Bulls in hunt for NCAA title

The USF women’s golf team will be one of 24 squads competing for the NCAA Division I title Tuesday through Friday at the Washington National Golf Club in Auburn, Washington.By virtue of the Bulls fifth-place finish at the East Regional in Baton Rouge, La., they advanced to the National Championships. The top eight teams in each of the three regions, along with the two highest individuals not on a qualifying team earned berths in the tournament.

Georgia is the defending national champion and returned to the tournament with an eighth-place finish at the East Regional. West Regional winners UCLA and Pepperdine and East Region champion Duke, the runners-up in 2001, figure to be top contenders for the title.

USF’s best-ever finish was fourth place in 1991. The Bulls were 23rd last year with their highest individual scorer, Jessica Hayes, placing in a tie for 44th.

The Bulls progress this weekend will be hampered by the absence of Fany Schaeffer. USF was without Schaeffer last week at the East Regional, and the wrist injury she suffered at the Conference USA Tournament April 22-24 will once again preclude her from participating for the Bulls.

In her absence, USF received sparkling play from Jameica Duncombe and Megan Cushman. Duncombe, a sophomore, held the first-round lead after firing a 68. A 54-hole 215, a career best for Duncombe, pushed her to the highest individual finish for a Bull as she came in fifth. Cushman also had a good regional. Not normally a starter for USF, Cushman was pressed into service with Schaeffer’s injury and shot a 219.

Tough road ahead

The USF women’s basketball announced its non-conference slate for the 2002-03 season. Not only will the schedule feature the reigning champions, the undefeated UConn Huskies, but the Bulls will also face four other teams (Florida, Indiana, Iowa State and Georgia) that appeared in the NCAA Tournament.

“I think that playing this type of schedule, with six teams that are coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance, is just going to help us in so many different aspects,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “No. 1, it’s going to prepare us for our conference play. No. 2, our RPI (ratings percentage index) is going to be very, very good. No. 3, if we want to attract the best players in the state of Florida to the come to the University of South Florida, we have to go out and play these types of teams.”

Outside of Conference USA during 2001, USF finished 10-3 as the Bulls improved 10-games from the 2000-01 season. But the schedule only featured one team (Florida) to make a NCAA Tournament appearance the prior season.

“Is (our schedule) too ambitious? Some people might say that,” Fernandez said. “But we have everyone back from last year, and we’ve added a 6-5 player (Jameelah Trimble) in the middle who is going to be able to come in and play right away. If we want to put this program on the map, compete for a C-USA title and go to an NCAA tournament, we have to see the best teams in the country.”

Anthony Gagliano