Ashton Ward (3)
Feb. 18, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A seven-game winning streak has helped Tennessee (9-1) improve to No. 9 in the nation as the Lady Vols prepare to wing across the continent to Cathedral City, Calif., to participate in the prestigious Cathedral City Classic (formerly the Palm Springs Classic) over Feb. 19-21 at the Big League Dreams Sports Park. During its stay UT will face Loyola Marymount, #15 UMass, Hawai'i, Cal Poly and Oregon State.
This year's visit to Cathedral City marks the Big Orange's fifth since venturing out to play in the event for the first time during the 2004 campaign. It's also the fourth time UT has been invited to participate in the Cathedral City Classic. The Lady Vols own a 15-3 record at the facility, a 10-3 mark in the Classic and have won their last 10 games at the site. The Orange & White posted a 5-0 record in the inaugural Cathedral City Kick-off to christen the 2008 campaign.
Last weekend in Orlando, Fla., Tennessee posted a 5-0 mark in sweeping to the title at the UCF Early Bird Tournament. UT proved its mettle with a pair of extra-inning wins over home-standing UCF (1-0, 8 inn.) and #25 Kansas (4-2, 8 inn.) to improve its 2008 extra-inning record to a perfect 3-0. The squad even rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the sixth against the nationally-ranked Jayhawks with the help of a sixth-inning solo homer and a game-tying single on a 0-2 count with two outs in the seventh off the bat of sophomore catcher/first baseman Jen Lapicki.
Tennessee sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve was outstanding during the UCF event from her lead-off spot in the order, making life truly miserable for the Lady Vols' opponents. The Asheville, N.C., native hit a blistering .611 (11-of-18) with two doubles, six runs scored and a half dozen steals. The slapper currently leads the Big Orange in overall batting average at .500 and guides the Southeastern Conference in total hits with 18 while tying for first in runs scored with 15. Junior catcher/first baseman Tiffany Huff tallied six more RBIs during the weekend to up her total to an SEC-best 21. Freshman Ashley Andrews played flawless defense at shortstop (23 chances) while hitting .429 (6-of-14) with her first career triple and a pair of stolen bases.
It will be a daunting road for the Lady Vols this weekend in Cathedral City as UT will battle Loyola Marymount, #15 UMass, Hawai'i, Cal Poly and Oregon State. Tennessee downed LMU, 8-0 (5 inn.), back in 2007 and last faced UMass while winning a battle for the 2006 USF adidas Tournament title in Clearwater, Fla. The Orange & White bested Cal Poly (8-0, 5 inn.) and Oregon State (8-1) at Big League Dreams during the 2008 Cathedral City Kick-off. The last match-ups with Hawai'i occurred during the 2007 NCAA Super Regionals in Knoxville as UT prevailed two games to one, advancing on to its third consecutive Women's College World Series.
No. 9 Tennessee opens its stay at the Cathedral City Classic on Thursday, February 19, at 8:30 p.m. PT against Loyola Marymount. Fans can call the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6) for periodic voicemail score updates. Live stats may not be available to all games because of a lack of phone lines and bad internet signals at the complex.