USF volleyball hosts top teams for Tampa Twice
College volleyball's best teams will convene here in December when the NCAA Final Four is held at the St. Pete Times Forum, and this weekend offers a sneak peak at that talent level as USF hosts the Tampa Twice tournament, with three top-10 programs joining the Bulls in the Sun Dome.
"The strategy behind scheduling is giving your team the opportunity to pull off some upsets," said Bulls coach Claire Lessinger, whose team faces No. 3 Florida on Friday night, with No. 4 Washington and No. 9 Minnesota also in town. "I know we're ready for the challenge, to see as a measuring stick where we are with the big boys."
The four teams are a combined 22-1 to open the season, and USF hasn't beaten Florida since 1990, a few years before Lessinger and assistant coach Nikki Shade played there under current Gators coach Mary Wise. The Bulls are off to a 5-0 start, including a win at Miami, but haven't faced anything like what they'll have in the Gators and Gophers.
"To have it here and host the event is a whole other significant plus for us," Lessinger said. "It's a great credit to the university that we're bringing these caliber of teams to the Sun Dome. This is our tournament -- there's a special meaning, and I know the girls are excited."
USF normally plays its home volleyball matches in The Corral, in one side of the Sun Dome, but this weekend, all matches will be played on the arena's main court, which should allow the Bulls to set new attendance records. The gym's lower bowl holds 1,350 fans, and the middle-level seating will also be available, anticipating a strong local showing with support from Gators fans.
Washington and Minnesota meet Friday night at 6, with the Gators and Bulls to follow; Florida plays again Saturday at 6 with USF to follow around 8, and there's a high school match between Berkeley Prep and Venice at 3.