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5 Lady Vols Fulfill Legacy by Winning Back-to-Back



BY DOUG FEINBERG, AP Sports Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Candace Parker came to Tennessee four years ago with one goal in mind: Restore the Lady Vols back to the Rocky Top.

Parker was part of the highest rated-recruiting class when she got to Tennessee. With the Lady Vols having gone six years without a title before the Class of 2008 got there, expectations were huge that they could end the drought. It took a couple of years, but when they finally got going they left their mark winning consecutive titles.

"We're the No. 1 recruited class and there have been some struggles here with people leaving," Parker said. "But our two Juco players came in and to win it back-to-back is something we dreamed of. We wanted to leave our legacy."

Even with a championship last season, Tennessee wasn't predicted to repeat as champions. That served as motivation for the Lady Vols.

"All year, somehow as defending national champions we've flown under the radar, not lived up to expectations and been criticized for not playing a 40-minute game," Parker said.

That all ended Tuesday night with a convincing 64-48 win over Stanford that gave the Lady Vols their eighth NCAA women's basketball title. Battered and braced, Parker scored 17 points to help Tennessee become the first repeat champs since Connecticut won three straight from 2002-04.

It wasn't always easy this season getting the Lady Vols motivated. At one point Summitt openly criticized the team's lack of intensity, suggesting her players weren't playing hard enough and were complacent after winning the title last season.

"This team changed my opinion of them," the coach said. "It started after our loss to LSU, when the wheels came off in Knoxville.

The Lady Vols held a board meeting the next day.

"Once the coaches expressed how we felt, we left the room and the players had their own meeting," Summitt said. "I knew that they were embarrassed and I think from that moment on, we've been a different basketball team."

Winning three straight will be a challenge for Summitt after the Lady Vols lost all five starters to the WNBA.

"We're going to have a young team," the Hall of Fame coach said. "We're going to have talent. They are going to have to buy into playing defense. I'm excited to start when they start classes."

Looming in the distance for Summitt is John Wooden's NCAA record of 10 titles at UCLA.

"I guess I'm along for the ride," Summitt said. "They took me on a great one this time. And as long as I love the game, I'll stay in it. Do I have a desire to try to beat Coach Wooden's record? No. I just want to help the next team, next year, get back to the Final Four. That's always our goal every year.

"And as long as I can be effective as a teacher and coach, that's what I want to do. The day I walk in the gym and I don't have the passion is the day I give it up."

The victory redeemed the Lady Vols' 73-69 overtime loss to the Cardinal when the teams met Dec. 22 at Stanford.

Tennessee is 8-5 in championship games after barely making it to No. 13. The Vols won their other titles in 1987, '89, '91, '96, '97, and '98.

 


 

 

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