Feb. 4, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The No. 12 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team will christen the 2009 campaign at the BYU Red Desert Classic over Feb. 5-7 with contests against Northern Colorado, Utah State, No. 15 Washington, San Jose State and BYU. The event, held in St. George, Utah, will mark the Orange & White's initial visit to the "Beehive State" in program history.
UT begins the year against Northern Colorado on Thursday at 5 p.m. ET with co-head coach Karen Weekly looking to pick up her 600th career coaching victory.
Tennessee maintains a combined 8-2 record against its five opponents. Included are 2-1 marks against both Washington and San Jose State, a perfect 2-0 record versus BYU and 1-0 slates against Northern Colorado and Utah State. Tennessee met both BYU and Utah State during the 2008 campaign, winning both, while UT hasn't faced Washington or Northern Colorado since 2005 and San Jose State since 2004.
Co-Head Coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly prepare to christen the new season with 10 returning letterwinners, seven newcomers and seven players that reaped at least 23 starts during the '08 campaign. Among those returning to bolster the Lady Vol program are NFCA All-South Region choices junior Tiffany Huff (C-1B -- .313 avg., 18 doubles, 50 RBIs, 44 walks, .452 on-base percentage), senior Lillian Hammond (OF -- .349 avg., 46 runs scored, 59 hits, 23-of-24 on stolen bases) and sophomore Ashton Ward (P -- 27-5, 1.88 ERA, 14 complete games, six solo shutouts, 204.1 innings pitched, 187 K's, .195 avg. against). Also returning are junior Erinn Webb (2B -- .314 avg., 14 doubles, six triples, 10 homers, 43 RBIs, 13-16 on stolen bases), sophomore Jen Lapicki (C/1B -- .283 avg., 11 doubles, six HR's, 43 RBIs) and sophomore Kelly Grieve (OF -- .305 avg., 28 runs scored, three doubles, UT freshman record 18 stolen bases). In the circle, Tennessee welcomes back not only Ward's production, but also senior lefthander Danielle Pieroni, who tossed 19.1 frames in 2008.
Arriving at Rocky Top for their initial action in the Orange and White are 2008 EA Sports National High School Player of the Year Jessica Spigner (3B), 2008 National High School Coaches Association National Player of the Year Cat Hosfield (P), and 2008 EA Sports All-American Ashley Andrews (SS). Also included among the stalwart group are high-profile signees and power-hitters Dee Dee Fryer (DP--Sterling, Va.) and in-state product Shelby Burchell (C/OF--Columbia, Tenn.).
Tennessee will face a daunting schedule in 2009 beginning with this weekend's match-ups that include No. 15 Washington and BYU. UT is currently slated to play eight members of the preseason top 25 during 18 regular-season contests that will feature Florida, Alabama, Northwestern, Oklahoma, North Carolina, LSU, Washington and Georgia. Also, the Orange will face 15 squads that participated in last season's NCAA Tournament.
The Lady Vols enter the campaign with the most overall wins (376) in the Southeastern Conference since the arrival of the Weeklys to helm the program prior to the 2002 season.