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Feb. 19, 2012

Tennessee hosted a first-class SEC Swimming and Diving Championships, and the host schools took advantage to post a pair of top-four finishes that highlighted the Big Orange athletics weekend.

The Allan Jones Aquatic Center drew rave reviews all weekend from competitors and coaches alike while serving as first-time host for the SEC's premier meet. Times were fast and the crowds saw athletes who will be making their mark not only on the upcoming NCAA Championships but also this summer's Olympic Games in London.

Head coach Matt Kredich was named the league's swimming coach of the year on the women's side after his Lady Vols finished second for their best conference showing since 1990. Tennessee won seven events, placed second five times and tallied six third-place finishes. Senior Jenny Connolly led the way with 53½ points scored.

Dave Parrington was selected the SEC's diving coach of the year after Tennessee won four of the six total diving events on both the men's and women's side. Ryan Helms swept the men's springboard competitions, while Mauricio Robles and Victoria Lamp captured the platform events. Helms and Lamp were named divers of the year, and Robles earned freshman diver of the year accolades.

The Vols finished a solid fourth as a team under interim head coach Lars Jorgensen.

Baseball debuted under new head coach Dave Serrano with a sweep of visiting Northern Illinois. Friday afternoon's crowd of 2,812 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium was an opening-day record. The Vols got 12 shutout innings from their starting pitchers and scored 24 runs in the three games.

Softball was one strike away from winning twice in Austin, Texas, over the weekend when the host Longhorns struck for a two-run, inside-the-parker and a 3-2 shocker. Seventh-ranked Tennessee defeated Illinois on Friday and was rained out of a Saturday game against Pittsburgh.

In basketball, the Lady Vols won Sunday at Mississippi to grab a half-game lead over Kentucky for first place in the standings. Tennessee hosts Arkansas and Florida this week to close out the regular season. The Vols lost Saturday at Alabama and are in a four-way tie for fourth place with two weeks remaining.

In tennis, the 10th-ranked Lady Vols swept road matches at Indiana and Ohio State to improve to 8-3. Meanwhile, the youthful men's squad dropped matches over the weekend to the Los Angeles-area trio of Southern California, UCLA and Pepperdine at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Virginia.

Women's Swimming and Diving (2nd at SEC Championships)
SEC Championships (Day 3)
Finishing first in three events was exciting last season for the Tennessee Lady Vols swimming & diving team in on day three of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championships. However, the squad bettered that feat Friday by winning four of the six events on the third day of the 2012 league championships held at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.

"I'm incredibly proud of this team," Lady Vols head coach Matt Kredich said. "I'm not just extremely proud of them for this meet, but the entire season. I've told them that I've been a little bit hard on them but this is actually what we expected. This is the kind of competitors and team that they have shown themselves to be."

History repeated itself for Jenny Connolly, as she defended all three of her SEC gold medals that she won a season ago in Gainesville, Fla., in identical fashion. The West Lafayette, Ind., native notched first in the 100y fly, 100y back and swam the lead leg of the 400y medley relay.

SEC Championships (Day 4)
The Tennessee Lady Vols swimming & diving team won't soon forget the 2012 SEC Championships, as the squad put on its best showing in more than 20 years to claim second at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.

The Big Orange finished the four-day league meet with a tally of 629.5 points, behind only the Lady Bulldogs of Georgia, who accumulated a score of 721. The last time Tennessee placed as high as second and scored as many points came in 1990, when the team registered a score of 722.0 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"Last night was such a high for our team and we came back this morning and weren't very tough," Lady Vols head coach Matt Kredich said. "At the end of the morning session I challenged our team to come back to who they really are and tonight they were phenomenal. It was a great series of performances."

Over the course of the four-day meet, the Lady Vols won seven events, placed runner-up on five occasions and tallied six third-place finishes. Senior Jenny Connolly scored the third most points of any women's swimmer at the meet, accounting for 53.5 points.

Next: Feb. 24-25 at Last Chance Meet, Jones Aquatic Center // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Swimming and Diving (4th at SEC Championships)
SEC Championships (Day 3)
The Tennessee Volunteers collected five medals Friday at the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships and made a little history along the way at Allan Jones Aquatic Center.

Sophomore Samuel Rairden reached two finals in individual events to lead the Vols in the pool, while freshman Mauricio Robles completed the first-ever Tennessee sweep of the diving gold medals at SECs, capturing the platform title with a career-best score.

With one day left in competition, the Vols are in third place in the team standings with 363 points, just one ahead of Georgia. Auburn is first with 535 and Florida is second with 515.

Rairden led the way as the Vols produced a 2-3 finish in the 100-yard backstroke in the evening finals. He recorded a career-best and NCAA B-cut time of 46.68 seconds to finish second, and senior teammate Ricky Henahan took bronze in 47.17 seconds, a season best.

SEC Championships (Day 4)
The Tennessee men did not dive on Saturday at the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships, but they took home the three major awards to close the meet.

Senior Ryan Helms was voted SEC Diver of the Year after winning two events, platform champion Mauricio Robles was named SEC Freshman Diver of the Year and Dave Parrington received SEC Diving Coach of the Year honors as the Vols finished fourth in the conference championships at Allan Jones Aquatic Center.

The Vols collected 459 points as a team. Auburn won the meet with 730.5 points. Florida was second with 700 and Georgia was third with 521.

The divers enjoyed a historic week at the SEC Championships. Helms won the 3-meter and 1-meter titles on the first two days, then Robles followed up his performance with a victory in the platform to give the Vols gold medals in all three diving events in a year for the first time in program history.

Next: Feb. 24-25 at Last Chance Meet, Jones Aquatic Center // FULL SCHEDULE

Baseball (3-0 for the weekend)
Vols 7, Northern Illinois 1
The Tennessee baseball program opened its 103rd season -- and first under head coach Dave Serrano -- with a 7-1 win over Northern Illinois on Friday evening in front of a UT home-opener record 2,812 fans at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"I've been in a lot of openers as a head coach," Serrano said. "This is my eighth one and my third on at a different program. I was most excited about this one. I just told the players in there, a lot of it had to do with them. They've had to overcome some of their tough times. For how much they've bought in to what we're trying to do here, this was special. This win was special for them. This isn't just about me. This is for them and what we're trying to do each and every day to become a better team."

Senior Chris Pierce had a career-high four RBIs, launching a three-run home run and knocking in another run with an RBI fielder's choice, while freshman Jared Allen contributed an RBI double and three Vol pitchers combined to allow just one run.

Junior Drew Steckenrider picked up the win with four shutout innings to open the contest, and also blasted a home run in the eighth inning to cap the scoring. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native was the only Vol with multiple hits on the night, adding a double high off the wall in the sixth inning as well.

Vols 10, Northern Illinois 5
Junior Chris Fritts pounded out a career-high six RBIs with a bases-loaded double and a three-run home run to lead Tennessee to a series-clinching, 10-5 victory over Northern Illinois in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Fritts' first blow came as part of a six-run UT second inning in which the Vols sent 11 batters to the plate. His second helped fend off a Husky rally after they cut the lead to just one with five unanswered runs in the fifth through seventh frames.

Making his first career start as a Vol, junior Zack Godley twirled four shutout innings to pick up the win, striking out three and allowing just three hits on an ultra-efficient 40 pitches, including 29 strikes.

Vols 7, Northern Illinois 2
Tennessee finished off the series sweep of Northern Illinois with a 7-2 victory in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"I was proud of the way we played," Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano said. "Doubleheaders are hard to sweep. Sweeps are tough to come by, no matter who you are playing. This is our first series, our first weekend of the year and we have a lot to get to. Some stuff came out that we will have to get back to the drawing board and fix, but we still walk away with three wins and are excited about that.

On the mound, junior Nick Blount tallied the victory with four scoreless frames. With his effort, Tennessee's three starters this weekend combined for 12.0 shutout innings. Sophomore Carter Watson also added four strong innings of relief, striking out a career-high four batters while allowing just one run on two hits.

Next: Tuesday vs. Western Kentucky, 3 p.m.; Friday-Sunday vs. Seton Hall, 4 p.m., 1 p.m., 1 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Softball (1-1 for the weekend)
Lady Vols 10, Illinois 7
AUSTIN, Texas - Led by a season-best 12-hit offensive attack, the No. 7 Tennessee Lady Vols softball team fought off a stern challenge from Illinois to win a 10-7 slugfest on a cold and rainy Friday in Time Warner Invitational action at McCombs Field.

UT junior second baseman Lauren Gibson led the way for the Big Orange offense, posting a 3-for-3 effort at the plate with her second career grand slam and five RBIs. The big fly marked the team-best fourth of the campaign for the Pasadena, Md., native over the initial seven contests of the year after blasting a total of eight during her entire sophomore season.

Sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman (2-for-3, RBI) joined Gibson as a part of the first back-to-back HR performance of 2012 with a solo shot during UT's five-tally fourth frame. Sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis (2-for-5, run, steal) and junior third baseman Melissa Brown (2-for-4, run) each posted a pair of hits, while junior designated player Kat Dotson returned to action following an injury by going 1-for-3 with two RBIs.

Texas 3, Lady Vols 2 (9 inn.)
AUSTIN, Texas - With the international tiebreaker in effect and the No. 7 Tennessee Lady Vols softball team clinging to a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday at McCombs Field, No. 13 Texas (8-0) was down to its final strike before getting a shocking two-out, inside-the-park home run off the bat of center fielder Brejae Washington to rally past the Lady Vols, 3-2.

Facing Texas All-American pitcher Blaire Luna, UT managed six hits, led by a 3-for-4, RBI performance from senior catcher Ashley Andrews. Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson was 1-for-2 at the plate and contributed a RBI double in the top of the fifth to grant the Big Orange its initial lead.

Sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe started the contest, working 8.0 innings while allowing 10 hits with one earned run, three walks (two intentional) and six strikeouts. Junior Ivy Renfroe suffered the tough defeat, falling to 1-2 on the season by giving up one run on a hit over two-thirds of a frame of relief.

Next: Friday-Sunday at NFCA Leadoff Classic, Clearwater, Fla. // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Basketball (1-0 for the weekend)
Lady Vols 66, Mississippi 56
OXFORD, Miss. - A well-balanced attack led the No. 10 Lady Vols to their third win in a row and a sweep of games in Mississippi with a 66-56 win at Ole Miss.

Four Lady Vols scored in double-figures led by Glory Johnson, who netted 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Shekinna Stricklen scored 12 points as both she and Johnson made 5-of-9 shots from the floor. Vicki Baugh and Cierra Burdick each tallied 10 off the bench.

The Lady Vols move to 20-7 overall and 11-3 in the SEC. Ole Miss fell to 12-15 overall and 2-12 in the league. Valencia McFarland led the Rebels with 21 points, the only double-figure scorer for Ole Miss.

Tennessee took control of the game midway through the first half and held off the pesky Rebels. Down 15-14 with 9:37 left in the first half, a Stricklen lay-up with 9:10 left in the half and the Lady Vols never trailed again.

Next: Thursday vs. Arkansas, 7 p.m.; Sunday vs. Florida, 3:30 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Basketball (0-1 for the weekend)
Alabama 62, Vols 50
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A pair of big Alabama runs -- one in each half -- lifted the Crimson Tide to a 62-50 win over Tennessee at Coleman Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. The loss ended the Vols' four-game win streak as Tennessee now stands at 14-13 overall and 6-6 in the SEC. Alabama improved to 17-9 overall and moved into a tie with the Vols and LSU for fifth place in the SEC as all stand at 6-6, following Saturday's early action. Mississippi State is in fourth with a mark of 6-5. Tennessee junior Jeronne Maymon led all scorers with 20 points, scoring in double-figures for the eighth game in a row. Sophomore guard Trae Golden added 12 points. Jarnell Stokes had eight points and eight rebounds.

Next: Wednesday vs. Mississippi, 7 p.m.; Saturday at South Carolina, 8 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Tennis (2-0 for the weekend)
Lady Vols 5, Indiana 2
The number that precedes `Tennessee' has gotten lower, but that didn't change the recent trend of results as the Lady Vols played their first match as the 10th-ranked team in the country.

Tennessee (7-3) won for the seventh time in its last eight matches, defeating Indiana 5-2 Friday afternoon at the IU Tennis Center in Bloomington.

"They played very prepared," co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said. "When we've come to IU, it's been a difficult place to play on the road. I thought they were all mentally prepared to come out and compete hard."

Lady Vols 4, Ohio State 3
The 10th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols tennis team tallied the first four points to clinch its eighth win in nine tries, defeating No. 64 Ohio State 4-3 on Sunday afternoon at the Varsity Tennis Center in Columbus.

"They did what they needed to do to win," co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said. "It's been a long couple weeks for us travel-wise. Everyone gave great effort. When you're playing this many matches on the road, sometimes your execution is not where you want it to be. They did what they needed to do and came out on top."

Despite moving up a spot in the lineup for the second consecutive match, Tennessee's (8-3) top half (No. 34 Brynn Boren, No. 37 Kata Szekely and Caitlyn Williams) all won for the second time this weekend to secure the victory over the Buckeyes (3-5).

Next: Saturday at Central Florida, Noon // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Tennis (0-3 for the weekend)
Southern California 4, Vols 0
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Depth and experience tilted the scales early in Southern California's favor Friday when the Tennessee Volunteers opened the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.

The three-time defending NCAA champion Trojans took the doubles point and won the first set on all six courts en route to handing the Vols a 4-0 loss at the Boar's Head Sports Club.

Daniel Nguyen, ranked No. 14 nationally, defeated Hunter Reese 6-1, 6-0 on court 3 as the Trojans took a 2-0 lead. A few minutes later, USC ended the match with No. 36 Yannick Hanfmann beating Edward Jones 6-1, 6-0 on court 5 and No. 86 Roberto Quiroz pulling away in the second set 6-4, 6-1 against Taylor Patrick on court 6 in the deciding match.

UCLA 4, Vols 0
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Facing UCLA for the third time in as many years at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, Tennessee could not get the win this time around.

The Vols lost the doubles point in a tiebreaker and lost a trio of straight-set matches to lose to UCLA 4-0 in consolation at Boar's Head Sports Club.

With the doubles point coming down wire and the Vols (4-5) ahead or on serve on the remaining three courts, the final score did not reflect the closeness of the match.

Pepperdine 4, Vols 2
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The Tennessee Volunteers' bid for their first win against a top-20 opponent began slowing down once the match hit the four-hour mark at Boar's Head Sports Club.

The Vols grabbed a close doubles point and Taylor Patrick won at the bottom of the lineup, but Pepperdine turned the tide by taking four three-setters to beat Tennessee 4-2 in consolation at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.

The match ended Tennessee's 0-3 stay at the national tournament. The Vols are now 4-6.

Next: Friday-Sunday at Blue Gray National Tennis Classic, Montgomery, Ala. // FULL SCHEDULE

Upcoming This Week in Other UT Sports
Men's and Women's Track & Field at SEC Indoor Championships, Lexington, Ky., Friday-Sunday
Men's Golf at John Hayt Collegiate Invitational, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Sunday-Tuesday (Feb. 28)
 
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