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March 11, 2012

Team and medalist honors for the Tennessee women's golf squad and a top-10 softball showdown highlighted the Big Orange athletics weekend.

The Lady Vols out-dueled three top-10 foes and won the LSU Tiger Golf Classic by two strokes over the host school for their first victory of the season. Junior Erica Popson led the way by sharing medalist honors for her seventh collegiate first-place trophy.

UT entered the weekend ranked 16th according to Golfstat.com, but that number should improve after the Lady Vols bested fifth-ranked Vanderbilt, seventh-ranked North Carolina and eighth-ranked LSU in a 14-team field. Next up is a trip to Hawaii.

Lady Vols softball lost two of three in a top-10 showdown against Florida. No. 9 UT won the opener 1-0, but couldn't clinch the series after dropping Sunday's finale by the same score to the third-ranked Gators.

Baseball also lost two-of-three to visiting Louisiana Monroe after a Friday night shutout. The Vols won that one 4-0 behind Zack Godley's eight scoreless innings.

Lady Vols tennis bounced back from a Friday loss at Ole Miss to blank Mississippi State 7-0 Sunday in Starkville. On the men's side, Tennessee dropped 5-2 and 4-3 home decisions to the same Mississippi schools.

Men's basketball drew a No. 1 seed for the National Invitation Tournament and could play three home games for the chance to reach the semifinals at New York's Madison Square Garden. The Lady Vols learn their NCAA Tournament destination Monday night on ESPN (8 p.m.).

Men's golf has an uphill climb in Monday's final round of the Gen. Hackler Championship in South Carolina, and both indoor track and field squads are back from the NCAA Championships in Idaho. The Lady Vols finished in a tie for 48th place.

Women's Golf (1st at LSU Tiger Classic)
LSU Tiger Classic (Day 1)
BATON ROUGE, La. - The 15th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol golf team finds itself three shots behind host Louisiana State on the leader board after Friday's first round at the LSU Tiger Golf Classic held at the University Club in Baton Rouge.

The Lady Vols shot a 10-over par 298 on Friday. The fifth-ranked Tigers are in first with a seven-over 295 in the tournament's first round. No. 11 North Carolina rounds out the top three with a first-day showing of 13-over 301.

Junior Sara Monberg fired the team's best round with a one-over 73. The Juelesminde, Denmark, native is tied for seventh in the field and is just three strokes behind the leader in Marina Alex of Vanderbilt. Monberg recorded par on 15 holes, using a birdie along with two bogeys to card her one-over tally on the day.

LSU Tiger Classic (Day 2)
Led by junior Erica Popson's 2-under 70 score, the 14th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols golf team is tied for the lead after Saturday's second round at the LSU Tiger Golf Classic in Baton Rouge, La. The Lady Vols fired a 1-over 289 total on the second day at the University Club -- their lowest round of the spring -- for a two-day total of 587. The Big Orange shares the lead with host and No. 5 LSU (295-292=587). No. 11 North Carolina (301-300=601) and No. 6 Vanderbilt (302-299=601) are tied for third place after Saturday's second round. In her first round under par since returning from surgery, Popson carded four birdies on the back nine in addition to one on the front side en route to her seventh par or better round of the season. She is tied for fourth with Vanderbilt's Marina Alex at 1-over (145).

LSU Tiger Classic (Day 3)
The No. 14 Tennessee Lady Volunteers golf team clinched its first tournament title of the season Sunday, recording a final round 5-over-par 293 to win the LSU Tiger Golf Classic by two strokes at the University Club in Baton Rouge.

Junior All-American Erica Popson tied for the individual title with North Carolina's Catherine O'Donnell as both golfers carded a 2-under score of 214 for 54-holes. Due to team travel constraints, a playoff was not conducted to declare an overall individual champion.

Popson carded scores of 75-70 and a 3-under 69 in the final round to lead the Lady Vols to the top of the leaderboard.

"Today was awesome," Popson said. "My game really felt great the past two days. I made some mistakes but overall I played pretty solid. I really putted well yesterday and today. It feels amazing to get this win after my surgery."

Next: March 26-27 at Maui Anuenue Spring Invitational, Kapalua, Hawaii // FULL SCHEDULE

Softball (1-2 for the weekend)
Lady Vols 1, Florida 0
In front of a sold-out crowd of 1,613 Orange-clad fans on a chilly Friday night at the Lee Softball Stadium, the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols softball team rode a three-hit, season-high 15-strikeout effort from sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe in posting a 1-0 victory over No. 3 Florida during the opener of a three-game league series.

In topping the Gators on Friday night for UT's ninth consecutive victory, Renfroe (7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 15 K's) registered her fifth career win over a team ranked either No. 1, 2 or 3 in the polls and her second such triumph of the 2012 campaign after already shutting out top-ranked and defending national champion Arizona State in Tempe, back on Feb. 11. The Jackson native also reached the 10-strikeout plateau for the sixth time this season, topping her previous high of 14 K's in a 1-0 victory over Texas Tech on Feb. 10.

At the plate senior left fielder Shelby Burchell (1-for-3, run) started the decisive rally by leading off the bottom of the seventh with a base knock. With the Columbia product occupying third with two down, a ball off the bat of UT freshman pinch-hitter Hannah Akamine bounced just over the glove of UF pitcher Hannah Rogers before being dropped on a throw from second baseman Katie Medina to first as Burchell raced home with the winning run.

Florida 5, Lady Vols 2
Tennessee sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman and junior right fielder Kat Dotson each went 2-for-3 at the dish with an RBI but No. 3 Florida managed to even its high-profile series against the No. 9 Lady Vols with a 5-2 Saturday victory in front of a record 1,713 fans at Lee Softball Stadium.

Junior Ivy Renfroe suffered the defeat in the circle, falling to 4-4 on the season after allowing five runs on 11 hits with four walks and a pair of strikeouts during a complete-game effort. The Jackson, Tenn., native also saw her consecutive scoreless innings streak that dated back to Feb. 24th end at 18 straight frames.

UT junior third baseman Raven Chavanne (1-for-4, run), junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-4) and freshman designated player Cheyanne Tarango (1-for-3) each contributed one of Tennessee's seven total hits off UF starter Hannah Rogers.

Florida 1, Lady Vols 0
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in front of another sold-out crowd of 1,713 fans at the Lee Softball Stadium, sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe was again solid in the circle for the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols softball team. But UT's offense left 11 base-runners stranded as the Big Orange dropped a tough 1-0 decision to No. 3 Florida.

Six different Lady Vols (15-5, 1-2 SEC) recorded hits in the contest: junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-3, walk), junior right fielder Kat Dotson (1-for-4), freshman designated player Cheyanne Tarango (1-for-3), senior left fielder Shelby Burchell (1-for-1, two walks), junior first baseman Melissa Brown (1-for-3) and sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis.

Renfroe (11-1) allowed just one run on four total hits over a complete-game effort, walking five and striking out seven while throwing 136 total pitches. The loss marked the first for the Jackson native since last May 22 during NCAA Regional action in Knoxville.

"I'm not into moral victories, bit I'm proud of our kids today," Lady Vols co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "I mean they fought, and that last shot into the gap in the seventh inning by Kat Dotson, if it had been right or left about 10 feet, we'd have probably won. It was that kind of ballgame."

Next: Tuesday vs. Georgia Southern (dh), 4 p.m.; Friday-Sunday at Arkansas, 7 p.m., 1 p.m., 1 p.m. Central (8 p.m., 2 p.m., 2 p.m. Eastern) // FULL SCHEDULE

Baseball (1-2 for the weekend)
Vols 4, Louisiana-Monroe 0
Tennessee junior right-hander Zack Godley turned in a masterful performance on the mound and sophomore Ethan Bennett broke a scoreless tie in the seventh with a mammoth home run as the Volunteers opened their weekend series against UL Monroe with a 4-0 shutout on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

In the first Friday night start of his career, Godley twirled a career-high eight shutout innings, yielding just three hits and striking out a personal best 10 to improve to 3-0 on the season.

The Bamberg, S.C., native threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 30 batters that he faced and allowed just one ULM runner to reach third base as he became the first UT hurler to record 10 punchouts since Steven Gruver did so against Canisius on Feb. 25, 2011.

Louisiana Monroe 8, Vols 6 (10 inn.)
Trailing by three heading to the bottom of the eighth, Tennessee rallied to tie the game and send it to extra innings, but ULM answered with two runs in the 10th to hand the Volunteers an 8-6 loss and even the weekend series on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"This was a tough loss," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "Out of all the losses, this might be the toughest one for me. I'm disappointed. I didn't like the way we ran the bases today. We made too many mistakes there. You have got to tip your hat to [ULM]. I can't take away that we battled. I love these guys for that because they continue to battle. We have to stop getting in our own way, making mistakes, and allowing the other teams to be successful."

Down 6-3 in the eighth, the Big Orange got a leadoff single by Zach Osborne and one-out double by Drew Steckenrider to put two runners in scoring position. Chris Fritts then bounced an 0-1 offering to short that ensured at least one run would score, but the throw skipped past the first baseman allowing Steckenrider to come home as well and cut the UT deficit to just one.

A balk by ULM pitcher Will Browning moved Fritts to third just seconds later and Jared Allen promptly tied the game with a sac fly to deep center.

Following a scoreless ninth, ULM plated two runs in the 10th to regain the lead and fight off the Vols. Joey Rapp drove in his third run of the game with an RBI single back up the middle and UT's first error since last Sunday allowed the second run to score.

Louisiana Monroe 7, Vols 4
For the second consecutive day, Tennessee rallied from an early deficit only to see Louisiana-Monroe answer late as the Warhawks defeated the Volunteers 7-4 Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"Today was about opportunities," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "I'm more disappointed in myself for what I haven't been able to relay to my pitchers about what's important for success. The pitchers aren't performing at the level they need to be and I take full responsibility for that. They need to get better. You are only as good as your pitching and right now we aren't getting it done at the level we need to get to and then it carries over to some stuff offensively. We just didn't play good baseball the last two days and I'm disappointed about that."

After coming on in relief with one out in the bottom of the first inning, ULM pitcher Cale Wine (3-1) went the final 8.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out five.

Junior Hunter Daniel (0-1) suffered the loss for the Big Orange, yielding three runs on three hits in his debut on the mound this season. Freshman Conner Stevens added 3.1 innings of scoreless relief for the Vols, while fellow classmate Eric Martin, senior T.J. Thornton and sophomores Dalton Saberhagen and Carter Watson worked at least one shutout frame each.

Next: Tuesday vs. Tennessee Tech, 7 p.m.; Friday-Sunday at Georgia, 7 p.m., 3 p.m. and 2 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Tennis (1-1 for the weekend)
Mississippi 5, Lady Vols 2
Playing its sixth straight match without the lineups that saw Tennessee win six out of seven matches earlier this season, the Lady Vols tennis team lost for the first time on the road in 2012, falling 5-2 to No. 25 Ole Miss on Friday afternoon in Oxford, Miss.

"It was a disappointing day," co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said. "It's just a tough loss, because I don't really feel like we really played as a team. We have to get better in spots and try to get tougher in spots. Hopefully, we can regroup and be better on Sunday."

While Natalie Pluskota returned to the singles lineup for the first time since Feb. 12 against Northwestern, reigning SEC Freshman of the Week Caitlyn Williams was limited to doubles after aggravating an injury during the early action.

Ole Miss won the doubles point and controlled the bottom-half of the singles lineup to jump out to a 4-0 lead, but the first three positions for the Lady Vols continued to fight.

Lady Vols 7, Mississippi State 0
Another opponent, another shutout for the eighth-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols tennis team.

Tennessee (11-5, 2-2 SEC) defeated Mississippi State 7-0 Sunday afternoon at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre in Starkville for UT's fifth shutout of the season.

"Considering the circumstances, I thought we competed hard," co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said. "It was windy, but we toughed it out and played well."

The Lady Vols registered the doubles point for the 14th time in 16 matches, and used singles wins from Brynn Boren, Kata Szekely and Sarah Toti to clinch the win, before the rest of the team followed suit.

UT was dominant throughout, sweeping doubles play and winning 12 of 13 singles sets, including the first set on each of the bottom five courts.

Next: March 21 at UNLV, 10 a.m. Pacific (1 p.m. Eastern) // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Tennis (0-2 for the weekend)
Mississippi 5, Vols 2
Six weeks after defeating Mississippi on the home indoor courts, the Tennessee Volunteers could not replicate that feat Friday in a 5-2 loss outside at Barksdale Stadium.

Playing at home for the first time in a month, the Vols (8-8, 1-2 SEC) took the doubles point with a late rally on court 1 by freshmen Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese. From there, however, Mississippi took hold of the momentum early by winning first sets on all six courts.

Adrian Forberg, a late substitute on court 6, clinched the win at 4-1 with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over sophomore Taylor Patrick.

Mississippi State 4, Vols 3
The Tennessee Volunteers' bid for a second top-15 win of the season fell a few points short Sunday at Barksdale Stadium.

The Vols showed no signs of quit after losing a close doubles point but could not completely overcome No. 12 Mississippi State's veteran lineup, losing 4-3 in a match that also counted as the finals of the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic.

The 19th-ranked Vols (8-9, 1-3 SEC) rallied to take four first sets in singles, but Mississippi State turned the tide to win two of the three remaining matches on court. Senior Artem Ilyushin beat Tennessee freshmen Mikelis Libietis 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on court 1 to clinch the match at 4-2.

Junior Edward Jones, sophomore Jarryd Chaplin, and freshman Brandon Fickey all picked up top-75 victories in singles for the Vols.

Next: Saturday vs. Baylor, 2 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Basketball (0-1 at the SEC Tournament)
Mississippi 77, Vols 72 (ot)
After Skylar McBee sent the game to overtime with 2.1 seconds left in regulation, Ole Miss withstood Tennessee for a 77-72 overtime victory in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals in New Orleans.

The game was never separated by more than two possessions until the final minutes of overtime. The Vols (18-14) lost for just the second time in their last 10 games and await their national postseason fate, which will be revealed Sunday.

McBee, who struggled early, was the key cog in the Vols' offense down the stretch. The junior finished with 15 points, making 5-of-11 from the 3-point range.

The trio of senior Cameron Tatum (15 points), junior Jeronne Maymon (11 points and 17 rebounds) and sophomore Trae Golden (game-high 21 points) were strong for the Vols. Freshman Jarnell Stokes grabbed 11 rebounds for his fourth double-figure board game this season before fouling out in overtime.

Maymon's rebounds were the second-most by a Vol all-time in the SEC Tournament, behind Stevie Hamer's SEC Tourney record 21 set in 1996.

Next: Tuesday vs. Savannah State, NIT First Round, 8 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Golf (13th at Gen. Hackler Championship)
Gen. Hackler Championship (Day 1)
After an opening round that played like some sort of Myrtle Beach mirage, Tennessee rallied over its second 18 holes Sunday to climb into 13th place at the Gen. Hackler Championship.

The Vols opened with a 38-over-par score of 322 amid heavy winds at the DeBordieu Club on the South Carolina coast. It was the program's highest total for a four-player scoring tournament in more than 17 years.

UT then posted a second-round 300 to move past Air Force and Navy into 13th place at 54-over 622.

Garrick Porteous was Tennessee most consistent player, finishing at 10 over par after two rounds of 76. UT's hottest golfer of late, Jay Vandeventer, didn't contribute to the first-round scoring thanks to his 86. But the junior posted the team's best score in the nightcap with an even-par 71.

Next: Monday at Gen. Hackler Championship, Georgetown, S.C.; March 18-20 at Collegiate Match Play Championship, Bradenton, Fla. // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Indoor Track and Field (48th at NCAA Indoor Championships)
NCAA Indoor Championships (Day 1)
NAMPA, Idaho -- Tennessee was unable to get on the scoreboard on day one of the NCAA Indoor Championships, but Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark has his focus firmly set on changing that on Saturday.

The final event of the day was the women's distance medley relay, and that is usually an event where Tennessee produces points in a big way. It was not to be on this day, as the unit placed 11th. The quartet of junior Nijgia Snapp, senior Brittany Jones, sophomoreKianna Ruff and senior Brittany Sheffey covered the distance in 11:26.02. UT had entered the meet with a season best of 11:02.74, with Chanelle Price running the opening 1200m leg and Wortham handling the 400. Neither ran in tonight's race, with Price absent after becoming sick following her 800m prelim race and Wortham coming off the open 400 race.

In that women's 800m, there was disappointment for Price. The senior, a two-time NCAA Indoor scorer in this event and the third-place finisher outdoors last season, did not qualify for the final. After running second for nearly the entire race, she faded to fifth in heat two over the final 40 meters and found herself in ninth place overall, just one spot out of advancing. She had entered the competition seeded sixth at 2:04.25.

Senior Ellen Wortham also suffered a tough result in the women's 400m prelims and did not advance to the finals. Entering the competition ranked seventh after qualifying in 52.99 at a last chance meet, she turned in a 54.20 readout to finish third in a slow and bumpy heat two on Friday evening and wound up 14th overall. On two occasions, Wortham appeared to be knocked out of stride as runners cut in front of her.

NCAA Indoor Championships (Day 2)
NAMPA, Idaho -- The Tennessee women's 4x400-meter relay team came through with a season-best time when it mattered most to card a sixth-place finish Saturday night at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.

In the final event of the meet at Jacksons Indoor Track, the Lady Vol 4x4 gutted out a readout of three minutes, 34.13 seconds to win heat one with the No. 7 time ever recorded by a Big Orange tandem. The quartet of Ellen Wortham, Brittany Jones, Kianna Ruff and Martinique Octave, bolstered by 53.00 and 52.29 splits on the first two legs, then had to wait until the next two heats were completed to see their final place.

The three points acquired by the relay put UT on the scoreboard in a tie for 48th place in the women's team standings. Oregon won the women's crown with 49 points, while Florida took the men's trophy with 52.

"It obviously wasn't the meet we wanted to have, but we ended up on a good note," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "We came home with some All-Americans, and that's what we have to focus on right now. I tip my hat to Ellen, who led off very well, and to our entire team. They just kept it going right after Ellen led it off and were able to earn All-America status.

Next: Season Complete // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Indoor Track and Field (NCAA Indoor Championships)
NCAA Indoor Championships (Day 1)
NAMPA, Idaho -- Tennessee was unable to get on the scoreboard on Day 1 of the NCAA Indoor Championships, but Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark has his focus firmly set on changing that on Saturday. He also sees this meet as a great learning opportunity for the younger members of the program.

In the men's shot put on Friday evening, Matthew Hoty finished 15th. The redshirt freshman improved his marks with each throw, but his best toss of 59-10½ left him in 15th place and unable to advance to the final. The rookie had entered the weekend ranked 14th at 62-3¼, which is a UT freshman record and ranks him No. 6 on UT's all-time indoor performers list.

Chase Brannon cleared two bars in the men's pole vault, but his best height of 17-4½ was only good enough to place him 16th. He sailed over 17-0 3/4 on his second try and navigated 17-4½ on his third attempt. His third try at 17-8½, he got his lower body over the bar, but could not clear it with his upper half on the way down.

Next: Season Complete // FULL SCHEDULE

Upcoming This Week in Other UT Sports
Women's Swimming and Diving at NCAA Championships, Auburn, Ala., Thursday-Saturday
Women's Basketball at NCAA Championship First Round, TBA, Saturday-Sunday
Rowing at Oak Ridge Invitational, Oak Ridge, Saturday-Sunday
 
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