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March 5, 2012

Tennessee basketball painted Interstate 40 orange and white this weekend, winning on both ends of the Knoxville-Nashville corridor to highlight the UT athletics recap.

The Lady Vols captured their third straight SEC Tournament championship Sunday in Nashville, defeating LSU 70-58 in front of a partisan crowd of 12,441. Glory Johnson earned tournament MVP honors after posting double-doubles the last two games and finishing with 58 points and 30 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Vols defeated Vanderbilt 68-61 Saturday and continued their improbable climb up the SEC standings in front of a Thompson-Boling Arena sellout of 22,172. Tennessee lands as the No. 2 seed heading into this week's conference tournament in New Orleans.

UT and first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin were picked 11th in the preseason poll by SEC media members.

Baseball dropped two of three at the Houston Classic, but the win was a 5-4 surprise over No. 16 Texas. In that Saturday gem, the Vols exploded for four runs in the opening frame and held on behind the combined pitching of Zack Godley and Nick Williams.

Softball swept all four games at the Tennessee Classic in the team's final tune-up before conference play begins. Pitcher Ivy Renfroe sparkled again with her fourth career no-hitter in Sunday's opener against Murray State.

The UT tennis teams split their opening SEC weekends by rebounding with a pair of Sunday wins over South Carolina. The men and women netters had begun conference play with Friday losses to Florida, but the Lady Vols rallied for a 4-3 home win over the Gamecocks while the Vols captured a 5-2 road decision.

Women's golf opened its spring schedule with a tie for ninth place against a terrific field at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate hosted by South Carolina. Kaitlyn Rohrback was Tennessee's best individual finisher, tying for 14th.

And members of the men's and women's track and field teams spent the weekend at the Virginia Tech Final Qualifier. Those squads are headed to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships this weekend in Nampa, Idaho.

Women's Basketball (1st at the SEC Tournament)
Lady Vols 68, Vanderbilt 57
NASHVILLE - No. 2-seeded Tennessee outlasted a feisty No. 7 seed Vanderbilt team to advance to the SEC Tournament Semifinals with a 68-57 victory at Bridgestone Arena on a stormy Friday evening.

In a game that saw an extended halftime due to tornadoes in the Nashville area, the Lady Vols rode the senior combination of Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen to the hard-fought victory. Stricklen scored 18 points, all in the second half, to go with seven rebounds, and Johnson added 15 points and nine rebounds.

The pair combined to score the final 25 points for the Lady Vols, who improved to 22-8. No other Lady Vols player scored for the final 11:04 of the contest.

Tennessee has won 19 consecutive second-round games in the SEC Tournament.

Lady Vols 74, South Carolina 58
NASHVILLE - For the second game in a row, seniors Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen dominated in the second half to lead Tennessee to an SEC Tournament victory. This time, the No. 2 seeded Lady Vols posted a 74-58 victory over No. 6 seed South Carolina at Bridgestone Arena.

A day after combining for 29 points and 10 rebounds in the second half, Johnson and Stricklen combined for 39 points and 15 rebounds in the win over South Carolina.

Johnson led all UT scorers with 23 points, with 18 coming in the second half. She also grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double. Stricklen scored all of her 16 points in the second half -- the second game in a row she did that, as she had all 18 of her points in the second half of Friday's Quarterfinal win over Vanderbilt.

Lady Vols 70, LSU 58
NASHVILLE - Tennessee won its 16th SEC Championship and third in a row with a 70-58 victory over LSU on Sunday night at Bridgestone Arena before 12,441. For the third SEC Tournament game in a row the senior combination of Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen was the difference. On Sunday, they were joined by fellow senior Vicki Baugh in the scoring column as all three tallied double-figures.

The Lady Vols (24-8) await their NCAA Tournament seed next Monday, March 12, at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Tournament MVP Johnson tallied 20 and grabbed 10 rebounds for her 35th-career double-double -- tying for third-most in a career at Tennessee. Stricklen had 16 points (14 in the second half) while Baugh added 10.

Both Johnson and Stricklen were named to the SEC All-Tournament Team.

Next: TBA at NCAA Tournament (selections announced March 12) // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Basketball (1-0 for the weekend)
Vols 68, Vanderbilt 61
Tennessee senior Cameron Tatum picked the right night to take over his team as he scored 18 points to lead the Volunteers in a 68-61 upset victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt in Saturday's regular season finale at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Trae Golden added 17 points, and Jarnell Stokes recorded his second career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 14 rebounds despite having flu-like symptoms. Jeronne Maymon added 12 points for the Vols.

It was an emotional evening as Tatum along with fellow seniors Renaldo Woolridge and Tyler Summitt were honored before the game. Tatum used that emotion to fuel the Vols past the Commodores and secure no worse than a third-place finish in the Southeastern Conference after being picked to finish 11th in the league before the season began.

Next: Friday vs. Mississippi-Auburn winner at SEC Tournament, New Orleans, La., 6:30 p.m. Central (7:30 p.m. Eastern) // FULL SCHEDULE

Baseball (1-2 at the Houston Classic)
Houston 7, Vols 4
HOUSTON - Trailing by six runs entering the ninth inning, Tennessee rallied to score three times and bring the go-ahead run to the plate, but the comeback attempt fell just short as the Volunteers (7-2) dropped their opening game at the Houston College Classic, 7-4, to Houston (5-4) at Minute Maid Park on Friday evening.

"I don't think we came out with a passion to win every pitch," UT Head Coach Dave Serrano said. "We tried again at the end to scrap through it and try to get back into it, and we were one swing away, but it was a little too late. So it's back to the drawing board as a coaching staff. We need to get some things fixed and we'll take part of the responsibility, and I think the players need to take part of the responsibility too.

"You play the game hard, no matter what's going on around you. We will learn. We will learn that is going to be our mentality. If you don't have attitude, you have nothing. I don't care if teams are more talented, we are not ever going to get out-attituded on the field."

Trailing 7-1 entering the ninth, senior Zach Osborne drilled a leadoff double off the scoreboard on the wall in left. After a pair of singles and a fielder's choice loaded the bases, freshman Jared Allen brought in UT's second run of the night with an RBI groundout.

Vols 5, Texas 4
HOUSTON - Tennessee put four runs on the board in the first inning, Zack Godley threw a career-high seven strong innings and the Volunteers held off a late Texas rally to defeat the No. 16 Longhorns 5-4 Saturday afternoon at Minute Maid Park as part of the Houston College Classic.

"In this atmosphere, I can say any cliché I want, but that was a big win for our team right there," Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano said. "I mean, the confidence -- I'm grateful that we're able to be in this tournament because it kind of prepares our team for what we're about to go into in a couple weeks with the SEC competition we have. That was a big win. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. We try to say it's just another game, it wasn't just another game. We played the University of Texas and we were able to come out on top.

"Even more than the win of this game, I'm proud of this team for how it responded to last night. It wasn't a good feeling last night in that clubhouse, wasn't a good feeling as I went back to the hotel room, but they responded. That's the one thing I can say about this group is that they've responded every time that we've challenged them or they've done something that they've had to overcome themselves."

Tennessee improved to 8-2 on the season with its first win over a ranked team since it swept a doubleheader against then No. 15 Vanderbilt on April 25, 2010, in Knoxville. Texas falls to 4-6 with the loss.

Rice 11, Vols 1
HOUSTON - No. 4 Rice turned the tables on Tennessee, scoring four runs in the first two innings en route to an 11-1 victory in the Sunday night finale of the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park. The Volunteers had outscored their opponents 21-2 in the first two innings entering the contest.

Rice starter Jordan Stephens and two relievers held the Vols to a season-low tying five hits, all singles. Stephens picked up his first collegiate victory with seven shutout innings, striking out eight UT batters.

Junior Steve Weaver recorded two of the Vols' five hits and freshman Will Maddox drove in the team's only run with a hot-shot RBI single to short in the bottom of the eighth.

Next: Wednesday vs. Ball State, 6 p.m.; Friday-Sunday vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 6 p.m., 4 p.m. and 2 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Softball (4-0 at the Tennessee Classic)
Lady Vols 7, Memphis 0
Big Orange freshman catcher Hannah Akamine's first-career home run, a six-run Lady Vols fourth inning and a one-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts by sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe highlighted a commanding 7-0 victory for No. 8 Tennessee softball over Memphis on Saturday in the Tennessee Classic at Lee Softball Stadium.

Akamine was 1-for-3 at the plate with her two-run shot, junior left fielder Melissa Brown was 1-for-3 while blasting her second HR of the season, sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman was 2-for-4 with a two-RBI double and both junior Lauren Gibson (1-for-3, RBI) and senior right fielder Shelby Burchell (1-for-2, RBI) each recorded a RBI two-bagger.

Ellen Renfroe was truly outstanding in the circle for the Lady Vols (11-3), carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning before settling for a one-hit blanking. The solo shutout proved to be her seventh of the campaign, while the 13 strikeouts marked the fifth time the Jackson hurler had reached the 10-K plateau in 2012.

Lady Vols 8, East Tennessee State 0 (6 inn.)
On a chilly Saturday night in Tennessee Classic action at the Lee Softball Stadium, senior right fielder Shelby Burchell equaled a UT school record with three doubles and junior right fielder Melissa Brown went 2-for-4 with three RBIs to back a one-hit shutout from junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe as the No. 8 Tennessee Lady Vols softball team rolled past ETSU 8-0 in 6 innings.

Burchell's (3-for-3, RBI) trio of doubles tied a Big Orange (12-3) game record most recently equaled back on March 6, 2002, by Adrianna Wilson during a victory over Tennessee State. The Columbia native Burchell hit .800 (4-for-5) with four doubles and a pair of RBIs during Saturday's wins over Memphis and ETSU.

A Valencia, Calif., product, Brown also helped lead a 12-hit offensive assault with the 2-for-4 effort and a team-best three RBIs. Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was 2-for-4 with a pair of steals, while junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (0-1, RBI), freshman catcher Hannah Akamine (1-for-2, RBI), junior Whitney Hammond (1-for-1, RBI) and senior Holly Baker (1-for-1, triple, RBI) were each credited with an RBI.

In the circle Ivy Renfroe (3-3) was as dominant as her sister Ellen was during the day's opening triumph over Memphis, firing a one-hit shutout with seven strikeouts.

Lady Vols 8, Murray State 0 (5 inn.)
On a blustery and cold Sunday afternoon in Tennessee Classic action at the Lee Softball Stadium, junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe tossed her fourth career no-hitter as the No. 8 Tennessee Lady Vols softball team (13-3) rolled past Murray State 8-0 in 5 innings.

The Jackson native struck out seven and walked just one over her five innings of effort in improving to 4-3 overall. The 6-0 right-hander has now gone 15 consecutive frames without allowing a run, dating back to UT's loss to Winthrop on Feb. 24, in Clearwater, Fla.

At the plate, senior right fielder Shelby Burchell continued her torrid weekend hitting pace, putting up a perfect 2-for-2 effort with a walk and a pair of RBIs to improve her Tennessee Classic average to a staggering .857 (6-for-7). Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne posted a 2-for-3 effort with a run scored, sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and her 17th RBI of the season and junior first baseman Melissa Brown was 1-for-3 with a pair of runs and a RBI. Freshman catcher Hannah Akamine (0-for-1) and sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin (0-for-2) were each credited with an RBI in the run-rule triumph.

Lady Vols 6, Middle Tennessee 3
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The No. 8 Tennessee Lady Vols softball team wr,apped up its perfect weekend at the Tennessee Classic on Sunday night by holding off a tough challenge from in-state foe Middle Tennessee in registering a 6-3 triumph.

During the weekend the Big Orange (14-3) outscored its four opponents by a 29-3 total, out-hit them by a .340-.116 clip and its pitching staff recorded a miniscule 0.56 ERA with 35 strikeouts over 25.0 innings.

Against the Blue Raiders, junior third baseman Raven Chavanne helped guide the offense from her lead-off position by going 2-for-4 at the dish with her first triple of 2012 and a pair of RBIs. Junior designated player Kat Dotson knocked in a pair of tallies as part of a 1-for-2 effort, while sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman was 1-for-3 with a RBI double.

Next: Friday-Sunday vs. Florida, 6 p.m., 2 p.m., Noon // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Tennis (1-1 for the weekend)
Florida 7, Lady Vols 0
Facing 15th-ranked Florida, which returned its entire roster from its 2011 national championship squad, the No. 5 Tennessee Lady Vols tennis team lost for just the second time in its last 11 matches, 7-0 Friday at the Goodfriend Tennis Center in the SEC opener for both teams.

"(The match) did not work out to well for us today," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "They are a better team. They have more experienced players and our freshmen did not handle it well and got out-competed in a bunch of spots. It is a learning experience when you get to play a great team like Florida. We have a laundry list of stuff we can work on and get better from, so there is a positive there."

The Lady Vols (9-4) couldn't overcome playing without senior Natalie Pluskota in singles and going against a Florida (7-1) singles lineup that features five players ranked in the top 50.

"Florida should be the No. 2 team in the country right now," Patrick said. "Stanford should be No. 1 and Florida should be No. 2. Florida and Stanford did not play in the ITA indoors so that moved their rankings a little bit."

Lady Vols 4, South Carolina 3
The Tennessee Lady Vols tennis team used a third-set tiebreaker victory from 37th-ranked Kata Szekely and a straight-set clincher from Caitlyn Williams to overcome a 3-2 deficit and defeat South Carolina 4-3 Sunday at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.

It marked the fourth time in as many UT wins that Williams has provided the clinching point, but was the first in which it came down to her court.

"Any time you have a freshman be able to clinch a match it definitely shows the maturity and the toughness they have," co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said. "This was a great team effort and I am very proud of them."

Tennessee (10-4, 1-1 SEC) jumped out to a 2-0 lead via the doubles point and a dominating 6-1, 6-1 victory from 35th-ranked Brynn Boren before South Carolina (7-3, 0-2 SEC) stormed back by using experience to its advantage on the bottom three courts in rapid succession, giving the Gamecocks their lone advantage Sunday.

Next: Friday at Mississippi, 3 p.m. Central (4 p.m. Eastern); Sunday at Mississippi State, 1 p.m. Central (2 p.m. Eastern) // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Tennis (1-1 for the weekend)
Florida 4, Vols 3
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Tennessee Volunteers lost to 10th-ranked Florida 4-3 to open Southeastern Conference play Friday evening at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex.

Despite freshmen Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese earning their first career top-10 win in doubles on court 1, Florida took the doubles point and got what they needed from there. Florida won a trio of straight set victories on the even-numbered court with Tripper Carleton clinching the match at 4-1 by beating Brandon Fickey 6-0, 6-4 on court 2.

Libietis, Reese and junior Edward Jones provided Tennessee (7-7, 0-1 SEC) with the Vols' three points.

Vols 5, South Carolina 2
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The Tennessee Volunteers braved the windy elements Sunday to earn their first conference win of the year on the road against South Carolina.

Sophomore Jarryd Chaplin clinched the match on court 4 with a three-set victory as the Vols went on to defeat 22nd-ranked South Carolina 5-2 at the Columbia Tennis Courts.

Tennessee (8-7, 1-1 SEC) rebounded from its 4-3 loss to Florida on Friday by starting out of the gates quickly. The Vols took the doubles point and split three of the first six sets with the Gamecocks (10-3).

Redshirt freshman Hunter Reese and junior Edward Jones both won their second singles matches of the weekend to set up Chaplin's opportunity to end the match 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 against Chip Cox in the cold, swirling winds that drove balls in and out of play at will in South Carolina's new facility.

Next: Friday vs. Mississippi, 1 p.m.; Sunday vs. Mississippi State, 1 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Golf (9th at Darius Rucker Intercollegiate)
Darius Rucker Intercollegiate (Day 1)
The Tennessee golf team fired a 305 (+21) on the opening day of competition at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate hosted by the University of South Carolina.

Friday kicked off the spring season for the Orange and White as UT is slated to compete in four spring tournaments before postseason competition begins. Getting back on the course after the winter recess, UT struggled to find birdies. The five-woman group tallied six holes of par or better out of 90 holes played in round one. A day characterized by bogies, the Big Orange recorded 28 one-overs.

"We were very shaky and nervous this morning," head coach Judi Pavón said. "I am not surprised that we didn't play great, but I am a little surprised that we played so poorly."

Sophomore Kaitlyn Rohrback paced the Lady Vols through the first 18, recording a three-over 74 to lead Tennessee. She recorded a birdie and shot par on 13 holes; the effort was good for a tied-for-16th showing.

"I hit it really well, just a few three-putts held me back from a really good round," Rohrback said of her individual game.

Darius Rucker Intercollegiate (Day 2)
Sophomore Kaitlyn Rohrback again anchored the 14th-ranked Tennessee women's golf team during the second and final round of the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, as the squad tied for ninth Sunday at the conclusion of the rain-shortened event.

Originally slated for three rounds, the inaugural event hosted by the University of South Carolina at the Long Cove Club in Hilton Head Island, S.C., was abbreviated to a 36-hole championship after weather halted play Saturday.

"We were in pretty good shape today," head coach Judi Pavon said, "At one point only a few shots from third. We need to get some work done in the next couple days because we have to get better. For the most part everyone played better than they scored."

The Big Orange totaled 305-303--608 (+40) over the three-day, two-round championship, with no team finishing the competition under par.

Next: Friday-Sunday at LSU Classic, Baton Rouge, La. // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Indoor Track and Field (Virginia Tech Final Qualifier)
Virginia Tech Final Qualifier
Tennessee track & field athletes put themselves into position for NCAA Indoor Championship meet berths Saturday, competing in the Virginia Tech Final Qualifier last chance meet at Rector Field House in Blacksburg, Va.

Lady Vols senior Ellen Wortham, already an NCAA qualifier with Tennessee's distance medley relay team, appears to have punched her ticket to the national meet in the 400 meters as well. Previously the owner of a 53.49 clocking that ranked her 19th in the NCAA, she rolled to a career-best and victorious performance of 52.99 seconds on Saturday to ascend to No. 8 on the 2012 qualifying list. She ran that time despite winning her heat by more than two seconds and finished nearly a second-and-a-half ahead of the event's runner-up.

Wortham's mark elevated her to the No. 3 all-time indoor 400m runner in UT history behind world-class runners DeeDee Trotter (U.S.) and Patricia Hall (Jamaica), who had bests of 51.29 and 51.96 during their Lady Vol careers. Wortham, a product of Maryville High School, had begun the season ranked 14th all-time at UT at 55.04 in the indoor 400 meters.

Wortham also finished second at the meet in the women's long jump at 19-9¾, a mark she achieved on her fourth attempt before fouling her final two tries. She had entered the competition ranked 21st nationally at 20-5, so unless a few women ahead of her opt not to compete in the long jump at the NCAA meet, she will not qualify in that event.

Next: March 9-10 at NCAA Indoor Championships, Nampa, Idaho // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Indoor Track and Field (Virginia Tech Final Qualifier)
Virginia Tech Final Qualifier
Tennessee track & field athletes put themselves into position for NCAA Indoor Championship meet berths Saturday, competing in the Virginia Tech Final Qualifier last chance meet at Rector Field House in Blacksburg, Va.

Sophomore Chase Brannon improved his stock in the men's pole vault. He came into the meet ranked 21st nationally with a best mark of 17 feet, 3¾ inches and moved into contention for a national berth with a runner-up showing and new personal record of 17-8¼ at Va. Tech. That mark boosted him to No. 13 nationally, and the NCAA took 17 vaulters to last year's indoor meet. The clearance also moved the second-year vaulter to No. 9 on UT's all-time indoor performers list in that event.

Also seeking improved pole vault performances were senior Robert Rasnick and sophomore Tyler Porter. Standing 30th at 17-3¾ to begin the day, Rasnick wound up seventh this afternoon at 17-2¼. Porter (48th, 17-0¼) also was unable to improve, clearing 16-2½ and placing 13th.

Vol freshman Jamol James was unable to take advantage of the last chance opportunity to qualify. Running in the 60m dash preliminary round, he felt a twinge in his left leg and did not finish the race. He stood 37th in the nation with a top time of 6.72 before the day began, so his climb to the national meet would have been steep in any case.

Next: March 9-10 at NCAA Indoor Championships, Nampa, Idaho // FULL SCHEDULE

Upcoming This Week in Other UT Sports
Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving at NCAA Zone B Diving Championships, Auburn, Ala., Monday-Wednesday
Men's Golf at Gen. Hackler Championship, Murrells Inlet, S.C., Sunday-Monday (March 11-12)
 
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