, tying the game at 16 before USF went on a 14-2 clip.