Local basketball team takes season by storm

BRANDON, FL–Red Storm Elite is an AAU basketball team whose focus is on developing its players.

Assistant Coach Inniss Goden Jr. knows the importance of his team maturing in basketball fundamentals.

“We want to see growth, maturity and an increase in basketball IQ,” Goden said. “We don’t want them to be robots, we want to see them be instinctive when they are running the plays and we just want them to grow every time.”

The team is entering its second season as a program and has 10th-grade players from various high schools in Hillsborough County. Big man Maurice Pickett believes playing for the Red Storm is preparing him for varsity basketball at Lennard high school.

“My coaches prepare me on that next level when the season comes up for varsity,” Pickett said. “I know that every day we practice, every day we play just gets me better.”

Red Storm Elite hopes to continue the success gained in its first season. The team placed in the top three in five out of eight tournaments.

“We can see that with each tournament that they’re getting better, trusting each other and we see ball movement,” Goden said. “We actually see them running the plays now instead of us yelling the plays out to them, gradually with each tournament they are getting better from tournament to tournament.”

The team is confident that their hard work and focus on development will benefit them against opponents in the upcoming season.

“Oh, this team, I don’t know what other teams are because this the only team I know that’s coming out with that trophy,” Pickett said.

To find a schedule of the AAU tournaments that Red Storm Elite will be participating in, visit their Facebook page.

 

Ice Bulls Make it To Nationals

 

The USF Ice Bulls make nationals for the first time in program history.

The University of South Florida Ice Bulls had a rough season, ending 10-18 before entering regionals. USF capitalized on two major games during the regular season, beating two top seeded teams.

Thanks to freshman goalie, Sam Coleman, who 60 minutes into the game blocked all incoming shots, the Bulls knocked out the University of South Carolina Gamecocks 1-0 in overtime in the first round of regionals at Florida Center Ice in Wesley Chapel.

The following night, the Bulls earned a nationals spot defeating the Liberty University Flames 6-3. Weston Moon scored the first goal early in the first period, followed by goals from Logan Sheehan in the middle of the second, Kenny Weightman late in the second, Huw Baveystock early in the third, Lukas Medo late in the third, and Michael Budd in the last minute of regulation.

Earning their place at nationals the Bulls had one more hurdle to overcome. In an attempt to cover the costs of the trip they started a GoFundMe page and asked fans for support.  They did not disappoint, the Ice Bulls fans raised over $11,000.

The following night, the Bulls earned a nationals spot defeating the Liberty University Flames 6-3. Weston Moon scored the first goal early in the first period, followed by goals from Logan Sheehan in the middle of the second, Kenny Weightman late in the second, Huw Baveystock early in the third, Lukas Medo late in the third, and Michael Budd in the last minute of regulation.

Nationals will be held at Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team will travel to Columbus, Ohio to fight for the title of  the American Collegiate Hockey Association division 3 national champions.

The Bulls will take on the number one seeded Calvin College Knights on March 14 to start their postseason.

To find out more on how you can support your USF hockey team on their road to nationals, visit www.gofundme.com/USFHockey.

Rowdies hope to be next team added to Major League Soccer

 

  1.  The Tampa Bay Rowdies hope to be the next Major League Soccer expansion team.

    The MLS is selecting two new expansion clubs in the second or third quarter of this year, and with St. Petersburg being part of the country’s 11th largest media market, it makes the Rowdies an attractive bid.The owner of the Rowdies, Bill Edwards, plans to spend up to $80 million in upgrades to Al Lang Stadium if the team is part of the MLS expansion. The upgrade would boost the stadium’s capacity from 7,500 to 18,000.

    Stephen Cundiff, president of the Rowdies’ fan group, Ralph’s Mob, believes that the energetic ownership is what will make the difference for the team’s bid.

    “You have an owner that’s willing to spend the money to make it happen,” Cundiff said. “Any sports fan of any team will ever tell you, the one thing they want their owner to do is spend money; and we got Bill Edwards and he’s spending the money.”

    There is excitement among the fans this season as the team has moved to the United Soccer League after spending six seasons in the North American Soccer League.

    Rowdies’ midfielder Luke Boden spent time at Orlando City when it made the transition to the MLS in 2015, and knows what the team has to do to obtain the bid.

    “It was exciting times,” Boden said. “It was down to us to start winning games and trying to win championships to recognition from MLS. With the MLS hopefully around the corner in Tampa, we need to try and win something this year, and as I say, get that MLS attention.”

    The Rowdies have started a social media campaign on Twitter with #MLS2StPete.

 

USF Second Baseman Honored by Conference

Coco Montes,a USF sophomore infielder, was recognized by the American Athletic Conference during a big week for USF baseball. The team went 5-0 and had a huge win against Florida State. Montes totaled three runs, his second home run of the season and a team-high five RBIs. Montes said he is ready to continue this type of play throughout the rest of his sophomore year.

“My body feels a lot better than last year,” Montes said. “Just being able to come out here and start winning, that’s going to be the biggest thing for me.”

The second baseman was recruited out of Miami with the vision that he could immediately have an impact on USF’s baseball program.  Montes had a big freshman year, but has improved since then.

Both Montes and head coach Mark Kingston said they believe that confidence has a lot to do with it.

“He is just a better all-around player. He’s taken the second base very well,” Kingston said. “I just think his confidence is at an all-time high.”

Coco Montes says being AAC’s player of the week is nice, but he’s more proud of the fact that his team had a great week.

 

New Head Coach for USF Football

In December of 2016, the University of South Florida named Charlie Strong the new head coach of the football team, following Willie Taggart.

With a few months under his belt, Strong is excited to build on the strong foundation that is already in place.

“I saw the program here and just knew that it had the chance to really develop and become something special,” Strong said.

In a short amount of time, the new head coach has already had an impact on the program for spring ball.

“We are just moving in the right direction, fast, and I believe he will have a great impact,” Elkanah Dillon, tight end, said.

Strong’s coaching career has included 15 years in Florida, sporadically, since 1983, according to ESPN. During that time, he built relationships with high school coaches, players and community leaders. These relationships may help Strong to continue creating strong recruiting classes in seasons to come.

USF football is on the rise. They won 11 games last season, but Charlie Strong wants to continue pushing the team to improve and make it to conference title games.

“That’s what you play for,” Strong said. “You want to make sure you go and compete and win.”

New Port Richey running club promotes fitness at Gasparilla

The Gasparilla Distance Classic played host to numerous charities and running clubs, including a New Port Richey-based running group.

NPR Running’s founding members, Tammy Carr and Jaana Jala, started the group to help family members and their kids stay active in the New Port Richey community.

“We are an all-level, all-ages, fitness and running group from New Port Richey, Florida, and what we emphasize is that all levels get out there and just keep moving,” Carr said.

Today, NPR Running participates in marathons across the country, which was unthinkable to Carr and Jala given the adversity that they experienced nearly five years ago.

“I was just getting bigger and bigger so I decided it was time to make a life change,” Jala said. “I quit my job, moved to Florida, came down here with a suitcase. But the weather down here is beautiful and it was kind of like jumping off a cliff and changing your entire life.”

Gasparilla is only a local example of the runs that NPR Running participates in. The group travels across the country to triathlons in places like Savannah, Georgia, and Central Park in New York.

“We have racked up, like last year, 26,000 miles,” Carr said. “It’s the equivalent of going around the globe as a group in the miles that we’ve dedicated ourselves that we were going to do.”

A Young Florida High Girls Basketball Team Heads to Lakeland

A Young Florida High Girls Basketball Team Heads to Lakeland 

After defeating their opponent during overtime to win the regional final, Tallahassee’s Florida High is ready for the state finals in Lakeland.

Last year, the Florida High Lady Noles had an unsuccessful season. They lost in the first round of the district championships. According to head coach Darryl Marshall, this year has been different.

“The season has been great. The girls came out mentally focused, ready for the season and ready for this run that we are on now since day one,” Marshall said.

The Lady Noles are now on the verge of making history as the youngest ever to win a 5A State Championship. Two of three team leaders are in eighth and ninth grade. Freshman Kendall Thomas and eighth grader Jordan Rosier have led this team to the state semi-finals.

“I’m the point guard, I am the leader of this team,” Thomas said. “I just go out and play my own game.”

“I had a lot more responsibility this year, I had to put on a big pair of shoes this year and step up,” Rosier said.

These young players must carry triumphant athleticism in their blood because 10 years ago it was their older sisters, Chelsea Rosier and Autumn Thomas that led the Lady Noles to win the state championship.

“Growing up it was always me and her and now it’s so funny to see Jordan and Kendall,” Chelsea Rosier said. “It’s like déjà vu.”

This young duo is only a small part of this dynamic team. The Lady Noles will play Fort Lauderdale’s Cardinal Gibbons on Wednesday, Feb. 22, as they strive to win the state championship and continue to make history.

Minority women’s golfing group looks to bridge gap in professional world.

After leaving the corporate office one woman made the decision to build Women of Color Golf, an organization centered on golf and networking.

The organization’s founder and director, Clemmie Perry, made it her duty to increase the awareness of golf within the minority women community.

Women of Color Golf (WOCG) is a non-profit organization that sets out to promote and encourage minorities and women of color to learn the benefits of golf. Ms. Perry not only wants women to fundamentally understand the game of golf, but she also wants Women of Color Golf to be a gateway to networking and partnerships.

“We serve on various boards, such as the World Golf Foundation and other organizations that will help leverage our mission,” said Perry.

Many women within this organization have benefited from the outlets that Women of Color Golf provides. Robyn Thompson, the Millennial Leader for WOCG, says that this organization is the needed push to bridge the gap between male and female golfers.

“I think we have to educate women, and that’s one of the great things about Women of Color Golf. In the beginner session they basically educate you on what golf is, how you play the game before you even go out on the golf course,” said Thompson.

Perry has built an organization that is more than just “learning how to play golf.” Women of Color Golf has been national recognized by President Barack Obama for the diligence that it provides to the Tampa Bay area. There is hope for further expansion and an excitement for future endeavors.

Ex-professional tennis player becomes USF’s new head coach

Following the departure of Matt Hill, USF’s previous men’s tennis head coach, to Arizona State, the men’s tennis program decided that the best fit for the new head coach was already there. After serving as assistant coach for one season, Ashley Fisher was promoted to the head coach position for the 2017 season.

During his one year with the program, Fisher helped lead the team to their third-straight American Athletic Conference title, a No. 13 national ranking and their third trip to the NCAA tournament.

Before joining the USF tennis program, the Australian native had a successful 13-year professional tennis career. He was ranked in the top 20 in the world while winning four ATP World Tour doubles titles.

“We are a very lucky team to have an ex-professional tennis player to be as a head coach,” said senior player Vadym Kalyuzhnyy. “It’s just a more professional work environment.”

Although the ultimate goal is to win matches, Fisher is focused on the process this season.

“We just want to create a great program. We already sort of have that, there has been a lot of success here, but we want to kind of keep pushing forward and get the program into the top ten and start competing for national championships,” Fisher said.

Another mission of his is to connect and mentor each of the players.

“It’s nice to win tennis matches, but we have a greater responsibility in that we have to mentor these student-athletes and impact their lives and we have a big opportunity to do that,” he said. “I want to be remembered as a great tennis coach, but probably just as importantly I want to connect with these guys and kind of be there for the rest of their lives.”

USF Sport Clubs: A chance to play

Sport Clubs at the University of South Florida offer students the chance to be able to live out their sports dreams of being college athletes, but not necessarily playing at the Division 1 level.

 

“This way students that are not at as high a level as NCAA athletes, still have an environment where they can go out and have fun and participate in their sport of choice.” Supervisor Sam Cathcart said.

 

USF Sports Clubs offers many different types of sports to USF students. They also offer unique sports including Water polo, Quidditch, and even Kendo. The wide range of sports available allows many different students to get involved with the sports clubs.

 

Also, many students who play sports during high school assume they are going to play sports in college and are often disappointed when they try out for the college team and do not make the cut.  USF Sport Clubs allows these students to still be able to play the sports they loved back in high school. Club teams are often much more laid back than college teams allowing the players to enjoy their time more while they are playing.

 

Students are also able to create their own clubs if they wish to do so. “There’s Bullsync that you can go onto if you are interested in joining a sports club. That has all the information,” Jordan Mckenzie of USF Campus Recreation said. “As well as how to join a club. If you want to start a new club you are able to go on Bullsync and that’ll answer your questions as well.”

 

USF Sport Clubs give a unique future to something many students thought they would never be able to do again.

 

NFL, MLS Brass Participate in Sport & Entertainment Lecture Series

The University of South Florida’s Sun Dome recently hosted two influential people in the sports world. Tod Leiweke, Chief Operating Officer for the National Football League and Don Garber, the Commissioner of Major League Soccer. The USF Sport & Entertainment Lecture Series is aimed at students studying in USF’S Sport & Entertainment Management program.

Students find it important to have renowned names visiting the university. This is especially true for those in the Sport & Entertainment program.

“First of all, having such important folks that have so much influence in the sports business like Tod Leiweke and Don Garber brings a lot of great attention and educational opportunity to folks in the Tampa area,” said student Payton Phillips. “Our students, our faculty and our athletic staff [benefit] as well, so it’s able to bring industries’ minds and is good to learn from so that we can perform better and learn more.”

The lecture series is a way to show the growing Sport & Entertainment Management program which the university now offers.

“I came here for the basic fact that I wanted to be a Sport Management major, but USF didn’t have that major when I first started,” said Brittany Barber. “I just decided to come to see how I would like it if I wanted to go into it for Grad School because, you know, Grad School is a whole other monster than undergrad. So I just wanted to figure out whether this is something I want to pursue.”

The event took place at USF’s Sun Dome and was presented by Florida Fox Sports and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The lecture series has taken place annually, with this year being the fourth installment.

Tampa Bay Lightning Host Hockey Fights Cancer Game

The Tampa Bay Lightning and members of the Tampa Bay community came together Nov. 3 to join the fight against cancer at the Lightning’s Hockey Fights Cancer game.

“It’s really important that we lead by example and we inspire others and in the fight against cancer I think we all know someone fighting that fight,” said Lightning Foundation Executive Director Elizabeth Frazier.

Players rallied together; wearing purple jerseys with purple taped hockey sticks to show their support for the cause.

“It means so much to see the entire community give it their all to support people like myself,” said Kerry Roopchand, Moffitt Cancer Center patient.

The event will benefit research efforts at Moffitt, the Lightning’s charitable partner, to help find a cure for cancer. Moffitt team members were taken back by the support.

“It’s so amazing to see such a turnout from our community to help with the prevention and cure of cancer,” said Dr. Damon Reed, Moffitt sarcoma department medical director.

To learn more about the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative, visit https://www.nhl.com/community/hockey-fights-cancer.

Brandon Ice Rink Helps Students Learn to Skate

The Tampa Bay Lightning made a terrific run to the Stanley Cup semifinals last hockey season, which has recently prompted an increased interest in ice skating and hockey in the Tampa Bay area.

One of the few ice skating rinks in Tampa is located in Brandon, where the Lightning practice and visit quite often. The Brandon Ice Sports Forum houses a highly qualified staff and hosts many students who have attended the rink for years.

“My favorite thing about skating is how beautiful of a sport it is and how free it makes you feel,” current student Isabella Ramirez said. “It teaches you a lot of life lessons like to always get up when you fall down.”

Courtney O’Connor, a former student turned coach, is one of the main coaches at the rink. O’Connor works six days a week making sure her students receive the best training.

“I get to share the love that I have for ice skating with my students,” O’Connor said. “It’s really nice to be able to see them out there on the ice, skating, having a smile on their face and having that enjoyment.”

O’Connor has been coaching for four years and has plans to keep coaching for as long as she can. She has also been skating since she was three.

The Brandon Ice Sports Forum works closely with each student through private lessons and other skating classes. One of the most popular skating classes the ice rink offers is “Learn to Skate.” This class gives children and even adults the opportunity to learn skills that ice skaters and hockey players acquire through years of training.

To sign up for “Learn to Skate” or any other classes with the Brandon Ice Sports Forum, please visit http://www.theicesportsforum.com/.

USF Football Struggles to Attract Student Fans

The USF Football team is 6-1, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking in the stands.

After a massive showing by the students against FSU, the football team has been left with little fan support in the student section. The 11,000 student representatives who made the commute to Raymond James Stadium for the FSU game devolved into a crowd of 2,000 two weeks later for a homecoming week matchup against East Carolina.

“I was extremely disappointed in that game,” Student Bulls Club President Hailey Piana said. “When you ask around, when you put on Facebook ‘Hey, where are y’all at?’ people say ‘Oh, well it’s a noon game, it’s hot.’ It’s all these excuses.”

In fact, Facebook class pages have been rife with arguments revolving around attendance for USF football games. There are many students who feel the football team deserves better attendance, and have been unafraid to let their peers know.

None of it has changed the attendance numbers, however, as the student attendance for the following week tallied 3,000 students.

Longtime fan and USF alumni Collin Sherwin weighed in, saying that the football culture of USF simply fell off following a memorable 2007 season.

“USF was the No. 2 team in the country at the time and it just sort of took off and became part of this campus. What happened from the early part from this decade, forward, was a lot of that enthusiasm for this program just fell off. That’s got to change for USF to get where it wants to go [as a program].”

Skateboarders Excited For Bro Bowl 2.0 Opening

 

After years of hard work and dedication, Bro Bowl 2.0 in downtown Tampa opened on April 16.

The skatepark is a recreation of the 1979 Bro Bowl in Tampa. City officials had plans to demolish the skatepark and rebuild Perry Harvey Sr. Park.

Shannon Bruffett, the director of The Skateboarding Heritage Foundation, was involved in the effort to save the skatepark.

“I grew up skating here for almost thirty years. (I’m a) Tampa native, so it means a lot to me and the history of Tampa and skateboarding in Tampa,” Bruffett said. “I wanted this to be acknowledged just as much as the rest of Central Avenue’s history, since it played a role in it.”

The skatepark was developed for beginning and advanced skateboarders alike to have a safe place to skate.

Organizations like Boards for Bros support skateboarding in the community and help people who are not able to purchase a board.

“We target unserviced youth and we make sure they can have whatever they need to have to skateboard,” Michelle Box, the executive director for Boards for Bros, said. “So, we supply them with skateboards, experiences at the skatepark of Tampa, lessons, peer mentoring and things like that.”

The skatepark not only attracts people interested in the hobby, but it also gives them the opportunity to express their love for skateboarding.

“Skateboarding has always been a part of this city as long as it’s been around, and hopefully it will (continue for) generations to come,” Bruffett said.

Cheerleading Alumni Back on the Field

University of South Florida alumni cheerleaders were welcomed back on the field during the homecoming football game against University of Connecticut.

“Homecoming’s really fun,” said Sandy Clarke, the USF All-Girl Cheerleading head coach. “It’s that time of year where everybody kind of comes back.”

As alumni, the former cheerleaders had the opportunity to come back to Raymond James Stadium and cheer among the current USF cheerleaders during the pregame show.

“I definitely miss being on the field though and it was cool getting to be on the field for just pregame,” said Sara Blaylock, former USF cheerleading captain.

Being back on the field wasn’t the only upside to homecoming, however. Some of the alumni cheerleaders were seeing each other for the first time in years. Head coach Clarke remembers how special the reunions were when she was on the team.

“I remember when I was on the team looking at the alumni that would come back to practices and thinking, ‘oh that’s so cool, they’re so genuinely excited to see their old teammates,’” said Clarke.

Blaylock describes the relationships made while on the USF cheerleading team as unforgettable. In fact, Clarke, Blaylock, and Jessica White, another USF cheerleading alumna, said that the friendships were some of their favorite things about being a USF cheerleader.

“They’re just lifelong friendships,” said Clarke. “It’s very fun.”

Clarke mentioned growth as being another one of her favorite things about the program. Since becoming a part of the program in 2002, Clarke has seen it evolve over the years. Blaylock even noticed growth in her four years on the team.

“I think it’s just growing into something really good,” said Blaylock.

The USF football team ended homecoming week with a 42-27 win over UConn. The Bulls will travel to Philadelphia next weekend to face Temple for their fourth conference game.

‘War on I-4’ Gets Official

The USF vs. UCF rivalry game has a new factor. A trophy to be specific. A 4 foot, 160 pound monster of a trophy.

After seven games in the series, three in conference, both schools formally established The War on I-4, a football rivalry as well as a general athletic rivalry that spans all sports that USF and UCF play against each other.

“I think it means a lot (for the rivalry),” said Adam Schemm, the assistant athletic director for marketing. “We don’t necessarily have the biggest rivalry yet, but we think we have a pretty cool and big trophy that can really get the fan bases and the student athletes and the students on campus excited for a great rivalry game every year.”

Junior Matt Neuhausen agreed.

“I think it’s great that we have a trophy now to play for because we see a lot of the big rivalries have trophies that they play for,” Neuhausen said. “So now we have something to kind of highlight our rivalry with UCF.”

The trophy is made of two parts: the base, which will have engraved plates for every game; and the road sign, which extends out of the top of the base, and is easily removed for parading around a football stadium.

The new trophy will be contested for the first time this Saturday at noon at Raymond James Stadium. The winner drives the trophy out on a semi.

 

Explore Tampa’s waterways with Riverwalk Boating Company

 

Jason Olewinski has lived in Tampa for nearly thirty years. A few years ago, he wanted to explore Tampa’s waterways, and what originated as a personal motorized kayak quickly became Jason’s reality and an affordable opportunity for both tourists and locals to enjoy Tampa’s canals.

“For the past few years our entertainment options have been limited,” Olewinski said. “So I went ahead and just bought a few and threw them down here and so far people have been loving it.”

Along the Tampa Riverwalk, next to the Convention Center, you will spot 6 green mini- powerboats floating in the water. Established in 2014, the Riverwalk Boating Company provides a thrill and unique water experience for all. Whether you have prior boating experience or not, you can be the captain of your own two- person mini- powerboat, minus the hassle of maintenance and repairs of owning a boat.

The mini boat can take you through the Tampa waterways. The winding Hillsborough River will take you north around the city and south along Bayshore to Davis Island.

Chris and Chantal are vacationing for the week and just happened to walk by the boats while exploring the city. The two decided to take out a boat for the afternoon and travel along Bayshore Boulevard.

“I loved it! It was so much fun. They go decently fast,” Chantal said. “The waves… that was fun, feeling it go all crazy for a second.”

Riverwalk Boating Company is open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. until sundown. It is an enjoyable option for anyone 18 years or older with a driver’s license and a credit card, and dogs are also welcome onboard. The prices start at $35 for 30 minutes or $50 for one hour, and there are special rates if you rent out more than one boat.

To reserve your boat, visit riverwalkboating.com.

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Wimauma Woman Offers Affordable, Comfortable Way to Get in Shape

 

After losing nearly fifty pounds, Rosie Velasquez is giving back to the community of Wimauma by hosting Rosie’s Boot Camp. The women-only boot camp helps females of all ages come together in a judgement-free environment for a common goal: to get in shape.

“Most of these women, they don’t go to the gym,” Rosie Velasquez said.  “They rather do a workout here in my boot camp because they’re, you know, shy to go to the gym.”

The women in her boot camp echo Rosie’s sentiment about favoring group fitness rather than the typical gym experience. Janet Huerta says that in addition to the group fitness environment she also likes the support she receives at the boot camp.

“I like the whole group fitness camp,” Huerta said. “I used to go to the gym but the whole group and the motivation that I get here is better than the gym for me.”

Velasquez also offers additional services for women who prefer one-on-one sessions.

“Well, I have some people…that are more shy,” said Rosie. “They don’t like to work out in front of people so they like to do…personal training.”

Rosie’s Boot Camp is offered Monday and Wednesday for five dollars.

International Players Represent More Than Just USF

The University of South Florida soccer defenders Estefania Fuentes and Grace Adams are not your typical college athletes, because both play soccer for their countries national soccer team.

Fuentes plays for Mexico’s and Adams represents Ghana’s national soccer team.

“In the national team you are representing a whole country, like everybody is paying attention to you and you need to be focused and know you can have fun, but with responsibility, because it’s not only you or your university,”  Fuentes said. “It’s millions of people on your back.”

Coming from opposite sides of the world, both players are strengthened by their strong religious beliefs, which they believe is the key to their success. Adams says she always prays.

“I talk to my God communicate with him to give me the strength and remind me off everything that I learned in the field that my coaches taught us,” Adams said. “That is what I always do all the time.”

While both athletes continue to have a successful season, they also face challenges within the team.

“The language is a huge difference here at USF,” Fuentes said. “The language comes slower than Spanish so I have to be more focused.”

The language barrier does not intimidate either player. Both defenders strive for a victorious season finale at USF.