From Creighton to Oklahoma City: A sports year in review
It was a year filled with surprises, and history-making teams. Every season of the 2011-2012 school year, an unlikely member of the USF athletic department came through with a run to remember.
The sports year began in September, with heavy hearts after the death of Lee Roy Selmon,a university and community legend.
Despite a tough season that saw a missed bowl game for the first time since 2004, USFs football team had a highlight to remember. In a rain-soaked game that lasted a minute short of six hours, the Bulls pulled off a 23-20 win over Notre Dame, ranked No. 16, in South Bend. The Bulls were ranked No. 16 in the nation after a 4-0 start, but a 1-7 finish to the season left them looking in from the outside of the postseason.
With all attention focused on its football counterpart, the mens soccer team quietly went to work while playing in the newly opened Corbett Soccer Stadium, thanks to the debut of its Tyler Trio Dom Dwyer, Kyle Nicholls and Brenton Griffiths who transferred from Tyler, Junior College in Texas. The Bulls entered conference play ranked No. 17 in the country and proceeded to make history, becoming the first team to go undefeated in conference play in Big East history.
Eight wins and two draws gave the Bulls the Big East Red Divison title.
With Dwyer turning heads thanks to a 16 goal season, which gave him the Big East Player of the Year award, the Bulls entered the NCAA Tournament with the strength of a Top Eight seed, giving them a chance to host two tournament games.
The highlight of the year came in the second game of the NCAA tournament, when the Bulls took down undefeated New Mexico in penalty kicks, thanks to a game-winning save from keeper Chris Blais.
While the Mens Soccer teams season ended in the Elite Eight, the mens basketball team got underway in a transitional season for the team. With the Sun Dome under renovation, USF played a majority of their home games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Despite the long commute to home games, the Bulls managed to feel at home, going 14-2 at home games all season.
With the additions of transfer Victor Rudd and freshman Anthony Collins, the Bulls went 12-6 in an admittedly weak Big East conference, highlighted by a 58-51 win over Louisville, ranked No. 18, a win which greatly strengthened their NCAA Tournament resume.
Close losses to West Virginia and Notre Dame forced the Bulls to sweat it out, but, with national cameras looking in on Selection Sunday, a jubilant team, along with USF president Judy Genshaft, celebrated the teams first NCAA Tournament berth in 20 years.
USF arrived in the NCAA Tournament via the First Four round, played in Dayton, Ohio. A strong win over California sent the Bulls to Nashville, where they took on Temple in the second round.
A 58-44 win, along with a loss by bracket-favorite Michigan, gave the Bulls a chance to enter the Sweet Sixteen, with only No.13 seed Ohio standing in the way. The Bobcats ended USFs historic season, beating the Bulls 62-56.
Despite the lost chance, USF celebrated its best season, winning the first two NCAA Tournament games in school history.
In the final leg of the 2011-2012 sports season, the mens and womens tennis, womens golf and baseball teams all played for the Big East championship, with the golf team winning the conference crown.
The highlight of the spring sport season, however, was the performance of the USF softball team
Led by player of the year finalist Sara Nevins, the Bulls swept through the Gainesville NCAA Regional, before winning two games over Hofstra to punch their tickets to the Womens College World Series in Oklahoma City. The Bulls were defeated by Oklahoma and LSU, ending their season as College World Series participants.
In the short but memorable athletic history of USF, it seemed as if every school year, a different team stepped up and had a strong season. For the first time in school history, the Bulls pulled it together across the board, giving their fans a year to remember the best sports year in the history of USF.