With more than 100 people anxiously watching the NCAA women’s selection show, the roar from the Big East room reached a climax after USF’s name flashed on the screen.
Shortly after receiving the tournament bid, coach Jose Fernandez appeared in the room with an NCAA hat on and pointed toward his team. The team broke out into multiple cheers reveling an accomplished goal that was set at the beginning of the season.
“It was a journey, and this was something we have strived for,” senior forward Ezria Parsons said. “This was a goal that we set early, and I had a feeling that we had a special team and had a chance to make the tournament.”
The women’s team captured its first NCAA Tournament bid in school history after waiting more than a week to find out its destination. South Florida was one of seven teams from the Big East to get a tournament bid.
“I’m speechless right now. I’m just happy for our players and our staff because they work so hard,” Fernandez said. “It’s a credit to the type of people we have in the program, and this is the next step.”
USF captured the No. 9 seed in the Bridgeport Region and will face No. 8-seeded Southern California on Sunday in Norfolk, Va. The Bulls had been projected between a No. 10 and No. 12 seed for more than a week by ESPN.com and Collegerpi.com. Fernandez was a bit surprised to be seeded as high as No. 9.
“I saw a nine pop up on the screen, and I had to look back again to make sure I saw it correctly,” Fernandez said. “But I think we positioned ourselves well with the type of schedule we played.”
Playing top tier non-conference opponents such as North Carolina, LSU and Michigan State prepared the Bulls for Big East play. Finishing 9-7 in the Big East during the regular season was another impressive credential to convince the committee that USF was good enough for a tournament berth.
Fernandez talked about wanting an NCAA bid for all the players who played for him in the past, but it’s current players who are enjoying this moment the most.
“I feel wonderful and blessed at the same time, and I’m also happy to get it over with,” Parsons said. “It seemed like a long time sitting here waiting, but now I’m very excited.”
So as the team had dinner catered for them around 6 p.m. and the mood in the room was filled with an eerie calm, it seemed as though everyone in the room knew the team was in and were just waiting for the seed.
But as the clock struck seven, the tension began to grow in the room and the brackets couldn’t be announced fast enough. At one point, Fernandez bellowed, “Can’t we get our bracket already?”
There was a quiet rumble of conversations throughout the room, but as USF’s seed came up, the team jumped and screamed in celebration.
“I don’t even have the words to explain my feelings right now,” junior forward Jessica Dickson said. “For us to get a ninth seed is good for us, and I’m just happy right now, just happy.”