College volleyball's best teams will convene here in December for the Final Four at the St. Pete Times Forum, and this weekend offers a sneak peek 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 plays tonight against Florida (5-0), ranked No. 4 in the coaches' poll. No. 3 Washington (6-0) and No. 9 Minnesota (5-1) also are in the tournament.
"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, and USF hasn't beaten Florida since 1990, a few years before Lessinger and assistant coach Nikki Shade played there under Gators coach Mary Wise. The Bulls (5-0) have a win at Miami, but they haven't faced a challenge like the Gators and Gophers.
USF normally plays home matches in the Corral, on one side of the Sun Dome, but this weekend, all matches will be on the arena's main court, which should lead to attendance records. The gym's lower bowl holds 1,350, and the middle-level seating will also be available, anticipating a strong local showing with support from Gator fans.
Times writer Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.
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Tampa Twice Tournament
When: Tonight - Washington vs. Minnesota, 6; USF vs. Florida, 8; Saturday night - Florida vs. Washington, 6, USF vs. Minnesota, 8 (High school: Berkeley Prep vs. Venice, 3 p.m.)
Where: Sun Dome, Tampa
Admission: Tickets are $5 for one two-game session or $10 for the weekend; students and seniors $3 per session or $6 total.
Ahead: The Final Four will be at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa on Dec. 17-19.