Saturday, December 16, 2017
Colleges

USF tennis career started with Google

TAMPA — In her native Moldova, when Ecaterina Vasenina decided her tennis skills could land her a college scholarship in the United States, her search for that new home began with her mother's obsession with all things Florida.

"She thought it was such an amazing, pretty state," said Vasenina, whose mother had never been to Florida. "Florida just sounds like a cool place to be."

Vasenina did a Google search for "Florida universities," found USF ("Everything was green") and emailed Bulls coach Agustin Moreno. He did online research and found Vasenina had an impressive junior career. A scholarship was offered and accepted, a sight-unseen transaction on both ends.

Four years later, Vasenina — "Katie" to friends — is wrapping up her USF career as the Bulls host Notre Dame in today's Big East championship final. To her, Florida is everything she read it was, and her English has improved tremendously, as has her tennis.

In Moldova (in Eastern Europe), nearly all the courts were clay — for which she credits her drop shot — and the lack of indoor courts kept her from practicing during colder months. As a result, Vasenina, 20, trained one winter in Spain, another in Australia. Those experiences prepared her for USF's international roster, which includes players from the United States, New Zealand, Spain, France and Venezuela.

Perhaps the best transition in her game has been her taking a largely individual sport and incorporating a team aspect.

"At first, it was really unusual for me. I didn't know how to cheer," said Vasenina, in her second year as the Bulls' No. 1 singles player. "It was strange. If my match was the last one, the whole team would go and cheer for me. Before, even when you were training with your friends, they didn't want you to win because it's an individual sport. It totally changed the selfish attitude that I had."

USF and Notre Dame have quite the rivalry. Today is the sixth time in eight years they meet for the Big East title, the Bulls winning only in 2007.

"It'll be tough, and they know we'll be tough," Moreno said. "We have a great respect for each other. It's a great setup for us here in the last year of the Big East."

The schools met a week ago on the USF courts. And though Notre Dame won 5-2, four of the six singles matches went to a third set. Vasenina was up 3-1 in the third set and serving at 40-15 before Britney Sanders rallied to win 6-3.

"We were so close," said Vasenina, who is working on a master's degree in global sustainability. "We're so excited (about today's match). We can't wait."

USF moves into the new American Athletic Conference this summer, and Vasenina is likely to stay with the team as a graduate assistant. The thought of a team championship at the end of her career is a dream for this individual.

"It's huge. I have goose bumps when I say it right now," she said. "It's going to be insane."

Comments

Tim Tebow wants to help throw you a tailgate wedding (sausages included)

Tim Tebow loves weddings.He apparently also loves football, tailgate parties and a good brat, which might explain why he’s lending his pitchman talents to a contest that ties all four together.In a promotional video, Tebow asks, "What happens when yo...
Published: 12/14/17
River Ridge grad Chris Schwarz on brink of Division II title with West Florida

River Ridge grad Chris Schwarz on brink of Division II title with West Florida

Two years ago, Chris Schwarz was mulling over his college choices. The former River Ridge High standout had offers from Valparaiso, Florida Tech and West Florida. West Florida?That one baffled Schwarz, mostly because he knew nothing about the school....
Published: 12/14/17
Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s difficult to call a volleyball program that has been to the Final Four eight times an underdog, especially the way Florida rallied to beat Southern California and punch its latest ticket. Yet of the four schools descending on ...
Published: 12/13/17
FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

Published: 12/10/17
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK — Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, completing a climb from walk-on to one of the most accomplished players in the history of college football. Mayfield won a lopsided vote to become the sixth Okla...
Published: 12/09/17
Could Jim Harbaugh soon be known as Willie Taggart’s buddy?

Could Jim Harbaugh soon be known as Willie Taggart’s buddy?

TAMPA — His team was in Ann Arbor, practicing. He was signing footballs in Tampa.Yet another Jim Harbaugh fun fact."I can’t be in two places at once," Harbaugh said.Not that Harbaugh wouldn’t try it if he could. College football’s firestarter, its bi...
Published: 12/08/17

Gasparilla Bowl journal: Temple’s Collins speaks highly of former boss, new Gator Mullen

ST. PETE BEACH — If anyone has an accurate read on how new coach Dan Mullen will fare at Florida, it’s Temple’s Geoff Collins.Collins worked under Mullen as a Mississippi State assistant from 2011-14. He jumped from there to Gainesville, where he spe...
Published: 12/07/17
No. 5 Florida Gators lose stunner at home to Loyola-Chicago

No. 5 Florida Gators lose stunner at home to Loyola-Chicago

GAINESVILLE — Aundre Jackson scored 23, Cameron Krutwig added 14 and Loyola-Chicago stunned No. 5 Florida 63-59 Wednesday, handing the Gators a third consecutive loss. Less than 48 hours after Florida coach Mike White said his team’s performance agai...
Published: 12/06/17
Twitter propels man toward dream of becoming bloomin' onion at Outback Bowl

Twitter propels man toward dream of becoming bloomin' onion at Outback Bowl

No matter what happens on the field at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, the star of the show will be the bloomin’ onion. Not the deliciously crispy, glistening, 1,900-plus-calorie appetizer served at Outback restaurants, but the person who parades t...
Published: 12/06/17
Indiana hoops transplant perfectly at home in Tampa

Indiana hoops transplant perfectly at home in Tampa

TAMPA — Back home in Indiana, he was basketball royalty. He played in his first league at age 2. He lived — and loved — the hardwood life. He was accustomed to performing before more than 10,000 fans for his big games.Pat Bacon capped his storied pre...
Published: 12/06/17