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March 26, 2012

A 25th trip to the women's basketball regional final and a pair of diamond victories over previously undefeated conference opponents highlighted the Tennessee athletics weekend.

The Lady Vols rallied from 14 points down in the first half to outlast Kansas at the NCAA Des Moines Regional, setting up Monday's night's matchup (ESPN, Lady Vol Network, 7 p.m.) against top-seeded Baylor for a trip to the Final Four.

Vols baseball started its weekend with a 4-1 win over unbeaten and No. 2-ranked Kentucky before dropping the next two games. Softball split a doubleheader during the week at top-ranked and previously undefeated Alabama on Wednesday, and then swept a three-game series at Mississippi State to conclude an eight-game road swing.

Men's tennis grabbed a pair of SEC wins, home against LSU and at Arkansas, to regain the .500 mark in league play, while rowing took advantage of UT's spring break to get in extra training. The work paid off in a sweep of Saturday's meet against Central Florida.

Men's swimming and diving finished 22nd at the NCAA Championships in Washington, and women's track and field began the outdoor season by doing its part to help the conference win the SEC/Big Ten Challenge in Starkville, Miss.

Women's Basketball (1-0 at the NCAA Des Moines Regional)
Lady Vols 84, Kansas 73
DES MOINES, Iowa - Tennessee advanced to its 25th Elite Eight, rallying from 14 points down to post an 84-73 win over Kansas at Wells Fargo Arena in the NCAA Des Moines Regional Semifinal.

The No. 2 seed Lady Vols (27-8) take on top-seeded Baylor for the regional championship Monday at 6 p.m. Central/7 p.m. Eastern. The game is airing on ESPN and can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.

Sophomore Meighan Simmons tallied 22 points to lead the Lady Vols in scoring -- her second 20-plus points game in the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee outscored the Jayhawks, 41-11 in bench scoring.

Seniors Shekinna Stricklen (16 points and nine rebounds),Glory Johnson (18 points and seven rebounds) combined for 34 points and 16 rebounds. Senior Vicki Baugh added seven points and 11 rebounds

Next: Monday vs. Baylor, NCAA Des Moines Regional Final, 6 p.m. Central (7 Eastern) // FULL SCHEDULE

Softball (3-0 for the weekend)
Lady Vols 8, Mississippi State 0 (5 inn.)
STARKVILLE, Miss. - On Friday evening in the series opener at the MSU Softball Stadium, junior third baseman Raven Chavanne barely missed hitting for the cycle, sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman and sophomore leftfielder Melissa Davin each knocked in two runs and junior first baseman Melissa Brown homered as the No. 11 Tennessee Lady Vols raced past Mississippi State 8-0 in 5 innings.

Chavanne led UT's eight-hit offensive attack by going 3-for-4 at the plate with a double and a triple. Shipman was a perfect 1-for-1 with a walk and two RBIs and Davin was 1-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. For Brown the solo shot marked her career-best fifth HR of the campaign. Senior Cat Hosfield was also credited with her fifth RBI of the year via a pinch-hit bloop single during the top of the fifth.

In the circle sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe improved to 16-1 overall and 5-1 in SEC action, allowing just three hits, walking three and striking out eight over her 12th solo shutout of 2012.

Lady Vols 10, Mississippi State 3
STARKVILLE, Miss. - On Saturday afternoon in front of 813 fans at the MSU Softball Stadium, the No. 11 Tennessee Lady Vols registered the most hits (13) and tied for the most runs (10) allowed this season by the Mississippi State Bulldogs in securing a series victory via a 10-3 triumph.

Big Orange junior second baseman Lauren Gibson led the offensive onslaught by going 3-for-4 with a double, her team-leading ninth HR of the year and four RBIs. Sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman was 3-for-4 with a stolen base and her squad-best 31st RBI, while junior right fielder Kat Dotson posted a 2-for-3 effort with three runs tallied, a theft and her ninth RBI of the campaign. Senior utility player Shelby Burchell also contributed a pair of RBIs in a 1-for-3 performance.

In a relief appearance in the circle, sophomore hurler Ellen Renfroe improved to 17-1 overall and 6-1 in league action, scattering seven hits, allowing no runs while walking one and striking out eight over 6.0 innings of work. Junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe started the contest, permitting three tallies on a trio of hits with two walks and a strikeout over one frame.

Lady Vols 8, Mississippi State 0 (5 inn.)
STARKVILLE, Miss. - On Sunday at the MSU Softball Stadium, a six-run fourth inning proved the big outburst in helping the No. 11 Tennessee Lady Vols finish off their dominant series sweep over Mississippi State, 8-0 in 5 innings.

During the three-contest set, the Big Orange (23-7, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) hit .364 overall as a squad and out-scored the Bulldogs by a commanding 26-3 clip.

Junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe picked up her sixth victory of the 2012 campaign, scattering five hits, walking none and striking out three over a five-inning, complete-game shutout effort.

"First of all, I am really proud of our team," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "We played eight games in nine days in three different venues. The first was in Fayetteville, Ark., then Tuscaloosa, Ala., and finally Starkville, Miss. Winning six out of eight of those games against tough SEC competition on the road is what this conference is all about. I thought our offense really started coming around, our pitching has remained strong, probably the strong point of our team right now. I'm just very proud of the way we've played over this difficult stretch."

Next: Tuesday vs. Furman (dh), 5 p.m.; Friday-Sunday vs. Kentucky, 6 p.m., 2 p.m., 1:30 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Tennis (2-0 for the weekend)
Vols 4, LSU 3
Jarryd Chaplin has faced his fair share of tight matches in his young career. Now those experiences are paying off.

As the lone Vol left on court, Chaplin held his nerve late to defeat Stefan Szacinski in three sets to clinch the Vols' 4-3 victory over LSU on Friday at Goodfriend Tennis Center.

The Vols (10-9, 2-3 SEC) got the doubles point but fell behind 3-1 before getting the three singles matches they needed thanks to Mikelis Libietis on court 1, Edward Jones on court 5 and Chaplin, who finished on court 4.

Vols 5, Arkansas 2
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The Tennessee Volunteers lost the doubles point Sunday. But this time, the Vols found a way to win the match.

The Vols (11-9, 3-3 SEC) rallied across all six courts in singles to beat Arkansas 5-2 at Billingsley Tennis Center to win their first match of the year after losing the doubles point.

Freshman Hunter Reese and senior Bryan Swartz provided straight-set wins on courts 2 and 6. The four remaining matches went three sets before junior Edward Jones put the Vols ahead 3-1 and freshman Brandon Fickey clinched the match by beating Matt Walters 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

"That was big for us," Reese said. "We had a couple matches that kind of slipped away that we kind of -- maybe should have -- won. We really could be 6-0 right now, but we're not, so it was a really good effort to get two wins in the SEC and give us a chance."

Next: Friday vs. Vanderbilt, 3 p.m.; Sunday vs. Kentucky, 1 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Rowing (1-0 for the weekend)
Lady Vols 4, Central Florida 0
Looking to punctuate an uninterrupted week of training, Tennessee swept Central Florida in all four races Saturday morning.

The Lady Vols dominated the Knights on Lake Pickett, with the narrowest margin of victory coming in at 10 seconds in the V8.

"We had a strong week of training," head coach Lisa Glenn said. "Today's racing showed some of the improvements we've made."

In the 2V8, the Tennessee shell coxed by Ashley Fichthorn, and including Anita McLure, Kristin Coggin, Mary-Hannah Daugherty, Liza Rader, Ashley Case, Maddie Bishop, Taylor Athan and Andrea Keesecker, raced to a win in seven minutes 16.2 seconds.

To end the week, UT's V8, coxed by Rachel Clagett and including Erika Lauderdale, Rachel White, Arin Anderson, Liz Dickson, Erika Johnson, Payton Smith, Evelyn Radford, Nikki Arcamuzi, won the last race in seven minutes 12.9 seconds.

Next: Saturday-Sunday at San Diego Crew Classic Heats, San Diego // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Swimming and Diving (22nd at NCAA Championships)
NCAA Championships (Day 2)
Tennessee senior Ryan Helms finished fourth on the 3-meter springboard Friday at the NCAA Championships in Federal Way, Wash.

Helms earned first-team All-America honors for the first time in his career, finishing with a six-dive score of 422.70 in the finals. Kristian Ipsen of Stanford totaled 466.05 to win the event.

Helms, who also scored yesterday in the 1-meter event, earned the Vols 15 more points in the team standings.

"It was a really exciting evening," Tennessee diving coach Dave Parrington said. "Ryan's day was a model of consistency. He could've scored better on a few dives, but he didn't miss anything and that paid dividends."

Senior Ricky Henahan was the Vols' lone individual scorer in the pool. Swimming in his final NCAAs, Henahan secured his third honorable mention award in the 100 backstroke. He finished 13th in a time of 47.26 seconds. His preliminary time of 46.86 was his fastest of the season.

NCAA Championships (Day 3)
The platform competition Saturday at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships produced a mixed bag of feelings for Tennessee diving coach Dave Parrington. But ultimately, the glass was at least half full and the Vols finished 22nd as a team.

Both freshman Mauricio Robles and senior Ryan Helms finished in the top 16 to score the Vols' only team points on the final day in Federal Way, Wash.

Robles bounced back from a lower score the preliminaries to win the consolation final and finish ninth with a score of 355.30, and Helms collected team points for the Vols for a third consecutive day by finishing in 14th place with a score of 300.20.

"It was really nice to see the two of them get to the finals, but on the other hand it was a little bittersweet because of all the success Mauricio's had on platform this year," Parrington said. "It was a little bit disappointing for him not to make the final.

"Mauricio's had flu-like symptoms all week, so his preparation and strength wasn't what it usually is. He was still able to win the consolation final and to be honorable mention All-American as a freshman is excellent."

Next: Season Complete // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Outdoor Track and Field (SEC/Big Ten Challenge)
SEC/Big Ten Challenge
The Tennessee men's and women's track & field teams did their fair share Friday to help their conference forge a split in the SEC-Big Ten Challenge at Mississippi State's Carl Maddox Track.

Competing in its outdoor season opener on a gusty day, UT's troops helped the SEC defeat the Big Ten, 390-323 in the women's competition. The SEC sent only Ole Miss, host MSU and Tennessee into action, while the Big Ten had athletes on hand from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State (men's team only), Purdue and Wisconsin.

The 14th-ranked Lady Vols played a key role in the SEC victory, winning seven events and adding two runner-up finishes. The Vols, meanwhile, posted five second-place results to aid the league cause. Points were awarded on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for first through eighth places.

Senior Annie Alexander was a double winner for the Big Orange, taking the women's shot put and discus throws. The defending SEC Outdoor shot and discus champ did so with tosses of 52-2 1/2 and 169-10, respectively.

Next: Saturday at UCLA Dual, Los Angeles // FULL SCHEDULE

Baseball (1-2 for the weekend)
Vols 4, Kentucky 1
Behind eight fantastic innings from junior Zack Godley, Tennessee snapped No. 2 Kentucky's 22-game winning streak, the longest in the nation, and handed the Wildcats their first loss of the season with a 4-1 victory on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"That was a good win," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "I'm not trying to minimize beating the last undefeated team but (I just see it as) beating another opponent in the SEC and getting to .500. That's the way I look at it. I mean, don't get me wrong. To know that we are the first team to beat the last undefeated team is special, but it's more the fact for this team to be 2-2 now in the SEC and feeling pretty good about themselves after three hard-fought, close baseball games that we found a way to win all three of."

Godley tied his career high with eight innings of three-hit ball against the best-hitting team in the SEC, retiring 21 of the final 25 batters that he faced after allowing a first-inning run. He struck out four and walked two in the contest to improve to 4-1 on the year.

Kentucky 6, Vols 2
Tennessee needed just two pitches to get on the scoreboard following an overnight delay, but No. 2 Kentucky held the Volunteers off the rest of the way en route to evening the weekend series with a 6-2 triumph in the conclusion of game two on Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Following an overnight delay due to inclement weather that halted Saturday's contest with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Tennessee freshman Will Maddox looped the second pitch he saw from UK relief pitcher Alex Phillips on Sunday into center for a two-run single that cut the UT deficit to just three at 5-2.

That would be all the Vols could muster against Phillips though as he allowed just three baserunners over the final four innings to pick up the win for Kentucky. T.J. Thornton yielded one run on three hits for Tennessee, pitching four strong innings to finish out the game.

Kentucky 6, Vols 0
Tennessee put the leadoff hitter on base in three of the final four innings and had a runner reach third three different times but couldn't capitalize as No. 2 Kentucky used a five-run seventh inning to claim the series finale against the Volunteers, 6-0, in a seven-inning contest on a picture-perfect Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"We had some opportunities that we didn't come through on and to beat quality teams we have to do that," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "I walk away from my second SEC weekend thinking we have the capabilities to win series and we are not coming through when we have to, in every aspect of our game.

"We need to do that and we need to realize what we have to do to be successful as a team. That is a work in progress. We knew this was going to be a challenge. We have to accept the challenge and have more players accept the challenge."

Kentucky starting pitcher Corey Littrell improved to 3-0 on the year with five strikeouts in six scoreless innings, before Trevor Gott came on to close out the contest with a perfect seventh. Junior Drew Steckenrider (1-2) suffered the loss for the Orange and White despite giving up just one run on one hit. The hard-throwing right-hander also struck out three in his 1.2 innings of action.

Next: Tuesday-Wednesday vs. Mississippi Valley State, 7 p.m., 7 p.m.; Friday-Sunday vs. Alabama, 6 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Outdoor Track and Field (SEC/Big Ten Challenge)
SEC/Big Ten Challenge
The Tennessee men's and women's track & field teams did their fair share Friday to help their conference forge a split in the SEC-Big Ten Challenge at Mississippi State's Carl Maddox Track.

The Big Ten came out on top in the men's battle, however, triumphing 400.5 to 314.5. The SEC sent only Ole Miss, host MSU and Tennessee into action, while the Big Ten had athletes on hand from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State (men's team only), Purdue and Wisconsin.

The Vols picked up three of their second-place outcomes in the sprints. Varick Tucker was just 2/100ths of a second off his personal best to take runner-up honors in the 400 meters at 47.39. Sophomore Jarael Nelvis had his silver performance in the 200, producing a wind-aided 20.83 effort. Junior Reggie Juin, freshman Jamol James, Nelvis and junior Arnez Hardnick collaborated on a 40.13 effort in the 4x100m relay for the third runner-up showing.

Tennessee's men picked up their other two seconds in the throws from a pair of first-time competitors who transferred from North Carolina schools. Redshirt freshman Tavis Bailey, a former football player at Lenoir-Rhyne, unloaded a toss of 173-11 in the discus. Junior Luke Hadden, previously an ACC scorer for Wake Forest, flung the javelin 201-8 in his first action for the Vols. Also worth noting was sophomore pole vaulter Chase Brannon taking third in the javelin at 189-0.

Next: Saturday at UCLA Dual, Los Angeles // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Tennis (0-2 for the weekend)
LSU 5, Lady Vols 2
The 12th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols lost consecutive matches for just the second time this season, dropping a 5-2 decision to No. 49 on Friday at Robinson Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Tennessee's two-match losing streak mirrors its only other skid this season, when the Lady Vols lost their first two matches of the season with a shortened lineup. Battling injuries, Tennessee (11-7, 2-3) was unable to play with six players in its singles lineup for the second consecutive match.

But health couldn't prevent Tennessee from taking an early 1-0 lead. Doubles play was once again the strong suit for the Lady Vols, winning the point for the 16th time in 18 matches.

For the second straight contest, Tennessee coupled Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely, Sarah Toti and Jesse Grace, and Joanna Henderson and Caitlyn Williams together in the absence of Brynn Boren (illness). And for the second straight contest, it worked.

Arkansas 4, Lady Vols 3
With just four available players in singles, the 12th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols suffered their third consecutive defeat, falling 4-3 Sunday at Barksdale Stadium to No. 37 Arkansas.

Already battling multiple injuries, the Lady Vols (11-8, 2-4 SEC) planned to be in better shape with the return of sophomore Brynn Boren, who had missed the previous two matches.

But during doubles, Boren's partner, Sarah Toti, went down with a knee injury and was unable to return, leaving the Lady Vols with a four-player singles lineup.

"It's been a really tough year," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "Our kids are working really hard, but we've just been snake-bit with a bunch of reoccurring injuries that have happened. In our sport, we don't have that much depth to start with. When you start to get some of your main players hurt, there's really nowhere to go."

Next: Friday at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m. Central (5 Eastern); Sunday at Kentucky, Noon // FULL SCHEDULE

Upcoming This Week in Other UT Sports
Women's Golf at Maui Anuenue Spring Invitational, Kapalua, Hawaii, Monday-Tuesday
Men's Golf at Insperity Augusta State Invitational, Augusta, Ga., Saturday-Sunday
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