After losing to Rutgers in the WNIT Semifinal, USF women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez made a promise
As what some AAC officials considered the up-and-coming team in the conference, the Bulls missed the NCAA Tournament by the slimmest of margins, noted as one of the “last four teams out,” according to ESPN.
Grabbing a microphone, as the fans stayed to cheer their team on even after the final buzzer sounded, Fernandez made it clear that the team would be a part of the coveted “March Madness” this season.
“When I said that, I thought that last year’s team deserved to go,” Fernandez said in a recent interview. “There’s no reason that this year’s team shouldn’t with who we have returning and with who we’ve added.”
For junior forward Alisia Jenkins, the journey has been long and hard fought. Early on in her USF career, Jenkins knew she would have to step up if she wanted to make an impact.
Getting minutes as an underclassman was already a trying task, so her presence quickly became known after she began to stand out with her high level of play and a mid-range shot that fooled some of the best defenses in the country.
She recalls that even in her freshman year, she had to think like a sophomore or junior to make others know how poignant her play
“Now that I am an upperclassman, I try to put myself in a leadership position for the team so we can keep getting better,” Jenkins said.
She has continued to improve, averaging 9.6 points per game and 10.3 rebounds this past season, and was also named to the AAC
All-Conference Second Team.
Her career-making night came last season against Memphis, with 21 points and 18 rebounds. Hoping to have games with similar performance more frequently this season, Jenkins made an
offseason mindset adjustment.
“I’ve got to have that same attack mentality that I had in the [Memphis] game,” Jenkins said.
Veteran junior guard Courtney Williams is also returning. With 16.3 points per game and 7.5 rebounds, Williams is considered one of the top guards in all of
Ranking in the top 10 among returning guards across the nation in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage, she has received an abundance of accolades, including All-American Honorable Mention and AAC All-Conference First Team.
Williams will also likely surpass 1,000 career points this season, coming in only 169 shy of the milestone. Even though these honors mean a lot to the young talent, she has much bigger aspirations.
“We have a goal this year of making it to the NCAA tournament, so if the accolades come along with that, then so be it,” Williams said.
Preseason AAC standings have USF finishing the season second in the conference, only behind Connecticut, who has won the national championship three of the last five years.
With 13 previous members returning and various newcomers ranked in ESPN’s list of Top 50 recruits, it’s hard to ignore the success of this program. Last season, the Bulls lost just five regular season conference games; all against the top three teams in
This year, the team hope to use last season’s as motivation to fuel the fire in its quest for an NCAA Tournament run. The frustration that plagued an overall successful year ended on a sour note for the Bulls in 2013.
Experience could bring success if the team is able to channel its best play and remain focused on the ultimate goal of not only a trip to the post-season, but a deep run into the latter part of the “Big Dance.”
Fernandez has stressed that a crucial part in winning in the Sun Dome is the home crowd.
“I think this program has done really well here on campus and the fans can add so much to a home court advantage, especially with women’s basketball,” Fernandez said.
The Bulls play its first regular season home game Nov. 22 against UNC Asheville
at 2 p.m.