May 6, 2009
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Tennessee women's golf team begins its quest to earn its eighth NCAA Championships bid Thursday during round one of the NCAA East Regional Tournament at Mark Bostick Golf Course.
Tennessee, the seventh-seed in the 21-team tournament, tees off from the first tee with Southeastern Conference rivals Georgia and Vanderbilt for round one at 7:40 a.m. on Thursday. UT will start round two from the tenth tee with the same group at 11:50 a.m. on Friday. Saturday's final round pairings and start times are to be determined.
The top eight teams in the field earn a trip to Owings Mills, Md., for the NCAA Women's Golf Championships from May 19-22.
"We've had a good week of practice since the selection announcement and are excited to get to Gainesville and start competing," Pavon said. "The players have their finals finished up, so we'll be able to focus on golf this week. This is a really strong field, as you would expect at an NCAA Regional, but we have competed well against the teams in this field. Our goal is to advance of course, but we are playing to win this week."
Of the teams they've faced in the field, Tennessee has defeated each at least once except for first-seed Virginia and second-seed Auburn.
The Big Orange will be looking to erase memories of last season's 16th-place finish at the NCAA East Regional in Athens, Ga., which ended a string of four consecutive national championships appearances.
Smith, Brown and Cantú return from the 2008 regional squad. Smith tied for 55th, Cantú finished in a tie for 61st, while Brown was tied for 102nd in Athens last year.
This is Smith's fourth NCAA Regional appearance. She tied for 15th at the NCAA Central Regional in 2007 and tied for 25th at the NCAA East Regional in 2006 - helping lead the Lady Vols to first-place in the tournament in Browns Summit, N.C.
The Riverside, Calif., native missed the fall portion of the 2008-09 season with an injury, but has returned to grab three top-20 finishes in four tournaments.
"This spring has gone well," Smith said. "It's hard to miss the fall and come onto a team that's been together already for half the season, but everybody has been great. I really wanted to come in and help take the team to Nationals. Last year was a big disappointment. I want to make this season last as long as I can."
In their last tournament, the SEC Championship in Blythewoord, S.C., the Lady Vols placed fourth behind Brown's sixth-place tie. She fired a 217 (+4) total, while Smith and Mansson finished in a tie for 13th with a 220 (+7) total. Cantú tied for 26th with a score of 224 (+11), while Spurlock finished in a tie for 45th with a 234 (+11) total.
The Orange and White will look to carry its momentum from the SEC Championship into Gainesville this week and capture the program's fifth national championships appearance in the last six years.