Freshmen get marching orders for March

Seven Lady Vols to play in first NCAA tournament

Experiencing Tennessee's run to a national championship last season made Angie Bjorklund wise beyond her years regarding the NCAA basketball tournament.

But it didn't make the Lady Vols sophomore guard any better at conveying her experiences to her teammates.

"It's hard to tell them,'' Bjorklund said. "The seniors last year would try to tell me, but you don't know until you go through it. You have to go through it."

Seven first-year Tennessee players, 70 percent of the active roster, will receive their NCAA initiation when the No. 5 seed Lady Vols (22-10) face No. 12 Ball State (25-8) at approximately 9:30 p.m. Sunday (TV: ESPN2) in Bowling Green, Ky., in a first-round game of the Berkeley (Calif.) regional.

No. 4 Iowa State and No. 13 East Tennessee State will meet at 7.

The winners play Tuesday night for a trip to the regional semifinals.

Redshirt freshman center Kelley Cain had a front row seat on UT's bench for last season's tournament. She was recovering from knee surgery. By her thinking, she might as well have been sitting in the last row.

"This year is completely different for me,'' she said, "since last year I just watched."

Imagine what it will be like for six true freshmen. Two of them - Shekinna Stricklen and Glory Johnson - likely will start, along with Cain. Bjorklund will do her best this week to offer some sense of what they are about to experience.

"The fire and the passion, the 'I'm going to do anything to win; whatever it takes,' '' Bjorklund said. "More hustle plays. It's a lot more physical. The refs let a lot more go, that type of thing. The teams, it's a whole new level."

Last season's seniors might not have told riveting stories, but they set compelling post-season examples with their play in winning a second consecutive title.

"It was almost like a light switch; they just completely turned it up,'' Bjorklund said. "They knew what post-season basketball was all about. I hope I can do that for this team and Alex (Fuller) and our upperclassmen who have seen that. This is a whole new level. This is a whole new game, and they're going to learn from experience."

The freshmen aren't coming in cold. Tennessee has a 11-9 record in 20 games against 16 teams in the 64-team tournament field. Seven of those teams were from the SEC. Tennessee played fellow tournament participants Auburn, Vanderbilt, Florida and Mississippi State twice.

The freshmen have played a part in the greatest comeback in program history, helping to erase a 20-point halftime deficit in a 55-51 victory at Rutgers on Jan. 3. They're also fresh off UT's worst loss in SEC tournament history, a 78-58 thrashing at the hands of Auburn on March 7.

"I would hope because of the number of tough games we've been in - we've come from behind; we've had some tough losses - they have seen both sides of it,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "I think a lot of that is how our coaches handle it. At this point in time, you have to be very positive and direct. We have to come together."

All in the all, the freshmen should have seen enough to prevent any wide-eyed reactions to the new world they're about to enter. Freshman Alyssia Brewer at least sounds like a veteran.

"You know I never think a team is really ready for the tournament, no matter how good you are,'' Brewer said. "But I think we've been in enough situations to know what we need to do to be in the tournament."

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Comments » 28

GoodOleRockyTop writes:

Good Luck LADY VOLS!

DroopyDrawers writes:

Go Lady Vols! Get ready to rumble!

lewhs93#205993 writes:

I'll be watching from down in gator country.GO LADY VOLS,YOU CAN WIN THEM,ONE AT A TIME.

CTOWNICON writes:

Just take it one game at a time Lady vols. Play your absolute best and you will be victorious. When you ladies play hard and you are clicking on all cylinders you can win a lot of games in this tournament. Alex and Angie has been here and their leadership is going to be needed. Also Alex, look for that awesome jump shot and three point shot that you have in your arsenal. Play hard tough defense because it wins games. I have faith in you ladies and you should have faith in each other and go out and get this victory. Play smart, limit your turnovers and you will be fine. These teams aren't better than you it's just at times you help teams beat you with your turnovers and confusion on defense. Take care of those two elements and you will go far in this NCAA tournament.

snafu14u#241639 writes:

Lady Vols make it to the Sweet 16 and then the party is over. Not enough chemistry and commitment.bonzaivol

vww#225040 writes:

Ladies...you have what it takes to win your games in the NCAA tournament...because each of you have shown what it takes and even more collectively as a team...so go out and play ...because it is yours to win.....as YOUR FANS are here for you ... and we believe in each of you and that you will do what it takes...by winning one game at a time!!!! GO LADY VOLS!!!! You're AWESOME.

marvinVol writes:

I look for some of the freshmen to come out big, and I mean BIG. If I am right, look out tournament!!!

Go Lady Vols!!!!

You may not hear me but I will be yelling as loud as I can.

ps11824 writes:

I am optimistic that our freshmen will find postseason consistency. Not that there’s a better alternative at this point. We have what we have. Stricklen has improved since unselfishly shifting from the wing earlier this season, but the team’s perimeter defensive stopper has never been confused with a natural point guard. Bass must be ready to contribute consistently. If only she and Manning will come off the bench and provide solid 4-minute respites for the starters.

Redshirt freshman post Kelly Cain has endured a long painful season for everybody, because most everybody was relatively new to each other and to Pat's style of play and the SEC style of play. As she stated, "last season I just watched. But I think she’s done a good job picking it up lately. And if, she can avoid injury, she will be a huge factor in how far the Lady Vols go dancing.

Bj did a masterful job of describing the natural transition which occurs in post season. It just sounds like something that would stay in a player's head each and every moment of the game, "I'm better than I am playing. I will kick it up a notch, now. I am seriously seeking St. Louis."

Hopefully the team has used these days absorbing the crash course in attitude. Pat states in one of her books: "Attitude lies somewhere between emotion and logic." She says, "It's that curious mix of optimism and determination that enables you to maintain a positive outlook and continue plodding in the face of the most adverse circumstances.. There is nothing mysterious or illogical in the certainty that you are willing to work harder and longer than your opponent, even when you are behind in the game."

rockytopron writes:

Survive and advance, survive and advance, survive and advance!

rockytopron writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Really, you felt you needed to post that here? Come on man, this is the Lady Vols story so keep it on point from now on. Thanks!

ps11824 writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

On the guys side...

Hopson is going to need to show up BIG TIME.

Some cannot respect one scintilla of glory for the 'women's game' without attempting to horn in with their own selfishness. There's plenty of threads on the men's game

jr2miles writes:

Get it done ladies! All it takes is hard work and trusting your team. I believe this team can get it done besides they have the best coach in the world on the sideline. Nobody pick UT to win it the last two years and look what happen, so defend the three ball and play strong lady vol defense and the rest of the game will come to you ladies. Go Lady Vols!!!!!

ps11824 writes:

I suppose you all don't know we're headed into the big dance? Why so dead in here? We're going to win this thing! I challenge every true Lady Vol fan to get in here and convince yourself and every Tennessee fan in the country that we are going to win this thing! Let's dial this thing up with positive thoughts. I understand Pat gave the players back their laptops.

If you don't believe it and you can't post it, go crawl under the rock with mikeypoo.

reachkim00 writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Obviously we don't CARE about football or their basketball. This is LADY VOL territory here only.
GO LADY VOLS!!!

reachkim00 writes:

in response to ps11824:

I suppose you all don't know we're headed into the big dance? Why so dead in here? We're going to win this thing! I challenge every true Lady Vol fan to get in here and convince yourself and every Tennessee fan in the country that we are going to win this thing! Let's dial this thing up with positive thoughts. I understand Pat gave the players back their laptops.

If you don't believe it and you can't post it, go crawl under the rock with mikeypoo.

Great posts, as usual , today!!

I am so pumped up about our chances in the tournament that I've been doing my own dancing! I've got a good feeling about these ladies for one just because of the positive, 'let's get the show on the road' attitude. They know exactly what they need to do and how to get it done.
Whew!!! I can't wait!
GO LADY VOLS!!!!! We fans LOVE you and WE BELEIVE!!!

LadyVolFanForever writes:

98 and reachkim, I agree. I feel good about this team and our chances. It all comes down to effort and desire....survive and advance. Listen to the coaching staff. Coach Summitt and crew know what POST season is all about !

Go Lady Vols !

reachkim00 writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

NOW who's panties are in a wad?!?! lol.. exactly the response I expected. If you don't like it, don't post it 'cause I will smack it back at ya.
GO LADY VOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

reachkim00 writes:

in response to LadyVolFanForever:

98 and reachkim, I agree. I feel good about this team and our chances. It all comes down to effort and desire....survive and advance. Listen to the coaching staff. Coach Summitt and crew know what POST season is all about !

Go Lady Vols !

Couldn't have said it better myself. Love the support here for our LADY VOLS!!!

GO LADY VOLS!!!

CTOWNICON writes:

in response to reachkim00:

Couldn't have said it better myself. Love the support here for our LADY VOLS!!!

GO LADY VOLS!!!

Reachkim00 we will be looking at a lot of lady vol basketball during this tournament. They are in it to win it. Everybody talking about the sweet sixteen, I see them going further. They are capable and I would not say it if I did not see it in them. I have seen the greatness this team has on it and I think they are ready to display it in this tournament. Lets battle now!

ps11824 writes:

Fleser and cronies are obviously too busy to get any fresh articles on here. We may write our own blogs, you know. Just in case anyone else is suffering withdrawals, here goes.

Look around, sportswriters, there are wonderful stories out there. You must earn your pay and get them to press. The turnstiles are about to turn in arenas all over the country. Surely you could get some fresh stuff on here. Inquiring minds want to know.

Is Cain feeling strong? What about the glory factor? Will she play with one hand as Candace Parker 'dialed up' last season with a broken wing?

I was just watching a recording of last season's early-season game against Texas. I was reminiscing of the 'glory days' before Miss Johnson graduated high school. I had tears in my eyes as little Shannon Bobbitt schooled the Longhorns on a play where she stole the ball, did a pirouette around a couple of burnt orange-clad players, flew down to the arch, stopped on a dime and drained a thunderous three. Our little floor general from New York was immediately burried under a pile of Hornbuckle, Anosikem Parker and Bjorklund high fives. Oh, to see that kind of chemistry, that calibre athleticism and confident swagger, right now in March '09!

By golly, we will see it soon in Diddle Arena. The names have changed, but the game's the same - Lady Vol basketball. Bring it Bj, Glory, Strick, Kelly, Alex, Brewer, Bri, Bone and Amber. The nations best cheer squad, Baugh and McMahan has a major roll to play in this next victory, too.

jr2miles writes:

Lets go and play good basketball. I know this team have 6 good games left in them to bring the trophy back home. Its time for this team to start their own legacy. Glory- rebound. Angie- shoot. Shekinna- Score and defend. Alex- Rebound and shoot the ball. kelley- Do you. I feel good about this team so get it done ladies. Go Lady Vols!

littleorange writes:

Come on girls you're not freshmen any more now that the REAL season has begun......Git er done....Go Lady Vols

pammyvol1000 writes:

in response to littleorange:

Come on girls you're not freshmen any more now that the REAL season has begun......Git er done....Go Lady Vols

I second that littleorange. This is where you need to have your ducks in a row... this is it!!

mississippi writes:

in response to reachkim00:

NOW who's panties are in a wad?!?! lol.. exactly the response I expected. If you don't like it, don't post it 'cause I will smack it back at ya.
GO LADY VOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ladies lets roll

bmaples writes:

C'mon Lady Vols!! I'll be there Sunday night till it's over, drive back to The Ville, work Monday and Tuesday, then drive back down Tuesday night. Win 'em both! Make some noise! Let's get everyone else looking over their shoulders, worrying that "here come those Lady Vols"!!

Bruce in Louisville

ladivolfan writes:

I'll be satisfied with Sweet 16 and totally estatic with Elite 8.

rockytopron writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

UTfanlife,
You have to understand that we, the fans of the Lady Vols, are sick of those others who want to use every article to spew their hatred or discontent on here.

Please stick to the topic on hand and leave the men's game comments on their article boards, same with football. I am respectfully asking...

reachkim00 writes:

in response to rockytopron:

UTfanlife,
You have to understand that we, the fans of the Lady Vols, are sick of those others who want to use every article to spew their hatred or discontent on here.

Please stick to the topic on hand and leave the men's game comments on their article boards, same with football. I am respectfully asking...

Agree, respectfully.
GO LADY VOLS!!!!!!!

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