Lady Vols seniors were tournament tough as freshmen

Tennessee third baseman Raven Chavanne poses in the dugout at Lee Stadium on Wednesday, April 23, 2013.  The senior will be honored Saturday, April 27, 2013 when the Lady Vols play host to Arkansas. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee third baseman Raven Chavanne poses in the dugout at Lee Stadium on Wednesday, April 23, 2013. The senior will be honored Saturday, April 27, 2013 when the Lady Vols play host to Arkansas. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Tennessee’s seniors have plenty of NCAA softball tournament experience. But even when they didn’t, they thrived.

Seniors Kat Dotson, Raven Chavanne and Lauren Gibson all started as freshmen when the Lady Vols (47-10) advanced to the Women’s College World Series in 2010. So did star pitcher Ivy Renfroe.

Now, they’re shooting for their third WCWS in four seasons. They will open their Super Regional against Alabama (45-13) on Friday (TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m.) at Lee Stadium.

“We went to Michigan (in the 2010 Super Regional) as a 15 seed,” Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “Michigan was a No. 2 seed, one of the favorites to win the national championship.

“We just took all those young kids up there, and they played loose and had fun. That was a really special year.”

Three years later, the challenge is different for a team loaded with talent and experience.

“It was easy when they were freshmen to play loose, because nothing really was expected of them,” Weekly said.

While the expectations are higher now, the players don’t appear to be burdened by them.

“I was really pleased with the way they played (in last weekend’s Knoxville Regional),” Weekly said. “I think they went out there and played hard.

Pitching Diversity: Alabama is gearing up for the challenge of facing two different Tennessee pitchers with two different styles. Ivy Renfroe is a power pitcher while her sister, Ellen, relies more on finesse.

“We have to recognize they’re different and make adjustments as fast as we can.” said Kayla Braud, Alabama’s leading hitter.

Chavanne can appreciate Alabama’s challenge since she has to bat against both pitchers in practice.

“It’s definitely going to work in our favor, having two pitchers of that caliber, yet are so different,” Chavanne said.

Friendly Rivalry: Alabama coach Patrick Murphy praised UT coaches and players after his team’s practice at Lee Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

“It’s a good rivalry,” he said. “It’s not a nasty rivalry.”

Top Three: Chavanne and two Oklahoma players are the three finalists for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award. Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain and Keilani Ricketts, who won the award last season, are the other two finalists.

Chavanne ranks second in the SEC with a .470 batting average, leads the league with 39 stolen bases and has been outstanding defensively at third base.

Academic Star, Too: Chavanne was named the Capital One Academic All-American of the Year in Division I.

Chavanne is a three-time first-team Academic All-American and the political science major had a 3.84 GPA entering the spring.

Ellen Renfroe and Madison Shipman also were named to the All-American academic team.

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Comments » 4

voloffaith writes:

Friendly rivalry....not nasty....ok fine with that,but still........... take down the tuskettes!!!

voloffaith writes:

Poster #2 welcome as reinvented self yesterday............your signature makes the identification of poster child easy........really......"NO SLAP HITTING'.....sad when you keep getting that temporary bumping...the police don't have it in them to permanently stifle william the bleater or some other percentage(1) of the poster chillies. If the tusker women stay back and Raven or Tory are at bat I'm not opposed to them slapping their way on. Infield is in , then hit away or ,as you say,...drag bunt. Tonight we see which Ms. Traina is on the mound. Is she fine-tuned or having engine trouble.............

SummittsCourt writes:

The seniors will be difference makers this weekend and at the WCWS. (Yes, I'm confident they will win this weekend too)

Go Lady Vols!

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to Hacaf1965:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I guess you think by changing your name it will appear that some people agree with you. It didn't work.

Slap hitting has its value. You need to learn the game of fast pitch softball.

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