Nation’s best comes to Tampa

USF will have to make room for the glitz, glamour and Gators of big-time college volleyball.

As No. 3 Florida travels to Tampa, the 7 p.m. USF volleyball match has been moved from the Bulls’ usual home, the Corral, to the Sun Dome.

The move was made to accommodate both Gators’ and Bulls’ fans along with many others who planned to attend.

“We just wanted to make sure we could accommodate everybody,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “We wanted to open up the venue a little bit and make sure we can accommodate as many fans as we can.”

While volleyball may not be able to sell out the 10,411-seat Sun Dome, Mueller said the Bulls hope to at least fill the lower level.

This is the Bulls’ first time playing in the Sun Dome since USF hosted the Conference USA Tournament in 1999.

“I think it’s going to be a good atmosphere,” Mueller said. “The band is going to be there, the cheerleaders are going to be there. We are trying to make it an event. Maybe it’s something that we can continue to do with Florida every other year.”

While the two schools are a short trip down I-75 away from each other, this match will bring added appeal to fans from both schools as well as casual spectators.

The Gators are one of the best teams in the country, posting an 11-1 record and boasting player-of-the-year nominee Aury Cruz.

With a frontline of players 5-foot-11 and taller, the Gators pose a threat on defense and one of the country’s best blocking teams.

“They’re a very good team, they’re very big and they’re very physical, with a lot of experience and a lot of returnees,” Mueller said.

The Bulls, who have struggled this year with an inconsistent killing and hitting percentage, enter the game with an average of 13.4 kills a game while their opponents put down 14.8 points a game.

“(Florida is) a very good defensive team and a big blocking team,” Mueller said. “We are going to be put to the test on our coverage, and whether or not our hitters can make adjustments to the ball.”

Besides facing a top defensive team, the Bull also have the 2002 NCAA Tournament on their minds.

USF’s final game of its 2002 Conference USA championship season ended with the Gators in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I think it would be nice to revenge our loss, but I don’t think that’s in the front of our minds at all,” Mueller said. “We are looking to come out and play at the best we can.”

“If we bring our ‘A’ game, I think we can compete with them, but if we don’t it’s going to be kind of scary,” Mueller said.