The University of South Florida women’s basketball team kicks off the 2002-03 regular season this weekend with two road games. According to USF coach Jose Fernandez, this weekend couldn’t have come soon enough.
“Our (team) is tired of going up against each other in practice,” Fernandez said. “We’re very eager to get started.”
The Bulls open tonight in Miami and will travel to Gainesville Sunday to face the Gators. Fernandez knows his team has a tough first weekend, but he said it should help the Bulls prepare for the rest of the season.
“We’re going right into the fire playing Miami and Florida,” Fernandez said. “On Friday and Sunday we’re playing two quality opponents, just like we’re going to be doing in the Conference USA regular season. It already gets us into the mindset of the quality of people we need to play and compete against to prepare us for conference play.”
USF played both Miami and Florida at home last year, defeating the Hurricanes 76-68 and falling to the Gators 90-66.Besides this being the opening weekend for the season, the first two games hold sub-plots for some of the Bulls.
Senior Sonia Cotton, junior Jameelah Trimble and freshmen Valerie de Velasco and Sharon Cambridge all hail from Miami. Trimble and Cambridge have the opportunity to play their first game in a Bulls uniform in front of their hometown fans. An injury will force de Velasco to watch from the bench, but Cotton will return to the area of her former school (Florida International) with a chance to shine in a starting role.
On Sunday, Trimble will return to Gainesville, the place she transferred from in order to join the Bulls. Trimble will have the opportunity to show her former teammates and coaches the type of player they lost to USF.
Trimble could be the biggest difference between last year’s game and this year’s game. Florida hammered USF on the boards last year because the Bulls lacked a serious post presence. Ironically, the Bulls received their main force inside from the Gators.
Trimble will have her hands full with Gators center Vanessa Hayden, who is a pre-season Naismith candidate, but this game should definitely be more evenly matched this year.
Since all the teams are from Florida, these games should hold a little extra flavor between the competitors.
“(Playing these teams) gives you a little bragging rights within the state,” Fernandez said.
But more importantly for the Bulls is starting the season with a victory. USF hopes to jump to a quick start reminiscent of a year ago, when the Bulls started 7-0.
The non-conference schedule is a pivotal part of the Bulls’ postseason hopes, and in order to achieve their goal the Bulls will need to win against some quality teams on the road.
Adam Adkins covers USF women’s basketball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org