USF to host Gators in elite volleyball event
Tampa will be the capital of the college volleyball world this December as home to the NCAA Final Four, and USF will bring three national powers, including Florida, to campus for the Tampa Twice Tournament, an early-season event at the Sun Dome on Sept. 11-12.
Much as Tampa did with women's basketball and the ESPNU Invitational in 2007-08 to start that season, the event will bring in three possible Final Four teams -- Florida, Minnesota and Washington -- to get a taste of Tampa to motivate them toward a return trip to St. Pete Times Forum at the end of the season.
Florida hasn't played in Tampa since 2003, and the Gators are coming off a season in which they reached the Sweet 16 and finished No. 10 in the coaches poll. Washington and Minnesota were seeded fifth and sixth in last year's NCAA Tournament, with the Huskies reaching the Elite Eight and the Golden Gophers getting upset in the second round. Washington finished the season ranked fifth nationally, while Minnesota ranked 14th.
Having Florida in for the tournament means that USF coach Claire Lessinger and assistant Nikki Shade will be reunited with their college coach, Mary Wise. The Bulls went 17-14 last season, including a 7-7 record in the Big East.