As Tennessee three-time All-American Lindsay Schutzler was beginning her duties as the Lady Vols new director of softball operations last month, she came across tape of the 2007 Women's College World Series.
"I'd never watched it,'' said Schutzler, who after her UT career (2004-07) played two years with the Chicago Bandits and three years on the Pro Fastpitch Xtreme Tour. "I couldn't even watch the world series on TV a couple of years; losing was so painful.''
Schutzler, who was serving as an academic athletic counselor at Ohio State, was part of arguably the greatest team co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly have ever had.
With the fiery Schutzler and All-Americans Monica Abbott, Sarah Fekete (Bailey) and Tonya Callahan leading the way, UT ran up a 63-8 record in 2007 and won the SEC regular-season and postseason titles before losing to Arizona in a gut-wrenching finale.
"Ralph showed the video to the team and said the 2007 team had the fire and determination we're looking for,'' Schutzler said. "None of us had seen the highlight tape through the end. It was brutal, seeing the sad faces, it takes you right back.''
And right back to the WCWS is where UT figures to be, returning eight starters and four All-Americans from last season's team: Ellen Renfroe, Raven Chavanne, Lauren Gibson and Kat Dotson.
"You can't place a value on having Lindsay in the program,'' said Fekete-Bailey, who is in her third year coaching Catholic High School. "She's a competitor, and I think they have lacked having that edge, going for blood.''
Part of what fueled the Lady Vols of yesteryear was the friendly rivalry between the highly recruited Schutzler and Fekete, who began her career as a walk-on.
The young women laugh about it now.
"The reason I became successful was there was competition between me and Lindsay, every day,'' Fekete said. "She had my back on the field, and I had hers. That's what you want as a coach, competition every day within the concept of team.''
Ralph Weekly said Schutzler's presence alone makes a difference.
"We're fortunate to hire a person of Lindsay's caliber,'' he said. "She has a strong academic background between Tennessee, UCLA and Ohio State. She's one of the greatest athletes Karen and I have ever coached.''
Kind words aside, Schutzler made it clear why she's back.
"I told the girls in the meeting, I don't care what my title is, we're going to win,'' Schutzler said. "I would love to get that world series ring I never did.''