Any time a team starts the season with half of its players as freshmen, it’s probably going to encounter some tough times.
So is the case for the USF volleyball team, which is 10-16 overall and 4-5 in Conference USA with four games remaining this season.
The Bulls were picked in the pre-season to finish No. 3 in C-USA, while starting the 2003 season with four freshmen and one senior new to the program.
The Bulls are ranked No. 8 in C-USA with two of its four remaining matches against Cincinnati and Louisville, the conferences’ Nos. 1 and 2 teams, respectively.
“We were ranked No. 3 because of reputation,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “Because we were three years in a row with 20 wins. It was based more on history than the players they saw coming in.”
The addition of so many new players has caused the Bulls to play inconsistent volleyball throughout the season, while trying to find the chemistry to make a winning team.
“We had so many new players, we’ve been trying to get everybody on the same page,” Mueller said. “That’s probably been the most challenging thing for me, is trying to get the best on the court at the same time.”
While this season may have been a disappointment in the eyes of those who predicted a No. 3 C-USA finish, the season has been a new challenge for Mueller.
In her previous four seasons at USF, her only head coaching experience, Mueller didn’t finish any lower than No. 2 in C-USA, while winning 18 matches in 2000, 21 in 2001 and 30 in 2002.
“This has been the most trying year for me,” Mueller said. “It’s definitely a challenge for me, both personally and professionally, to see these kids work hard, and they can’t win. As a coach, you wonder what you can do to make them successful.”
This season has brought both highs and lows for Mueller, earning her 100th career victory, as well as facing tough losses throughout the year.
“It has been very up and down this season,” Mueller said. “One hundred wins, that’s great, but it’s about the kids not so much about me as a coach, but about what they want to accomplish.”
The Bulls will continue to work at becoming a team, while fighting for a possibility to remain in contention for the C-USA tournament.
USF travels to Marquette today and DePaul on Saturday.
“Our backs are against the wall, so it will be interesting to see if we step up,” Mueller said.