Previous successes to be tested in upcoming season

Senior point guard Elena Tsineke was named to the 2023 Ann Meyers Drysdale Awards Watch List. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

South Florida women’s basketball will start its season next week after coming off a 23-9 (12-3 AAC) season under coach Jose Fernandez.

Fernandez was named AAC Coach of the Year in 2021 and is heading into his 22nd season with the Bulls. In just the past two years under his coaching, the women’s basketball has extended its season far into post-conference play. 

In the 2020-21 year, USF beat UCF 64-54 in the AAC Tournament final and then made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Last year the Bulls made it to the conference final again, but lost to UCF, and then got knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

With the season starting soon, South Florida is expected to play against six schools who are ranked in the AP top 25 poll this year, two of which are in the top 10. This is one more opponent than last year.

The team will face 15 matches before the start of conference play, potentially facing all six AP opponents before then. The Bulls are known for stacking their non-conference schedules with these opponents, facing as high as No. 3 Texas on the list.

The women’s basketball season opener is set for Nov. 7 against Morehead State University at 5:30 p.m. in the Yuengling Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

Ranked opponents

To kick off their 2022-23 season, the Bulls will face two opponents in the AP Poll as early as Nov. 25-27 at their first showcase in Fort Myers.

After playing Georgia Tech the first day, the team will play Michigan and then No. 18 Baylor. Both schools’ point guards were added to the 2023 Ann Meyers Drysdale Awards Watch List. 

It doesn’t slow down for the Bulls as the following matches will be against two of their highest ranked competitors in the poll. 

On Dec. 2, the team will face No. 3 Texas, followed by No. 10 N.C. State. 

The Wolves finished with a stellar record last season ending with an overall record of 32-4 and only losing one of their conference matches (17-1) against Notre Dame in a close 69-66 loss.

The San Diego Conventional in California will be the final time the team will play against ranked schools. In this two day tournament the Bulls will face No. 14 Ohio State on Tuesday and No. 20 Oregon on Wednesday. The times for these matches are still TBA.

USF’s conference season opener will be against Tulane in New Orleans on Dec. 31 at 2 p.m.

      Players to keep an eye on

During the recruiting process, USF was able to secure five transfers this season while having senior point guard Elena Tsineke named to the 2023 Ann Meyers Drysdale Awards Watch List. 

Tsineke is heading into her fourth season at USF and has proven herself as an asset to the team. She played in 33 of the 34 games last season with 31 starts.

Last season she surpassed the 1,000-point plateau after scoring 18 points in the regular-season finale against Houston, becoming the 26th player in program history to do so. Tsineke averaged 14.3 points per game last season.

Scoring an international player from Spain, freshman winger Carla Brito is expected to make her debut performance with the Bulls this season. Brito played at the highest level of basketball in her home country. She is expected to play a huge part in the team’s success this season, according to Fernandez. 

“What I like about her is her versatility and being able to play so many different positions,” he said. “I think she is going to make an immediate impact in our program.”

Freshman Janette Aarnio will also be making her debut with the team. The Finland native spent her summer competing on the Finland U20 National Team, helping her team with an average of 7.3 points and 2.4 rebounds.

South Florida also introduced three new additions courtesy of the transfer portal, one of which is the highly regarded 6-foot-2 point-guard from Syracuse, Priscilla Williams. 

The Texas transfer was one of the highly sought out student athletes in the NCAA transfer portal last year and was a former McDonald’s All-American. She recorded a total of 68 rebounds in her one season at Syracuse, 10 of which were against Boston College. 

As well as Williams, Fernandez was also able to place another former McDonald’s All-American from FSU, Sammie Puisis. Puisis will be joining the Bulls on the 2022-23 roster after playing 81 games with the Seminoles, averaging 6 points per game and 2.7 rebounds.

A forward from Ole Miss will also be joining the lineup. Caitilin McGee started in all 32 games last season with the Landsharks and averaged 3.3 points per game along with 51.3% shooting from the field.