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USF volleyball lands coveted hitter from Latvia



USF volleyball coach Claire Lessinger already was optimistic about 2009 with an experienced team picked to finish fourth in the Big East, but the Bulls got a big boost Wednesday in announcing the addition of Maija Strazdina, a sought-after outside hitter from Latvia.

"We don't get looks at kids like this often," said Lessinger, who got a commitment from Strazdina in June over 34 other Division I offers, including Florida State, Alabama and South Carolina. "We are real fortunate to have to her as part of our team. I feel lucky."

USF had an advantage in recruiting Strazdina -- her first name is pronounced "my-yah" -- because her sister lives in Clearwater, and when she made a visit to the United States last year to see her sister, she stopped by USF's campus to look around. Lessinger and her staff didn't visit her in Latvia, trusting what they saw on tape and the scouting reports they got from local coaches.

Strazdina's arrival coincides with the final season for another top international player, senior Marcela Gurgel, the Big East preseason player of the year. She arrives for school Thursday, but will take a few days to get acclimated, joining the team on Monday. Lessinger said she's likely to contribute as a right-side outside hitter and should compete immediately for a spot in the top-six rotation.

"This group is so driven, in a good way," Lessinger said. "They want to win this year."

The Bulls open their season this weekend at the Miami Invitational, playing Prairie View A&M, Florida Gulf Coast and Miami, then they return home to face Winthrop and Florida Atlantic at home next weekend in the Best Western Invitational. For more on Strazdina, check out this story from

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 7:02pm]


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