Bulls Celebrate Redefining Season at Banquet
TAMPA, APRIL 10, 2017 – University of South Florida women’s basketball program held its annual end of the year banquet on Sunday afternoon at the Columbia Restaurant to celebrate the redefining 2016-17 season. The event was highlighted by team awards and a dinner with the Bulls’ biggest fans and supporters.
Head coach Jose Fernandez and his staff distributed 10 individual awards and team plaques to every player. Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women’s Administrator Jocelyn Fisher opened the programing with high praise of the team.
“Something I love most about the team is that they truly live the vision of USF Athletics,” said Fisher. “They excel in the three C’s: Classroom, Community, Competition. Our women’s basketball team consistently graduates at 100% each year, and this group has logged close to 200 community service hours with only 15 women on the roster, all while competing at the highest level, including the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.”
Throughout the presentation of awards, Fernandez and his staff praised the entire team, but a handful of players were recognized for their extraordinary efforts. Assistant Director for Academics, Ashley Grigsby, opened the awards portion of the evening with the Academic Achievement Award. Sophomore Kitija Laksa won the award after a 4.0 GPA during the Fall Semester.
Bryce Karasiak, the Bulls’ Strength and Conditioning coach, awarded Maria Jespersen with the very first Weight Room Warrior award.
“Less than a week after the end of the 2016-17 season, and the loss to Mizzou, Maria was the first person to contact me to get started training for this off season,” said Karasiak. “As a coach, I couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to coach Maria one more season, and I’m excited to see what achievements this group of young ladies will bring this offseason.”
Jespersen, as the team’s leading rebounder, was also recognized as the Queen of the Boards. Jespersen ended the season with 297 rebounds and averaged 9.0 rebounds per game. The American Athletic Conference Most Improved Player of the Year was also the Bulls’ Most Improved Athlete. Joining her as the Most Improved Player was Laia Flores. The pair drastically increased their minutes from one season ago, but turned into crucial pieces to USF’s success this season.
“Maria was named the league’s most improved, but when looking at the at the growth of Maria and Laia, it was hard to determine who added more to this team,” added Fernandez.
Jespersen improved her scoring output by 9.3 points, rebounding by 4.6 and assists by 1.0 per game while Flores improved by 6.9 points, 3.8 assists, 3.0 rebounds per game.
Flores averaged 36.8 minutes per game and set the new single season assist record with 200 assists this year. The junior also turned in 17 assists against FIU, a new USF program record as well as the most assists recorded in a single game in Division I this year. Flores garnered the Miss Dish award.
The Newcomer of the Year was no surprise with Tamara Henshaw taking home the honor while Laksa, the team’s leading scorer, was named the Sharp Shooter for this season.
Laksa, a WBCA All-America Honorable Mention was named the John and Cynthia Ruzic Offensive MVP while senior Ariadna Pujol was named the Ruzic Defensive MVP.
Freshman Enna Pehadzic missed her first season with USF after a knee injury during the preseason. While she never stepped foot on the court, Pehadzic was always pushing her teammates to be better. Her attitude and relentless pursuit to come back stronger is what made her the perfect recipient of the Shannon Edens Golden Bull Award.
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USF has notched its fifth consecutive 20-win season. The Bulls tallied its 20th win in their 24th contest of the season which tied the fastest any program has reached 20 wins. This is the eighth 20-win season in program history and head coach Jose Fernandez has been at the helm for all eight 20-win seasons. The 2014-15 team reached 20 wins in 24 games, and still currently holds the best record for most wins in a season (27).
USF has made 13 postseason tournament appearances and had five NCAA Tournament berths in Head Coach Jose Fernandez’s 17 seasons. The all-time winningest coach in program history, Fernandez has guided USF to eight 20-win seasons, two WNIT final four appearances, the 2009 WNIT championship and won more than 300 games.
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