After what senior captain Bonnye Glover dubbed a “love-hate” weekend when the Bulls split matches against TCU and Houston, the USF volleyball team travels to Tallahassee for its final non-conference match of the season hoping to spread the love against FSU tonight.
With only seven matches remaining in the season, it is time for the Bulls (10-15, 4-4 in C-USA) to solve some of their offensive problems while continuing to work on what is one of C-USA’s top-blocking teams.
“We want to be as competitive as possible,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “Obviously, everyone would like to win. I want to win the match, but I think we need to work on South Florida and not worry what Florida State is doing.”
The Bulls offense has been struggling in 2003, tallying second from the bottom of C-USA with 13.57 kills per game.
In other aspects of the game the team has been more successful. USF is No. 3 in C-USA for blocks per game, with an average of 2.52 and is second in total blocks with 231.5 for the season. Against Houston on Saturday, the team set a school record for block assists, posting 48.
“Our blocking is fairly solid, and we need to be able to sustain that,” Mueller said. “I still think we need to pass more consistently and terminate more balls. I don’t think were killing enough balls.”
The Bulls have spent the week working on terminating more balls and killing balls that aren’t set to their hitters perfectly.
“Of course, we praise that we had a good blocking game, but we had to come (to practice) and work on little things like first-ball kills that we didn’t do so well in,” junior Shameka Mitchell said. “And we did really good in defense, but you always need to improve more on defense, so we came and worked more on defense.”
USF is working on its offense but is aware it must not divert attention away from working on the other side of the ball.
“Everything is important,” Mitchell said. “We can’t lessen on anything, because if you try to higher your offense, your defense might get bad. We just try to focus on the same things every day in practice.”
While the Bulls’ blocking has been their strong suit, they have been lacking on hitting and are last in C-USA, posting 12.22 digs per game.
Killing the ball on their first attempt has also been problematic for the Bulls, as well as covering their hitters when they swing into an opposing block.
“Our digging is not where it needs to be, but you also have to look at our blocking, which is above anything that I would have expected us to do. … 2.56 balls per game is very good,” Mueller said. “So, I think we need to concentrate more on us terminating balls and covering our hitters when they don’t kill the first ball so we can get more swings.”
Mitchell is No. 2 in C-USA in kills, averaging 4.74 balls per game, but gets most of her kills during transition rather than on the Bulls’ serve-receive.
“Offensively, I think we need to work about killing the ball on the first attempt,” Mueller said. “If we swing and hit into a block, we need to recover that ball and get another swing on the ball.
“Out of serve-receive, we need to kill more balls and not give the other teams more opportunities to kill more balls.”