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Aiming for the postseason

The South Florida women’s basketball program has made postseason appearances in each of the past five years.

The quest for a sixth begins this weekend.

“Every single day in practice we think about making it to the NCAA tournament,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “That, without a doubt, is our ultimate goal.”

The Bulls open the regular season Saturday at 5 p.m. when they host Central Connecticut at the Sun Dome in the USF Shootout Tournament.

The tournament will feature four teams, with Loyola (Md.) facing Harvard at 3 p.m. Saturday. The winners of Saturday’s games will meet at 2 p.m. Sunday, while the losers will play at noon.

“In approaching this season I’m very pleased with where we are at as a team,” Fernandez said. “When you consider the new faces we have and the amount of kids we can put on the court, I think we have a chance at being pretty good.”

Junior Janae Stokes — one of those new faces — said one of the reasons she came to USF was to contend for an NCAA tournament appearance. Stokes scored 13 points in the Bulls’ first exhibition win over the Miami Sun coming off the bench.

“I think we have a very talented team,” she said. “We have all the tools we need, and if we use them well, we can go as far as we want to go this season.”

The Bulls made it to the NCAA tournament once in their five postseason appearances. The rest have been appearances in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

“When you return six or seven pretty good players, and add four pretty good newcomers — from a depth factor, we are well prepared to make a run at an NCAA tournament,” Fernandez said.