Tennessee Climbs To Second
Erica Popson

Oct. 13, 2012


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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Chessey Thomas paced the Lady Vols in the second round of the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championships Saturday, as the junior fired a 3-under par 69, boosting Tennessee to a second-place standing.

The Spokane, Wash., native shot 4-under par on the front nine, before wrapping up the day with seven birdies to sit in a tie for seventh in the individual standings.

"I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves but I think we all kind of all relaxed a little bit more today and just kind of settled in to our usual games," Thomas said.

The Big Orange sits one shot off the lead behind Penn State who has a two-day total of 580 (+4). UT fired a front-nine team total of 5-under par. At the time, four Lady Vols were also in the top 14 as senior Erica Popson was tied for second, Thomas was tied for fifth, sophomore AJ Newell was in a tie for 10th and senior Sara Monberg was tied for 14th.

"I think we're trying a little too hard, making some mistakes we don't usually make," head coach Judi Pavon said. "But all in all we're good, we're competing well. We made some good birdies coming in to keep it close. I feel pretty good about the way they played."

Popson continues to hold her ground in the individual standings as she trails the leader, Furman's Laura Wearn, by three strokes. The Davenport, Fla., product shot 1-under par 71 in the second round.

"I've just really focused on staying patient out there," Popson said. "I came off a bad round at Georgia last week and I just wanted to be calm and stay patient as much as I could and see what comes out of this weekend. So far, I've made a few birdies and haven't made too many bogies, which is nice. I'm just focusing on one shot at a time and staying in the moment and staying as patient as I can."

Newell (+4) and Monberg (+4) rounded out the day in a tie for 21 as Newell sank her last putt on hole 18 for birdie finishing 2-over. Freshman Ashlee Pickerell carded 5-over par 77 to sit in a tie for 69th.

UT will capitalize on its momentum from today heading into tomorrow's final round at home.

"I love playing here," Popson said. "It's our one time we can play at home in front of our home fans. It's unbelievable the people that come out and support us. To be able to play at home and win at home is unreal so I want to play as best as I can."

Despite the excitement from being at home, the Lady Vols will focus on the task at hand.

"I think we just have to stay as patient as we can and make birdies when have the opportunity to make birdies," Popson said. "Really protect our golf ball around the rest of the golf course and try to make as many pars as we can. Just go out there and try to shoot under par and see what happens."

"I think they're excited about still hanging in there," Pavon said. "We lost a lot of shots today on 10 through 12, so I know that none of them are really happy coming off the golf course. I think that's kind of good to have a little bit of fire still."

The Orange and White tees off at 10:40 a.m. from No. 1, and is paired with Penn State and Purdue.

Purdue follows Penn State and Tennessee in third in the team standings at 5th84 (+8). Texas A&M (+9), Northwestern (+14) and UTSA (+15) come in the fourth through sixth slots, respectively. Furman sits in seventh at 19-over par, Iowa State is in eighth (+20) and Florida State is in ninth (+26). The remaining teams are: 10. Mississippi State (+27), 11. East Carolina (+29), 12. Miami (+34), 13. Chattanooga (+42), 14. James Madison (+46), 15. Memphis (+49) and 16. Eastern Kentucky (+76).





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