May 1, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS - Opening its 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance at the same site where two of its defining wins of the 2012 season came, the 22nd-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team will travel to Charlottesville, Va., next weekend for the first and second rounds of the tournament.
Tennessee (14-12) will face 44th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth (20-4) on Friday, May 11 at 11 a.m. ET, while 14th-seeded Virginia, which is hosting the regional, will play Fairleigh Dickinson following that.
The winners of those matches will face on May 12 for a chance to advance to the Round of 16, which takes place in Athens, Ga. The championship site hosts the final four rounds from May 17-22.
"We're excited to get into the tournament and looking forward to preparing for VCU," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "They're well-coached and will be a real formidable opponent."
Familiar with Charlottesville, the Lady Vols defeated No. 5 Baylor and No. 12 Northwestern there in February at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
"It's been an unpredictable season but we're looking forward to the challenge and hoping to leave Charlottesville with a pair of wins again," senior Natalie Pluskota said.
UT played six of its last seven regular-season matches without a full singles lineup, but is expecting to be at full strength - a situation in which the Lady Vols are 13-4 - in the tournament's opening rounds.
Despite the adversity, Tennessee has remained in the Top 22 of the rankings throughout the whole season.
VCU enters the tournament on an 11-match winning streak, fresh off of capturing the Colonial Athletic Association championship.
The lone all-time meeting between Tennessee and VCU came in the 2002 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, when the Lady Vols used a 4-3 win to reach their first Final Four.
The Lady Vols have won five consecutive first round contests and 15 of the last 16.
Tennessee opened the 2012 season against Virginia, while the Lady Vols have never played FDU.
The Lady Vols suffered just a 4-3 defeat in their season opener while playing with five in the singles lineup, but own a 7-2 all-time record against the Cavaliers. UT had previously won five consecutive matches, including the lone NCAA Tournament meeting between the two, a 4-1 decision in 2003 to advance to the Round of 16.
The championship site that year? Athens, Ga.