USF tennis team waiting to see if new Bull is eligible

Wednesday at tennis practice Neyssa Etienne smashed ground strokes from the baseline with assistant coach Jonathan Collazo, unsure if she will be able to play in the Bulls’ first spring match Friday against Jacksonville.

It is unclear if Etienne will be eligible to play after someone reported to the NCAA that she competed in, and made money from, a Women’s Tennis Association sanctioned event, coach Gigi Fernandez said.

Steve Horton, USF’s compliance director, will have to give the OK before Etienne can play. Fernandez said she expects to hear Friday morning whether or not she will be eligible. Horton did not return phone calls Wednesday.

The Bulls received a National Letter of Intent from Etienne in November. The standout from Haiti has been ranked as high as No. 398 in the world by the WTA. She has wins over Georgia’s Agata Cioroch and Stanford’s Theresa Logar, who were both ranked No.1 in the country.

Fernandez said the team is ready to play in her absence if needed.

“We’re ready to go without her,” Fernandez said. “I mean we’d rather not have to.”

If Etienne cannot go, Fernandez said Gabriela Duch will play in flight 1.

Doubles Troubles

Doubles technique was the focus at the men’s tennis practice Wednesday as coach Don Barr tried to spark an end to the recent struggles his pairs have faced.

After the doubles teams notched a 12-4 record in the fall season, they dropped six of nine matches in the USF Invitational, the Bulls’ first event of the spring season.

“We’re working on a lot of the fundamentals of doubles,” Barr said. “I see their level already coming up. I think we’re going to make a big improvement on doubles for sure. They’re working hard.”

Still up in the air is what players will play together in doubles come the Bulls first match on Feb. 7 at Miami. Barr said he is waiting for Karim Benmansour to rebound from an injury before he makes his final decision sometime next week.

Benmansour meets with doctors today to discuss his health status.

C-USA picks USF softball to finish No.1

The USF softball team was picked to win Conference USA in 2004, according to a poll of the conference’s nine head coaches released Wednesday.

The Bulls finished last season with a 54-19 record, including a 17-6 mark in conference play.

“It is nice to be recognized by our peers in C-USA,” associate head coach Stacey Heintz said. “We are definitely looking forward to a great season.”

Five Bulls were named to the preseason all-conference team, headlined by senior pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis, who was voted preseason C-USA Pitcher of the Year.

Ellis, who went 34-11 with a 1.29 ERA and 320 strikeouts last season, was a first-team All-C-USA selection and a first-team All-Southeast Region selection last season.

Joining Ellis on the preseason team are seniors Carmela Liwag, Shelly Riker and Holly Groves, and sophomore Kattrina Dowd.

The Bulls open the regular season at home Jan. 31.

Bulls cheer their way to No. 10

USF’s cheerleading squad competed in the 2004 College Cheerleading National Championship last weekend at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista. The Bulls came away with a 10th place finish.

The rest of Conference USA had a good showing as well, placing two other teams in the top 10. Memphis placed 4th, Cincinnati placed 8th and Southern Miss finished 11th.