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Heath fights to keep fires stoked
Stan Heath prefaced his comments Monday by saying that he would never compare what his team is enduring in a 10-game losing streak with the daily sacrifices military personnel are making to serve our country overseas.
By GREG AUMAN
Published February 13, 2008
TAMPA - Stan Heath prefaced his comments Monday by saying that he would never compare what his team is enduring in a 10-game losing streak with the daily sacrifices military personnel are making to serve our country overseas.
"I mean no disrespect in any way, but every day I wake up and really to me, it's a war against mediocrity, against accepting losses," Heath said. "Every day, it's a battle to make sure our team remains hungry, remains focused and really lays the foundation of what it takes to be a successful basketball program."
Heath went 9-19 his first season at Arkansas, a year that has given him perspective and patience for USF's current 10-14 record. He isn't as hard on himself as he was that season, as frustrating as the Bulls' struggles have been.
"We have battled 90, 85 percent of the teams we've played, toe to toe," Heath said. "We've led in games, we've had the game go down to maybe the six-, seven-, four-minute mark as one- or two-possession games. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot to show for it. The challenge for us right now is to find a way to finish games."
On Monday morning, Heath showed his players footage from Sunday's North Carolina-Clemson game, in which the Tar Heels rallied from a 15-point deficit to win in double overtime. With home dates against Syracuse tonight and Connecticut on Saturday, his Bulls hope to pull off the improbable upset where Clemson couldn't.
"It should inspire you," Heath said. "If we just go talent-for-talent, we're not going to win that game. ... We have to do it other ways, with smarts, effort and teamwork. ... I believe there are games we can win. The reality is we have to get the job done. We haven't done that."
SHORT-HANDED: Softball coach Ken Eriksen opened the season Friday with shutout wins against Illinois and Memphis, despite the suspension of 12 players for violating curfew.
"I was excited to see how they came out and answered the bell," said Eriksen, who had 10 players available for the two games and got 14 scoreless innings from senior Courtney Mosch.
USF 3-2 will have to get used to playing without key contributors, as three veterans will take medical redshirts. Starting pitcher Bree Spence, a Countryside graduate, had surgery on her left (nonthrowing) shoulder, outfielder Carly Griffin of Chamberlain is out with an injury to her left shoulder and first baseman Ashley Bullion of Crystal River will miss the season with a hip injury.
Eriksen will turn to freshmen to help replace the losses, with Capri Catalano entering the starting rotation, Kelly McCarver looking like a starter in leftfield and Kati O'Brian helping at first and in the outfield.
THIS AND THAT: Baseball, in good position to contend for a Big East title, is selling season tickets to Red McEwen Field, with single tickets at $50 and a family pack of two adult and two child tickets for $100. "One hundred dollars for four tickets to 34 games is a great deal; you can't beat that anywhere," coach Lelo Prado said. ... The women's basketball team will try to compete with that deal, offering tickets for Saturday's game with Rutgers for $3, with proceeds going to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for breast cancer awareness. ... Here's a poignant promotion for a team that could use a sudden spark: Saturday's men's basketball game with Connecticut will feature the "Quick Change" halftime act. You can get a preview of the confounding sleight-of-hand on youtube.com.