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Volleyball games to watch in 2007

The volleyball team looks to make a run at the Big East Conference championship this season.

Here are five key games to look out for.

Thursday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m. UCF at USF

The rivalry between USF and UCF dates back to 1974, and players always anticipate taking on their in-state rival. The Bulls will attempt to avenge last season’s 3-0 loss in Orlando – a match decided by only six points.

Despite holding the all-time series lead over UCF (46-24), the Bulls have lost three out of the last four matches in the series. USF would like nothing more than to get off to a positive start by winning its opening match at home.

The Knights have a talented core of players, headed by senior Schanell Neiderworder. She led in kills (305) and assists (21) and finished second on her team for digs (235). The Knights finished 5-24 last season.

Friday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m. Louisville at USF

The Bulls will be tested early in conference play as USF opens its regular season against the defending Big East champions. The Cardinals finished last season 25-6, including

13-1 in Big East play. By winning the Big East title, Louisville earned its 17th NCAA tournament appearance.

Louisville will be returning several players from its championship team. Senior Svetlana Dukule will remain an important part of Louisville’s

success. Dukule was second for the Cardinals with 288 kills and third with 100 blocks.

USF is projected to finish seventh in the Big East conference – an improvement over the 2006 projection of last place.

USF aims to improve its series record against the Cardinals this year. Louisville leads the series 17-6, including victories in seven of the last eight meetings.

Sunday, Oct. 14, 2 p.m. Pittsburgh at USF

USF will host the Panthers, hoping to erase the memory of a 3-0 loss in Pittsburgh last season. The Bulls were doomed by poor offense and several hitting errors a year ago.

The Panthers are bringing back their most dominant player. Senior Diana Andreyko led Pitt with 459 kills and recorded 330 digs, 79 blocks and 54 assists.

The Bulls will be looking to record the first victory in their young series with Pittsburgh. The Panthers hold a 2-0 record over USF.

Friday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m. Connecticut at USF

The Bulls have two of their most difficult matches of the season during their final weekend of play before the Big East Tournament begins. A huge test for USF will come against the Huskies, who played in their 25th consecutive NCAA Tournament last season. Connecticut finished the season with a 19-11 record and 8-6 in the Big East. The Huskies were eliminated in the first round of the Big East Tournament.

Connecticut returns with several talented players this season. For senior Sade Chambers, last year was the statistical best of her career. She placed second on the team with 286 kills, and third with 56 blocks. Returning sophomore Kate Seabaugh led the Huskies last season with 306 kills and recorded 240 digs for Connecticut.

USF will look to avenge a 3-0 loss last season in Connecticut. The Bulls trail 2-0 in the all-time series, dropping matches against the Huskies the last two seasons.

Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m. St. John’s at USF

After losing twice to St. John’s last season – including a 3-0 defeat in the first round of the Big East tournament – the Bulls will be looking to get a bit of revenge on the Red Storm.

St. John’s will once again boast a very talented team, returning nine letter winners from last season. Senior Latoya Blunt is the top returning player for the Red Storm. She tallied 337 kills and added 92 blocks to help St. John’s to a 31-5 record, including a perfect 14-0 in the Big East. The Red Storm was eliminated in the second round of the Big East tournament, losing to Notre Dame.