TAMPA (FOX 13) - The postseason drought is over. The Bulls killed it. After 16 years, they are back.
In her 7th season as USF's volleyball coach, Courtney Draper's squad will face Georgia Tech Thursday in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. It's the Bulls first postseason berth since 2002.
"It's just really special," said Draper. "There's really not words for it. One of the best parts is that it's such an enjoyable group. I just kept saying two or three weeks ago, I was saying, we're just having so much fun, I don't want it to end! Let's just keep it going, you know?"
32 teams, including USF, will play in the single-elimination tournament. After Friday, just eight will remain.
Now that they're back in the postseason, the foundation has been set for seasons to come.
"As you look in our gym, the last time we were at the NIVC was 1994, and then in 1995, 1996, 1997 and in 1998 we started going to the NCAA Tournament," said Draper. "We look at this as a springboard to get to the NCAA Tournament because obviously, that is the ultimate goal."
"Yeah, I think now with the freshmen coming in, we have one coming in the summer, we can say, 'We're working towards this goal now. We've gotten our first steps, let's reach the NCAA Tournament,'" said junior outside hitter Jac'cara Walker.
20 wins this season was a goal the Bulls have already checked off their to-do list. It's something that hasn't been done since one of the greats -- former USF player Michelle Collier -- played back in 2002. Coincidentally, she'll be on the other sideline Thursday. The two-time Conference USA Player of the Year is now Georgia Tech's head coach.
"Now that we've accomplished our goal for 20 wins, it makes it so much more important to accomplish this goal," said sophomore middle blocker Jaeden Brown of the team's postseason berth. "You know, we're in the NIVC tournament, might as well win it."