Bulls on even ground

The USF volleyball team gave another bittersweet performance this weekend, keeping its Conference USA record at an even 4-4.

The Bulls started the two-match home stretch impressively, notching a 3-1 victory against TCU Friday before coming up short to the Houston Cougars in a 3-2 loss Saturday.

Early leads by the Cougars plagued the Bulls all night en rout to a 32-30, 27-30, 34-30, 30-23, 15-10 loss.

“It’s like a love-hate relationship. You’re happy on a high one minute, and then you lose to a decent team in your conference that you were head to head with, and (it’s) a disappointment,” USF senior Bonnye Glover said. “But sure, we’ll bounce back and be fine.”

In the first game USF fell behind early, facing a 5-1 deficit before pulling even and then eventually falling behind again 24-21.

USF fought back, keeping even with the Cougars until being put away after forcing two game point situations.

Losing the first game was detrimental for the Bulls, with 71 percent of their match losses coming after dropping the first game.

The Bulls battled back to win the next two games with a great defensive performance; however two games weren’t enough. After winning Game 4, the Cougars jumped out to a 5-0 lead, and maintained their lead to earn the victory.

“We gave them too big of a lead,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “When you give teams a lead like that in game five, it’s a really, really short game, so we need to do a better job of coming out stronger.

“Losses like that are very tough, so you just hope you learn from them and not let it happen again.”

The Bulls’ loss was attributed to their ability to kill the ball early — a problem that has plagued them since the beginning of the season.

Houston tallied 83 kills, while the Bulls were able to kill only 66 balls. In the two games the Bulls won, they killed 17 and 21 balls; in the three games they lost they killed only 13, 12 and 3 balls.

“We had a bit of a passing breakdown and weren’t able to terminate balls,” Mueller said. “We weren’t able to kill first balls and we weren’t able to win long rallies.”

USF did salvage some good points in the match, however. The Bulls were led by junior Shameka Mitchell, who recorded a double-double with 18 kills and 13 block assists while tallying 9 digs.

The Bulls defense also was a strong point, setting new school records. USF recorded 48 block assists, surpassing the previous record of 40, and 26 solo blocks, breaking the old record of 22.

“We blocked exceptionally well,” Mueller said. “Twenty six blocks; I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a game, and 48 block assists — that’s pretty unheard of. Defensively, we did a very good job, but we still could have contained their outside hitters a little better.”