Mike Strange: Dandy Dozen opens with a view to a kill

Mike Strange
J. Miles Cary/News Sentinel
Kelsey Robinson poses for a photo Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Tennessee volleyball team won the school's first outright SEC championship in 2011. At the heart of it all was Robinson, who was named SEC Player of the Year.

Photo by J. Miles Cary

J. Miles Cary/News Sentinel Kelsey Robinson poses for a photo Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Tennessee volleyball team won the school's first outright SEC championship in 2011. At the heart of it all was Robinson, who was named SEC Player of the Year.

Here's to you, Miss Robinson.

It's been awhile, so Tennessee's only regular-season SEC title of the school year may have slipped a few minds.

The Lady Vols won the school's first outright volleyball championship on Nov. 23, capping a 19-1 SEC campaign.

At the heart of it all was sophomore Kelsey Robinson, the first Lady Vol ever honored as SEC Player of the Year.

She's also honored at the top of my sixth annual Dandy Dozen, a compilation of the UT athletes who stepped up with the best performances in 2011-12.

Robinson led the conference in kills and points per set. Her 561 kills for the season rank fourth in school history.

She was a second-team All-American, a four-time SEC player of the week and on Oct. 11 was the national player of the week.

Team-wise it was a year that produced only two other conference tiles. The Lady Vols won the SEC basketball tournament and the rowing team won the Conference USA title.

Here's the rest of the Dandy Dozen:

2. Glory Johnson: All-American, SEC tournament MVP, the senior from Knoxville was a tireless warrior for Pat Summitt's Lady Vols.

Rebounding and defense are all about effort. Well, Johnson led the SEC in rebounding and was the SEC defensive player of the year. She also led her team in steals and blocked shots.

She will battle on in Tulsa as the fourth pick of the WNBA draft.

3. Da'Rick Rogers: Off the field, Mr. Rogers' neighborhood was fairly volatile, but Rogers delivered when the lights were on.

His 67 receptions for 1,040 yards, with nine touchdowns and six 100-yard games rank as one of the best all-around seasons ever by a UT receiver. Only Joey Kent, Marcus Nash and Robert Meachem have turned in better overall statistical seasons.

4. The Divers: Tori Lamp and Ryan Helms were the SEC women's and men's divers of

the year respectively. (This is a sneaky way to squeeze in an extra athlete, a ploy that will be repeated.)

Lamp won the SEC platform and finished second on the 1-and 3-meter boards. She was second on the platform at the NCAA meet.

Helms became the first Vol in 16 years to win both the SEC 1- and 3-meter titles. He was fourth on the NCAA 3-meter board.

5. The Renfroes: Another two-for-one package, the sisters pitched the Lady Vols back to the Women's College World Series.

Ellen opened hot, recorded 15 shutouts and earned a first-team All-America honors. Ivy struggled to a 5-6 start then won 14 consecutive decisions.

It was Ivy who notched the win in all six of UT's NCAA Regional and Super Regional victories.

6. Raven Chavanne: Many consider the Lady Vols third baseman the best leadoff hitter in softball.

Despite a shoulder injury she led the SEC in batting average, got on base in 53 of 56 games and only struck out six times.

7. Jenny Connolly: Good thing the senior swimmer didn't try a victory lap after the SEC meet. She would have sunk wearing four gold medals, from the 100 back, the 100 fly and two relays.

The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame dubbed Connolly the state's female amateur athlete of the year.

8. Jeronne Maymon: The junior forward announced his credentials in Maui in November with a Bernard King-like 32-point, 20-rebound game against Memphis.

He was the gritty face of coach Cuonzo Martin's surprising maiden voyage, averaging 12.7 points, 8.1 boards, drawing a team-best 16 charges and playing hurt at the end.

9. DeeDee Harrison: Like Robinson, the Nashville native was a terror at the net on Tennessee's volleyball front line.

A first-team All-SEC pick, Harrison led the conference in blocks and grabbed honorable mention All-America honors.

10. Annie Alexander: The senior really threw her weight(s) around.

She won the SEC shot put indoors and outdoors, and the discus outdoors (there is no indoor discus, for the record).

Alexander concluded her career at the NCAA meet finishing fourth in the shot and fifth in the discus.

11. Mary Pollmiller: The SEC freshman of the year touched virtually everything as the consummate volleyball setter.

She led the SEC in assists and had more assists than any freshman in the nation, ranking fourth among all players.

12. Pluskota-Szekely: It sounds like possibly a rare blood disorder, but it is in fact a very good doubles team. Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekley battled to the NCAA tennis tournament semifinals.

They were 8-0 at No. 1 doubles in dual matches. Pluskota overcame injuries to reach the NCAA round of 16 in singles.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 8

budd#207344 writes:

Thanks Mike for remembering and honoring some great student athletes. There is always a reason to be glad to be a VOL.

dvhill100 writes:

Congrats to the athletes who performed so well for UT and the coaches and support system that helped them hone their skills. Always a team effort.

Bigger_Al writes:

Good stuff. "Rare blood disorder". Able to cover UT athletics, drop a humorous line, and not needle or slap UT fans. Strange for Sports Editor!

VOLinATL writes:

We too often get wrapped up in the gloom and doom of things and fail to recognize top performers. Kudos to them, and to you Mike for this column. A nice read to start the weekend!

rabidvol1998 writes:

Great article Mike. Thanks. However, we should all band together and picket for indoor Discus!

Munsterlander writes:

Great stuff! Way to represent, all!!

BambooBoy writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to BambooBoy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Must you always show your rear end?

Get back under water and breathe through a bamboo reed.

You're right though..........you're a little boy.

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