For senior Aimee Lund, Saturday's Metro Conference cross country championship in New Orleans, is a chance to run down her demons.
Last year at this meet, she was determined to win and stubbornly chased Louisville's Michelle Borgert for much of the race. Lund eventually wilted and finished sixth.
"It's a really big deal for me," said the former Gulf High star. "I really want to win it. I'm feeling stronger than I've ever felt before."
But as important as the race is to Lund personally, it could be a crossroads for a young program on the rise. The women's team has won three meets to earn its first national ranking; it's now No.
A conference title, which would be the program's third in eight seasons of existence and first since Lund was a freshman, also could enhance the team's chances in the NCAA regional meet Nov.
12 in Greenville, S.C.. The top two finishers there are assured a spot in the NCAA championships. USF never has fared better than ninth at the regional.
"What we do at the conference level will give us momentum for regional," coach Bob Braman said. "If we struggle, it will be tough to be confident going into regionals. But we're ready to run a great race."
For the first time in years, his top runners are experienced (four seniors with Lund, Clare Tomkinson, Sarah Erickson and Keisha Wilson), healthy and fit. The other three USF runners will be talented freshmen Jessie Schra, Tami Heckman and Gina Bawden, a former Hernando High star.
"It means a lot to me to finish my last year and prove to everyone and myself that I was a good runner," said Erickson, a fifth-year senior who hasn't been 100 percent since high school. "The difference is amazing."
"I'm more excited for the team," Lund added. "The seniors have all had a great year. Clare's been great and Sarah and Keisha are having their best years. We're trying not to analyze it. We're just going with it."
Seven the hard way: The men's cross country team, led by senior transfers Muchapiwa Mazano and Gray Mavhera and junior college transfer Robert Malseed, will look for its seventh conference conference title on Saturday.
"There's a lot of pride at stake," said Braman, who'll also send freshmen Scott Levell, from Gaither High, and Brian Good and juniors Mike Anderson, from Plant City High, and Lennox Ellis to the line. Star senior Jim Neumann still isn't healthy.
"It took us forever to take Western Kentucky's streak away," Braman said, referring to the Hilltoppers' six consecutive Sun Belt Conference titles (1982-87); USF was second the final three years before it beat Western in 1988 to begin its own streak. "It was like magic. We'd beat them during the season and they'd come into the conference meet with that swagger. We have that kind of feeling, that swagger, and we're going to protect it dearly.
Be it ever so humble Beginning with next month's Metro Conference tournament, the volleyball team will no longer play its home matches in the dank gymnasium with a floor that has more multi-colored, criss-crossing lines than a Los Angeles freeway system map.
Hello sparkling, new facility.
Everyone's ecstatic, right? Well "There is no reason you ever want to move out of a facility you have a winning streak in," coach Perri Hankins said recently. Heading into Saturday's Metro showdown with North Carolina-Charlotte, the regular-season home finale, the Bulls (22-3) have won 27 in a row in their comfy gym.
"We have such a home-court advantage. That tournament is no little thing. It's rare you can play in a tournament that buys you a ticket to the NCAA. And we have it at home. We've been playing in this gym forever. We're used to it. It's definitely good for us. Our fans are very, very close and very loud."
Stat chat: Sophomore middle blocker Erica Berggren is second nationally in hitting percentage (.491) and freshman setter Sarah Runka is eighth in assists per game (13.26).
Weekend tournament: In the USF Invitational, the soccer team (8-5) will play Kentucky at 7:30 p.m. Friday and then Georgia Southern at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Senior midfielder Matt Borgard leads the team in scoring with 11 goals and 12 assists. He's tied for 16th in scoring nationally. Meanwhile, freshman forward Jeff Cunningham has 11 goals and three assists.
Odds and ends: The USF men's basketball tipoff banquet will be Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Special Events Center. There will be no single guest speaker, but former coaches and former players will talk about their memories as USF enters its 25th year of basketball. The cost is $30. For more information, call 974-3696. Former USF basketball teammates Jim Grandholm and Dave Bastian are joined by Steve Willis, a former guard from Nebraska who now works in Tampa, and former Florida star Pat Lawrence on a team that will compete in the 1994 Hoop-It-Up World Final this weekend in Dallas. One of the teams features Rodney Tention, a former USF basketball assistant. The media blitz begun this month for USF football has produced about 2,100 season-ticket deposits.