Hurricane hits USF athletics

There didn’t seem to be many good moods as the USF football team walked off the practice field Tuesday. Hurricane Frances had that effect on many across the state this weekend and it did not spare USF’s fall sports programs.

Weeks of practice and preparation for USF’s season opener against Pittsburgh were all for naught, as Saturday’s game was canceled. Instead of opening the season against a future Big East rival on ESPN, the Bulls will have to begin with Division 1AA opponent Tennessee Tech, which won’t get national attention.

“We would have played yesterday and the distraction of the hurricane is one that we have to deal with,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “Anybody knows you certainly would rather play than practice and practice and practice. That part can be difficult for your players and coaches if you let it be. It’s going to take great focus for our team.”

Like many around the state, the Bulls are feeling restless after the storm forced them indoors for the weekend.

“I know they’re ready to go. They are tired of sitting around,” quarterback coach Rod Smith said.

Every fall team was affected in one way or another. In addition to football, the men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and cross country teams had games canceled and the USF golf team’s home field was damaged. One team gave its time helping those in need.

Women’s soccer

Women’s soccer coach Logan Fleck felt like he just won a national championship. There his athletes were, mingling among the evacuated masses at the Sun Dome, chatting with those who had been forced from their homes due to Hurricane Frances.

“Watching those girls do that, it felt like we just won the national title,” Fleck said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way they represented the university.”

The team spent an hour at the Sun Dome on Monday and an hour and a half Tuesday.

“The pressure we are under (this season) is nothing compared to the pressure these people are under,” Fleck said.

While there, the women set up cots, played cards and signed autographs, especially for young girls.

As of noon Tuesday, two USF players were still stuck in Clearwater and 11 were without power.

Two of the Bulls games were rescheduled as a result of the storm. Their Sept. 2 victory over Jacksonville was played a day early and the Sept. 5 home contest versus Georgia State was postponed. No make-up date has been announced.

The golf teams

USF’s home golf course has significant damages following the storm. The driving range was destroyed and the team will have to find another place to practice beginning Thursday, according to men’s coach Jim Fee.

Only twelve of eighteen holes are playable at the USF golf course because of severe flooding from the nearby Hillsborough River, while poles and netting from the driving range were knocked down.

Both teams practiced Tuesday, but without a driving range, could only work on putting and chipping.

Men’s soccer

Hurricane Frances postponed the men’s season opener against Stetson on Saturday.

“We’re just trying to get back on track after an extended weekend,” coach George Kiefer said.

After a six-day layoff, the Bulls held only two practices because of the hurricane. After being able to practice until noon Saturday, the team’s only other training session was held Tuesday afternoon in Chicago.

Saturday’s game against Stetson has been tentatively rescheduled for Sept. 22.