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Tournament teams aplenty on Bulls’ 2003 schedule

The USF volleyball team advanced to the second round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament, and if the Bulls return in 2003, it’s a good bet their schedule will be a big reason why.

USF released its 2003 schedule Wednesday, and it features 11 teams that appeared in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. Five of those teams ended the season ranked in the USA Today/AVCA Coaches’ Top 25 poll.

In 2002, the Bulls faced 10 teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament while compiling a 30-7 record before their season concluded with a 3-1 loss to Florida in the second round of the tournament.

“I am extremely excited about our schedule for this upcoming fall,” coach Nancy Mueller said. “Our 2002 schedule was designed to prepare us for Conference USA and postseason play, and it did. Our overall RPI was 14th in the nation at the end of the season.

“I will continue to have a schedule similar to the 2002 schedule because of the success we had. I like competing against some of the nation’s best. It helps us to prepare for any given scenario when the end of the season is near.”

On top of the tough competition that USF can expect from conference foes Louisville and Cincinnati, USF will have a highly anticipated rematch with the Gators Sept. 23 at The Corral.

It’s UF first appearance in Tampa since 1996, and the Gators figure to be a formidable squad again after advancing to the Final Four.

“I’m excited to be playing the Florida Gators in The Corral,” Mueller said. “It will be played in front of a packed house of both USF and UF fans. The atmosphere will be highly charged with lots of energy, which is how we like to play at USF.

“Our match with Florida every year is one of significance, and it will be no different in 2003.”

The 2003 slate is heavy with in-state rivals and 2002 rematches. Seven teams from the Sunshine State are on the Bulls’ radar this fall, including Miami, which finished the season ranked 23rd after advancing to the Sweet 16.

USF also meets Florida State, a 3-0 loser to the Bulls in the first round of the tournament.