The USF women’s basketball team expects stiff competition next season with a schedule that includes at least four teams that played in the 2004 NCAA tournament and a bid to the pre-season Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
The invite to the preseason WNIT is USF’s first and comes on the heels of the Bulls’ first postseason tournament, last year’s WNIT.
“The coaches and staff are very excited to play in a tournament of that magnitude,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “We are honored to be invited to a tournament at this level.”
Fernandez said the 16-team field should be announced this week and that he does not know if the Bulls will play home or away. Only one team from each conference can play in the tournament.
“We have some pretty tough games in our non-conference schedule before even opening up Conference USA play,” Fernandez said. “I think it is the type of schedule that we are going to be tested, and tested early in the season, so we’re going to have to be ready. I’m very excited, our staff is excited, and I know our players are excited. I wish we could start tomorrow.”
The regular-season schedule includes a trip to three-time defending NCAA women’s champion Connecticut as well as the in-state rival Florida Gators.
USF brings back all five starters from last year as well as several of its backups, so the team has depth, Fernandez said. The Bulls return Conference USA Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-America Jessica Dickson as well as C-USA All-Freshmen Team member Nalini Miller. The Bulls also return seniors Andrea Armstrong, Anedra Gilmore, Alana Tanksley and Tristen Webb.
Last year, the Bulls reached the postseason for the first time in school history, losing 63-55 to Richmond in the first round of the WNIT.
Next year, the Bulls will look to better a 14-15 overall record.