An 18-year collegiate softball head coaching veteran boasting 887 career wins, Karen Weekly and her husband Ralph just completed their 13th season at the helm of the Tennessee softball program. Having guided UT to a staggering 664 victories and five top three national finishes (2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013) and six appearances (2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013) in the annual Women's College World Series since arriving to resuscitate the program prior to the 2002 season, Karen and Ralph have made it evident that tireless recruiting and solid coaching by the experienced Weeklys and their staff can produce huge dividends to the UT softball program.
*Co-Head Coach with Ralph Weekly
The Lady Vols enjoyed another strong season in 2014 with a roster comprised of accomplished seniors and a slew of young rising stars. UT went 46-12 in 2014 and made its seventh trip to the NCAA Super Regionals. Tennessee went 17-7 in SEC play to finish second in the conference in the regular season.
Senior Madison Shipman was named the Honda Sports Award Winner for Softball and capped off her Tennessee career with a banner senior season, earning SEC Player of the Year, NFCA Division I All-America first-team honors and Capital One Academic All-America first-team accolades. Shipman also became the first Tennessee student-athlete in any sport to win the prestigious Senior CLASS Award. Ellen Renfroe shouldered the load as the team's ace in the circle and concluded her storied Tennessee career with another impressive season. Renfroe was named the Capital One Academic All-American of the Year and also earned NFCA All-Southeast Region and Second Team All-SEC honors while posting some of UT's greatest career pitching numbers since Monica Abbott. Annie Aldrete broke onto the scene as a freshman sensation, earning NFCA Division I All-America second-team honors and co-winning the inaugural NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year trophy. Senior Melissa Davin enjoyed her finest season as a Lady Vol, hitting 14 homers, earning First Team All-SEC honors and NFCA Division I All-Southeast Region second-team honors.
The Tennessee softball team's 2013 season was truly one for the ages. The national runner-up Lady Vols can be proud of a long list of individual, team and program accomplishments that highlighted one of the finest seasons in Tennessee history.
The team finished the year at 52-12, marking the eighth season with 50 or more wins in program history. The Lady Vols made their sixth appearance in the Women's College World Series, all of which came in the last nine years (2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013), and their second appearance in the Championship Series (2007, 2013). Tennessee went 16-6 in SEC play, finishing with the second-best regular-season record in the conference.
The Lady Vols finished the season as the national runner-up and were ranked at No. 2 in the final USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll.
Seniors Raven Chavanne and Lauren Gibson and junior Madison Shipman were all named to the 2013 NFCA Division I All-American first team. UT has had at least one NFCA All-American in 10 consecutive years (2004-13) with multiple All-Americans in seven of those years (2006, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). The Tennessee coaching staff was named the 2013 NFCA Southeast Region Staff of the Year.
In an outstanding 2012 season, Tennessee made its fifth trip in eight years to the Women's College World Series. After a strong regular season which featured a 19-game winning streak into the SEC Tournament, The Lady Vols hosted both the NCAA Regionals and the NCAA Super Regionals and thanks to a loaded lineup and a stellar pitching duo of sisters Ivy Renfroe and Ellen Renfroe, UT punched its ticket to Oklahoma City once again.
The 2012 squad boasted four Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Americans in first-team picks Lauren Gibson and Ellen Renfroe and second-team selections Raven Chavanne and Madison Shipman. Chavanne became just the third Lady Vol to earn three All-American nods and she was also a top-10 finalist for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year for the second straight season.
In 2012, Tennessee featured the top defense in the nation -- a group that lead all NCAA Division I schools with a .982 fielding percentage. UT pitchers also combined for the 11th-best ERA in the country (1.58) and the team's winning percentage ranked eighth.
Starting off the 2011 season with a preseason rating of No. 4 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll, boasting 13 returning letter-winners from the `10 WCWS squad and bringing in the ESPN/Rise No. 1-rated recruiting class, Weekly helped guide the Lady Vols to a 49-12 overall record, the program's second Southeastern Conference Tournament crown and an eighth consecutive berth to NCAA Regionals. The 2011 Tennessee squad set a new program record for single-season HR's with a staggering 69 to crush the previous high of 52 that was set back in 1996 and equaled in both 2002 & 2005. The Big Orange also led all of NCAA Division I in hitting with a .348 team batting average, was seventh in the country in scoring at 6.87 runs per game and 11th in fielding percentage (.974).
While the UT squad ultimately fell in the title round of the 2011 Knoxville Regional, a site that many experts deemed the toughest in the country, to eventual WCWS team Oklahoma State, Tennessee still boasted numerous accolades. Sophomores Lauren Gibson (.420 avg., eight HR's, 63 RBI's) and Raven Chavanne (.455 avg., 32 RBI's, 33 stolen bases) as well as freshman Ellen Renfroe (26-7 record, 1.50 ERA, 259 K's in 201 innings) reaped Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American honors, while Chavanne was also selected as a Capital One Academic All-American. Sophomore Kat Dotson (.401 avg., 10 HR's, 64 RBI's) joined that trio in receiving a Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Southeast Region selection, and Renfroe was tabbed as the SEC Freshman of the Year. Chavanne ended up as the SEC's batting average champion counting all contests at .455 while Gibson won the SEC batting title counting league match-ups only at .451. Ellen Renfroe was the SEC ERA champion counting just league contests with a 1.42 ERA.
Following the season Chavanne, Dotson, Gibson and Kelly Grieve (.376 avg., 37 RBI's, 21 stolen bases) were each invited to try out for the 2011 USA Softball Women's Senior National Team, although Dotson was forced to withdraw prior to the selection camp because of an injury. By being chosen to the final team, Gibson and Grieve became the second and third Lady Vols all-time (Monica Abbott) to join the prestigious squad.
The 2010 campaign proved a magical ride for an incredibly young Tennessee squad made up of 19 players, including a total of 15 freshmen and sophomores. The Lady Vols registered a 49-15 overall record (making it eight straight 40+ win seasons) and truly peaked at the right time, rolling through their first seven games of the NCAA Tournament on the way to the program's fourth WCWS berth and another third place national finish. Along the way in NCAA action, Tennessee swept Ball State, Virginia and Louisville during the Knoxville Regional, ended No. 2 Michigan's two-year, 36-game home winning streak by sweeping two consecutive contests in the NCAA Ann Arbor Super Regionals and opened the WCWS with consecutive victories over No. 3 Arizona (9-0, 5 inn.) and No. 9 Georgia (7-5) before being eliminated by the Wildcats just one win from a berth in the best-of-three championship series.
The youthful 2010 squad was guided by a quartet of upperclassmen, including senior catcher Tiffany Huff (NFCA All-South Region choice, .312 avg., seven HR's, 45 RBIs), first baseman Erinn Webb (.318 NCAA Tourney avg., nine total HR's, 34 RBIs) and designated player Nicole Kajitani (three doubles, three HR's, 22 RBIs) as well as junior center field speedster Kelly Grieve (.373 avg., 12 doubles, 30 RBIs, 26 thefts). The team was bolstered, however, by a myriad of high-profile freshmen including Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American outfielders Raven Chavanne (.455 avg., 64 runs, 95 hits, 26 RBIs, 37 steals) and Kat Dotson (SEC First-Team selection and Co-Freshman of the Year, .391 avg., 54 runs, 66 hits, 37 RBIs, 29 thefts), All-Southeast Region choices -- pitcher Ivy Renfroe (31-6 record, 2.41 ERA, 15 complete games, 235 K's in 232.1 IP) and third baseman Jessica Spigner (.350 avg., 14 doubles, eight HR's, 58 RBIs) and SEC All-Freshman second baseman Lauren Gibson (.297 avg., eight doubles, six HR's, 39 RBIs).
As a team the powerful Tennessee offense recorded a .321 batting average, scored 6.4 runs-per-game, tied the program record for triples with 19 and blasted 51 HR's, coming up just one big fly short of tying the school single-season mark.
During the 2009 season, Tennessee continued its string of 40+ win campaigns by putting up a 40-18-1 overall record. Once again the Big Orange earned a berth into the NCAA Tournament, the program's sixth straight, falling in the NCAA Regionals. Led by the offensive production of Second Team Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American Tiffany Huff (.399 avg., 13 doubles, eight HR's and 67 RBIs), freshman All-Southeast region selection Jessica Spigner (UT freshman record 14 HR's) and sophomore All-Southeast Region choice Kelly Grieve (.393 avg., 79 hits, 39 stolen bases) as well as 28 victories in the circle from rookie right-hander Cat Hosfield, UT downed such foes as No. 21 Massachusetts, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 18 LSU and No. 8 Georgia during the year.
The 2008 campaign was a success as the Weeklys guided the Big Orange to a fifth consecutive 50-win season and a fifth straight berth into the NCAA Tournament Field of 64. UT advanced to the championship game of its home-hosted NCAA Regional but dropped a 4-2 decision to eventual WCWS-participant Virginia Tech.
Under their tutelage, senior third baseman Tonya Callahan (.465 avg., 62 RBIs) broke the school record for single-season home runs with 16 on the way to being chosen as Tennessee's second consecutive SEC Player of the Year and a finalist for both the 2008 USA Softball National Player of the Year trophy and the Honda Award for Softball while reaping UT's 15th Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-America honor since 2004. Senior shortstop Kenora Posey and freshman infielder Jen Lapicki each earned All-SEC accolades. Karen's slap-hitting standouts, Lillian Hammond and Kenora Posey, were responsible for .362 and .349 averages, respectively, 96 total runs scored and 67 combined stolen bases.
The 2007 season was the benchmark by which all future Lady Vol teams will be compared as the squad finished at 63-8 for a new program-best win percentage of .887. A third-straight trip to the Women's College World Series ended with Tennessee becoming the first Southeastern Conference program to reach the best-of-three NCAA Championship Series, eventually finishing as national runner-up with two wins over No. 4 Arizona and single triumphs against No. 6 Northwestern and No. 7 Texas A&M. UT spent a record 11 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, becoming the first SEC school to reach the lofty top ranking in the league's softball history.
Four players were chosen as Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Americans in 2007 as Monica Abbott, Lindsay Schutzler, India Chiles and Callahan each garnered national honors. Abbott also picked up the prestigious USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year award and the Women's Sports Foundation's Team Sport Athlete of the Year trophy after going 50-5 with a 0.68 ERA on the year. Chiles was the SEC's Player of the Year after hitting .459 with 44 stolen bases. The Lady Vols led NCAA Division I in fielding percentage, winning percentage and team ERA in 2007 while picking up its first SEC regular-season title. For their efforts the Weeklys were South Division Speedline Coaches of the Year, for the second time in three seasons, and as the SEC Coaches of the Year. Karen Weekly also presided over her 500th career coaching victory on February 24, 2007, when UT downed Michigan State, 3-0, at the Palm Springs Classic in Cathedral City, Calif.
Weekly's tutelage helped guide Tennessee to a then-program-best .836 winning percentage in 2006 at 61-12 overall, a No. 2 national ranking during the regular season and a second consecutive trip to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla., where UT finished third nationally and downed #1 UCLA, #3 Arizona and #9 Arizona State. One of her slap-hitting pupils, senior outfielder Sarah Fekete, led NCAA Division I in batting average at a staggering .500 (110-of-220) as the UT squad combined to lead the country in team hitting at .342. In all three of the top five hitters in the Southeastern Conference by average in 2006 learned under the watchful eye of Karen and co-head coach Ralph Weekly, as Fekete, Chiles (.437) and Schutzler (.409) gave the league statistics a definitive orange tint. Five members of Weekly's team also were selected as first-team Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Americans to lead NCAA Division I in that category.
UT also achieved another program-first in `06 as the Orange & White raced through the field at the annual SEC Tournament to pick up its first league tournament title with a 3-0 victory over #12 LSU at the UGA Softball Stadium in Athens, Ga. UT hosted the NCAA Regional round at home for the second straight year and added the Super Regionals to the Tyson Park slate after roaring through the opening round a perfect 3-0. The Big Orange faced a serious challenge as defending national champion Michigan ventured to Knoxville for the best-of-three Super Regional series. After downing UM 5-3 and then dropping a tough 5-1 decision to the Wolverines in game two, UT prevailed 1-0 in the finale to send the Orange and White back to the WCWS.
Throughout the Weeklys tenure at Tennessee, the Big Orange have been known for tremendous speed, skyrocketing batting averages and outstanding fielding percentages, as UT led the nation in the latter category in both 2004, 2005 and 2007.
The Orange's and White rapid climb from a 24-win program in 2001 to a national power reached a new peak during a stunning 2005 run to a third-place finish at the Women's College World Series and a national record-tying 67 victories. UT led the nation in fielding percentage (.982), shutouts (51), strikeouts (787) and victories (67) while setting program marks for runs scored (404), hits (678) and stolen bases (127) and tying the single-season record for home runs (52). Tennessee's regular-season efforts permitted the program the opportunity to host the NCAA Regionals at Tyson Park for the first time in UT history. The home field advantage paid dividends as the Lady Vols went 3-0 to advance to NCAA Super Regionals in Palo Alto, Calif., against Stanford. A two-game road sweep over the powerful Pac-10's Cardinal granted Tennessee its first trip to the WCWS. For their efforts the coaches were chosen as the Speedline South Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
The Weeklys were honored as the SEC Coaches of the Year by their peers after directing UT to its first Eastern Division championship since 1999 during the 2004 campaign. The Orange was awarded the second seed at NCAA Regional No. 6 in Ann Arbor, Mich., and collected its first two victories in just the program's second trip to NCAAs. The Lady Vols sported an overall mark of 55-16 and captured tournament titles at their own Lady Vol Classic, the New Mexico State Kick-Off Invitational, the Paradise Classic hosted by the University of Hawaii and the State-Line Classic. Tennessee also reached the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament for the second straight time.
UT continued to climb the ladder of success in 2003, capturing three tournaments and posting several victories over ranked opponents, including league rivals Alabama, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina. Perhaps the most impressive breakthrough occurred as the Lady Vols secured the sixth seed for the Southeastern Conference Tournament and matched their top performance at the event with a couple of triumphs while facing elimination. The Orange were involved in a record four extra-inning tilts during their journey to Plant City, Fla., and managed to oust Auburn and the league's number-one team, Georgia, after dropping regular-season series to the Tigers and Bulldogs.
Continued evidence of the team's progress was shown by a 34-point increase in batting average from 2002 to 2003 under the Weekly regime and a healthy boost to the squad's power numbers, including the most total bases (787), hits (543), runs batted in (280), runs (310) and doubles (102) since the 1999 edition slugged its way to the Eastern Division crown and NCAA Regional No. 3 in Seattle, Wash.
In their debut campaign, the Weeklys presided over the biggest turnaround in UT's softball history, as the team rebounded from a lackluster 24-35 effort to finish 35-25-1 in 2002. The Lady Vols showed marked improvement in every area - offensively, defensively and in the pitching circle. Despite just one returning starter in her natural position, the rest of the orange-clad players enjoyed a tremendous upswing under the Weeklys' tutelage. In fact, UT registered a team batting average that was 40 points higher than the previous season and recorded a school-record fielding percentage of .965 after shaving a massive 44 errors off its '01 figure. In addition, the club's offensive statistics jumped across the board, including a school-record-tying 52 home runs.
Upon arriving in Knoxville, Weekly brought a wealth of experience gained from being an All-America softball player at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., a national title-winning assistant coach at PLU in 1988 and 1992, and a championship head coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for five seasons. During her tenure, the Lady Mocs claimed five straight Southern Conference regular-season trophies, four SoCon Tournament plaques and the team made successive appearances at the 2000 and 2001 NCAA Regionals.
After Karen served as an assistant coach at UTC in 1995 and 1996, the Weeklys combined their efforts to direct the Lady Mocs to the top of the SoCon in their first two campaigns in charge of the program together. The 1997 season featured an overall record of 32-19, while the '98 edition registered a school-record 47 victories and three players earned first-team All-South Region accolades.
While Ralph was on a leave of absence from Chattanooga to handle his Olympic duties in 1999 and 2000, the Lady Mocs' program continued to make steady improvement under Karen's tutelage. In her initial season as head coach in '99, UTC led the SoCon with a .303 batting average and a 1.47 earned run average en route to a school-best 48-18 overall record to go along with a spotless 16-0 mark in regular-season conference play. Weekly guided a record six individuals to first-team All-SoCon accolades that season and Chattanooga became the inaugural team to sweep all of the postseason honors issued by the conference office.
In 2000, the Lady Mocs were 47-27 and earned the program's first NCAA Regional berth by winning three-straight games after a loss to Furman to take the SoCon Tourney and secure the initial automatic bid for the conference into the 48-team regional field. Sent to the No. 1 Regional held in Seattle, Wash., the Mocs fell to Mississippi State, 6-1, before bouncing back to knock out Army, 6-4, in nine innings. The squad would later be eliminated at the event after suffering a 2-1 defeat to nationally-ranked Utah. UTC's pitching staff was the key to its success, sporting an impressive 1.58 earned run average with every hurler having an ERA of 1.80 or lower.
In rolling to a 49-18 overall mark in 2001, including four wins in five outings against SEC competition and a triumph over then-third-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the Weeklys helped the Mocs to another NCAA appearance following Southern Conference regular-season and post-season crowns. Six more Lady Mocs etched their names on the first-team all-league list after UTC racked up an 18-2 ledger in SoCon play and the Weeklys were selected as league Coaches of the Year.
Karen was Ralph's top assistant at Pacific Lutheran from 1987-94 after earning her bachelor's degree in history and political science magna cum laude from the University in 1987. The duo spearheaded the Lutes to NAIA national championships in 1988 and 1992 and a runner-up finish in 1990.
At PLU, where she was known as Karen Kvale, Weekly excelled as a student-athlete. She was named Female Athlete of the Year and led NAIA hitters with a .440 batting average during her All-America senior season. Her skills were not limited to the diamond either, as she was a three-year starter on the basketball team.
With a 3.8 grade point average, Weekly was a two-time Academic All-American, garnering honors in 1986 and 1987. In both '85 and '86, she was the recipient of the prestigious Pacific Lutheran University Undergraduate Fellow/Division of Social Sciences Award.
She later earned her juris doctor degree from the University of Washington's School of Law in 1990. At Chattanooga, Weekly was an assistant professor in the College of Business Administration from August 1995 until May 2001, where she taught a course entitled the "Legal Environment of Business." Between 1996-99, she served on the UTC Faculty Committee on Student Rating of Faculty Instruction. In addition, Weekly was an administrative law judge and a member of the school's Gender Equity Committee from 1996 until her departure from Chattanooga. She remains an administrative law judge at the University of Tennessee.
Previously, she was an associate attorney at Grant, Konvalinka & Harrison in Chattanooga from November 1994 to August 1995 after working in a similar capacity at Williams, Kastner & Gibbs in Seattle from September 1990 through November 1994.
Weekly holds memberships in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), where she has held several committee positions, and the Academy of Legal Studies in Business. She is a member of the American Bar Association and is permitted to practice law in the states of Tennessee and Washington.
Having traveled all over the nation to spread her knowledge about the sport, Weekly has been a co-owner and director of National Hitting Camps since 1988. She also has been a lead instructor at ASA Elite Hitting Camps in Midland, Texas, and in Oklahoma City, Okla., and has been a featured speaker at several coaching clinics around the country. She has spoken at the "Be the Best You Are" clinic in Cherry Hill, N.J., during each of the last six years, covering such topics as developing power and bat speed, the short game, scouting opponents and developing a rapport between the coach and players.
In December 2007, Weekly released a video entitled "The Tennessee Slap Attack," an instructional tape teaching the fundamentals of slap-hitting. In April 2012 the Weeklys will issue a new book entitled "High-Scoring Softball," the definitive guide to offensive play.
Weekly is currently serving as a member of the coaching pool for the various teams associated with the prestigious USA Softball program. She traveled to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., in June 2011 to help with the USA Softball Women's Senior National Team Selection Camp.