Lady Vols to 'soak it all in' before getting down to business at world series

Coach Ralph Weekly arrives in Oklahoma City for Women's College World Series

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The young women clad in orange laughed and chatted in the lobby of their hotel before heading to the Women's College World Series team welcome function Tuesday night.

A two-hour plane ride and two-hour practice in 90-degree heat had taken place since their morning wake-up call back in Knoxville some 12 hours earlier, but the Tennessee softball team appeared as bubbly as ever.

"I think the thing I realized since the last time I was here is that making it to the world series is not a given,'' said Lady Vols junior second baseman Lauren Gibson. "I'm going to make sure I enjoy this trip and soak it all in as much as possible before getting focused for our games, and I'm telling our underclassmen to do the same thing.''

Tennessee (52-12) opens the double-elimination WCWS on Thursday (TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m.) against Alabama (55-7).

"It never gets old coming here, and there's never a bad day at the world series,'' said UT co-head coach Ralph Weekly, who along with his wife, Karen, has guided the Lady Vols to five WCWS appearances in their 11-year tenure. "It's every softball player and coach's dream to compete in the college world series.''

Tennessee, seeded No. 7 despite a No. 4 RPI, has finished in the top three of the eight-team WCWS field in each of its previous four trips — 2005, 2006, 2007 and, most recently, 2010.

Karen Weekly said the Lady Vols took to the sun-drenched field at Oklahoma City University on Tuesday afternoon with the mindset of winning it all this time around.

"We're happy to be here, but not 'just' happy to be here. We want to win it,'' she said. "We would have practiced at home this morning, but with an earlier flight, we had to adjust. Forty-eight hours from game time is the best time to get a quality workout in; (Monday) we were still a little tired from Sunday's games, so that was more about film work with a 30-minute strength and conditioning workout.

"Today, it was defense and offense on the field, and some time spent in Oklahoma City University's indoor batting cages.''

Ralph Weekly is confident with both of his pitchers, junior WCWS veteran Ivy Renfroe (25-8, 1.73 ERA) and sophomore All-American Ellen Renfroe (27-4, 1.18), so he believes the key is UT's ability to generate runs against the No. 2-seeded Crimson Tide.

The teams split their March 21 doubleheader in Tuscaloosa this season, as Alabama won the first game 3-2 in 11 innings before the Lady Vols handed the Tide its first loss of the season in the nightcap, 5-2.

"Alabama is a legit and deserving No. 2 seed, and they are seeded ahead of us for a reason,'' Ralph Weekly said of the SEC champions. "To be successful against a team as good as Alabama, you need all components clicking the entire game.

"We won the second game, but we did not beat Jackie Traina, we lost to her in the first game in 11 innings. That's our challenge — she's one of the top two pitchers in the collegiate game.''

Traina, 37-2 with a 1.67 ERA, breaks 70 mph with her fastball and features a devastating changeup that has led her to 316 strikeouts in 246 2/3 innings pitched this season.

The Crimson Tide has yet to lose a postseason game, sweeping through the SEC tournament, its NCAA tournament regional and Super Regional.

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee sports. Follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 16

snafu14u#241639 writes:

Congratulations Lady Vols. Enjoy. Hate to say this but while I believe the Lady Vols are talented they don't have the guns/grit to overcome Weekly's game day coaching. Bonzaivol

ODA751 writes:

Tear 'em up ladies. Represent.

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

Go get 'em, ladies. With great opponents come great opportunities. Make the most of it.

armyvol22 writes:

Where can you find the brackets?

SummittsCourt writes:

The Lady Vols handed bama their first regular season loss and now they will hand them their first post season loss.

Go get 'em Lady Vols!!!!

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to armyvol22:

Where can you find the brackets?

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to snafu14u#241639:

Congratulations Lady Vols. Enjoy. Hate to say this but while I believe the Lady Vols are talented they don't have the guns/grit to overcome Weekly's game day coaching. Bonzaivol

52 wins? Yep, pretty poor game day coaching.

How many did you coach and win????????

voloffaith writes:

in response to snafu14u#241639:

Congratulations Lady Vols. Enjoy. Hate to say this but while I believe the Lady Vols are talented they don't have the guns/grit to overcome Weekly's game day coaching. Bonzaivol

I guess we need to tell them to just go ahead and forfeit and catch plane back home....or is that why they play them? The Lady Vols have everything in their arsenal to win it all! Again, all cylinders clicking at the same time is what it will take.....i"m not throwing the towel in as you apparently have already....GO LADY VOLS!!!

ps11824 writes:

Ralph Weekly said of the SEC champions. "To be successful against a team as good as Alabama, you need all components clicking the entire game. ]]]

Don't get mad at old 98, but I believe those components include wearing the look of confidence, showing it in the dugout and supporting each other vocally, emotionally, continuously no matter what the score.

I believe, I believe...yes, yes, GO LADY VOLS! In #5 we will arrive. Where? The line of WCS 2012 Champions, baby.

I love the Weeklys. Been watching them and their quality winning ways since they coached the Chattanooga Mocs. Saw the Mocs play against the Lady Vols. You better believe old 98 was having a ball because it was a 'win win situation. I had no favorite that night. IMHO, the Weeklys are among the best softball coaching material out there.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

52 wins? Yep, pretty poor game day coaching.

How many did you coach and win????????

Good response. Too many people get on here and complain yet haven't done one thing in regards to the sport or coaching to know what they are talking about.

ModelMaker writes:

The Lady Vols did a great job of beating that great pitcher from Georga. If they can beat her they can beat anybody. The girls show a rare ability to do what it takes to get the job done or in this case get the win. I like their chances.

ModelMaker writes:

in response to ModelMaker:

The Lady Vols did a great job of beating that great pitcher from Georga. If they can beat her they can beat anybody. The girls show a rare ability to do what it takes to get the job done or in this case get the win. I like their chances.

Dang I misspelled Georgia.

frblalack writes:

Congratulations Lady Vols & Coaches! This IS our year to win it all. Let's start with derailing the J-Train! Suggestion: let's get some runners on base!!! Expect the clutch hitting from Maddi & Shelby & Kat to be driving in Raven and Lauren in the first inning! Let's be aggressive!!! We've got the better defensive team and GREAT pitchers, both Renfroe girls can flat-out pitch!!!

I'll be watching every minute. Hitters don't forget Traina will use her change-up mixed with a big fastball. Stay on your toes! Let's punch 'em in the mouth FIRST THING!

Go Lady Vols! NOW is the time for our big hitters to make those BIG hits! And as they say, the rest will be history! Lookin' at ya, Maddi...Lauren...Shelby...and all the rest of my
winners! Can't say enough about the great defensive play from Tori, and Melissa, and our MVP Ashley! Time for YOU Melissa Davin to swat one of Traina's 70+ fastballs into nowhereland!
Now c'mon team; YOU'RE the BEST! Make me proud!

Love my Lady Vols! All Vols - All the Time - VFL

DRORANGELOVE writes:

I did not agree with the super regional pairings and I don't agree with the World Series bracket pairings. It is very clear that both ESPN and the NCAA are tired of the SEC being the superior conference in college sports and are going to do everything they can to keep the SEC from winning yet another college national championship. I have drawn up many many National championship softball tournament bracketsin the past involving many more teams than just 8 teams. NEVER did I put two teams from the same city, state. or league playing each other in the first round. Tennessee has had to eliminate another fine SEC team in the super regionals ( Ga ) and now has to play yet another SEC team in the FIRST round of the WS. SOMEBODY does Not want the SEC to win this tournament. ( NCAA, You Think ??? )

frblalack writes:

in response to DRORANGELOVE:

I did not agree with the super regional pairings and I don't agree with the World Series bracket pairings. It is very clear that both ESPN and the NCAA are tired of the SEC being the superior conference in college sports and are going to do everything they can to keep the SEC from winning yet another college national championship. I have drawn up many many National championship softball tournament bracketsin the past involving many more teams than just 8 teams. NEVER did I put two teams from the same city, state. or league playing each other in the first round. Tennessee has had to eliminate another fine SEC team in the super regionals ( Ga ) and now has to play yet another SEC team in the FIRST round of the WS. SOMEBODY does Not want the SEC to win this tournament. ( NCAA, You Think ??? )

Probably correct! But we've got the BEST defensive team in the country, and TWO GREAT pitchers! This is the year to win it all!!! Even the NCAA pairings can't stop us if we can just get some timely hitting! I think our bats will come to life in OK City.

All Vols - All the Time - Love my Lady Vols!!!

volfan73120#211815 writes:

I live in Oklahoma City, and will be wearing my orange tomorrow night at the WCWS. This will be my fifth series watching the Lady Vols. I can hardly wait.

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