March 16, 2010
BY GRANT RAMEY
When Tennessee's softball team looks for leadership, they look no further than Tiffany Huff. And not because she's one of the few places they can look.
Huff, the team's only four-year starter and one of only three seniors, leads a 19-player roster that includes 10 freshmen, three sophomores and one junior.
Talk only goes so far, though. Huff wants to lead with her words and her actions.
"I think too much talk and nothing to back it up is too much," Huff said. "So I try mostly to lead by example. As much as I can, I try to be a little bit of both."
Huff, though, has more than enough credibility to back up her role as the team's unquestioned leader.
Since she joined the team as a freshman, the Lady Vols have played 210 games. Huff has started them all. She's been a Freshman All-SEC selection, played on the championship U.S. Junior National Team in 2007 and been named to multiple All-Academic teams.
"I wish I just had five or six more like her," Lady Vols coach Ralph Weekly said. "She is the unquestioned leader on this team. We don't have a lot of experience on this team. And she's the most vocal... and the best leader.
"She's just a role model for people. They can see what she does and how she does it and how she goes about her business."
It's only fitting that Huff leads the youth-movement Lady Vols from behind the plate.
"The catcher is the field general," Weekly said. "And to have someone back there that's authoritative, that really helps. She calls all the plays, when the ball needs to be cut-off or runners on first and third... she's on top of everything."
"I've gotten to know both of them very well," Huff said. "We use a lot of talk, a lot of communication. They're very smart, very good pitchers, and they've pitched through a lot of tough games prior to coming here. A lot of it is just being supportive."
Huff can provide more than support for her rookie teammates. Those 210 career games provide plenty of first-hand insight to pass along.
As a freshman in 2007, Huff hit .339 with 58 RBI and six home runs.
"It's an amazing opportunity as a freshman to get out there and play," she said. "Not a lot of people get that chance, so you have to seize the moment. I guess I kind of tell them to enjoy it."
The lack of experience hasn't slowed Tennessee out of the gate.
Heading into Wednesday's 6 p.m. game against Austin Peay, UT is 19-5 record and ranked No. 17 in the country. Last weekend, the Lady Vols took two of three on the road against Mississippi State to open SEC play.
But after more than 200 games at Tennessee, Huff makes sure to Tennessee's younger players aren't too caught up with just one series win.
"We have a lot of talent, but the first few years in the conference that we're in are still tough, no matter what," she said.
"I think we have room to grow and we have amazing talent. So we are slowly but surely reaching that potential."