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Regional rampage

The predictions are there. All that’s left is the coronation.

The USF softball team will look to be officially crowned the best team in USF softball history when they try to win their NCAA regional bracket this weekend and make it to the College World Series for the first time in school history.

These Bulls ran off a 57-12 record, breaking the previous mark of 54 victories set by the 1998 squad.

The 1998 team, led by two-time All American Monica Triner, came within one game of the Oklahoma City championships, a feat coach Ken Eriksen says this team can surpass.

“This team is better than that team was,” Eriksen said. “It’s the best team that I’ve coached. As far as the chances go, we’re going to have to create that.”

While the ’98 team had one nationally recognized player in Triner, today’s Bulls have two players among the nation’s leaders — pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis and outfielder Holly Groves.

But the difference in talent doesn’t stop there.

The Bulls are considered a much deeper team; more talented from top to bottom.

This year, the team is healthy and ready to compete at the level that has propelled them to No. 17 in the country.

The ’98 team didn’t fare well in defeating the injury bug, though.

“Back in ’98 we had a lot of injuries at the end of the year holding us back,” Triner, now an assistant coach with the Bulls, said. “Whereas now this team is pretty healthy. They have a lot of strength going into this regional.”

Both teams have had the luxury of playing close to home.

While the previous squad couldn’t take advantage of hosting the bracket in Clearwater, this year’s team will try for victory in Tallahassee.

“How great did that work out for us?” Eriksen said. “Anytime you can be in driving distance for fans, not go through airports and (have) your bus leaving at a luxury time, things are working the right way.”

Things weren’t going too well a week ago when the Bulls were eliminated from the Conference USA tournament by DePaul for the second consecutive year.

“This team is really a team that rebounds and comes back stronger,” Triner said. “When we found out where we are going for regionals it rejuvenated this team.”

The Bulls will get the chance at 10 this morning — when they square off with Ohio State — to prove their coaches right by becoming the best softball team to ever come out of USF.