Sophomore Erica Popson captured runner-up honors at the 2010 SEC Championship
April 14, 2011
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Assistant
AUBURN, Ala. - Riding three consecutive top-three finishes, including a 30-stroke victory at its last event, the No. 11-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol golf team will be looking to carry its momentum into the 2011 SEC Championship from Friday through Sunday at the Auburn University Club.
The Lady Vols will tee off the first round on Friday from Hole No. 1 in a group with No. 17 Auburn and No. 12 Arkansas at 8:30 a.m. CT.
A year ago, the Big Orange finished a disappointing ninth at the conference tournament in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Despite the substandard team finish, the 2010 SECs served as the breakthrough performance for then-freshman Erica Popson, who tied for first and captured runner-up honors in a playoff.
Popson, who has added three more first-place finishes during her sophomore campaign, will lead one of 11th-year head coach Judi Pavon's most talented teams against a field that features seven squads ranked in the Golfstat Top 25.
"Our goal for this weekend is to win," Pavon said. "Every year at the SEC Tournament we want to give it our best shot, be competitive and win. Everybody on the team is really great ball strikers and our putting is getting better and better. Each week the team has been gaining more confidence."
A Davenport, Fla., native, Popson has been on fire this spring, winning the Bryan National Collegiate from March 25-27 before tying for first with junior teammate Nathalie Mansson at the Rebel Intercollegiate at the start of the month (April 1-3). Popson is ranked No. 18 in the Golfstat Cup individual rankings and holds the lowest par-5 scoring average (4.69) in the nation.
"Tying for first last year at SECs was amazing," Popson said. "I had dreamt about it for a long time, and I wanted to win it. I learned a lot from it. This year, I really need to believe in myself and believe in my game. Hopefully, I will play well."
Nathalie Mansson Interview
That group won the Rebel Intercollegiate by 30 strokes with a tournament-record three-day score of 863. All five Lady Vols finished in the top-12 and UT set a team-record for lowest round in school history with a 9-under 279 on the second day of the tournament.
The same quintet combined to lead the Lady Vols to a second-place performance at the Bryan National and a tied-for-third placement at the Tiger Golf Classic from March 11-13. Over the last three tournaments, Tennessee has a 92.5 winning percentage, including a 9-1-1 mark against the SEC.
Tennessee has never won an SEC Championship, coming as close as second-place on three occasions. However, a conference title is the goal this weekend.
"We are definitely going for the win," Mansson said. "We have practiced hard all year, and we are on the right path after the big victory at out last tournament. I have confidence and I'm really excited about this weekend."