Randy Smith: Lady Vols Still “Grinding For Nine”

Monday, March 10, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

When the college basketball season started, the Tennessee Lady Vols set a goal of winning a National Championship. That’s really not so far-fetched. Most of the Tennessee teams set that goal, and on eight different occasions, that goal was attained.  This year’s group under second year head coach Holly Warlick, decided to give their ultimate season goal a slogan; “Grind For Nine” So far the chances of reaching that goal are still very much alive.

The sixth ranked Lady Vols scored a 71-70 win over Kentucky on Sunday, giving them the SEC Tournament Championship. Tennessee must now wait until a week from today, when the NCAA Women’s selection show will air giving all teams the opponent and location for the 2014 “Big Dance.” At 27-5, they will definitely be no higher than a two seed, and Coach Warlick is hoping the school’s 17th SEC title will be enough to give her team a coveted number one seed. “I would think if you win the conference tournament, you would get an opportunity for a number one seed,” Warlick said. “I think we’ve put ourselves in a good position.”

In winning the SEC Tournament, the Lady Vols avenged two of their three regular season losses. (LSU and Kentucky) The Lady Vols are also the only school in NCAA history to make all thirty-three NCAA Women’s Tournaments. That…..is truly impressive.

The 2014 version of Lady Vols basketball has been described as a “blue collar” squad. They have to work very hard to be successful, and they’ve worked hard from game one. They scored three wins  in the SEC Tournament, but they trailed by double digits in all three games before rallying to win. That is most definitely, “blue collar.”

As Coach Holly Warlick is nearing the end of her second season replacing the legendary Pat Summitt, things are surely going much smoother than last year. In her first game as Tennessee’s head coach, her team lost to a pretty good UTC squad in Chattanooga. A quick exit from the NCAA field a year ago, made some people feel that she may not be what Tennessee needs to guide the most successful women’s program in history.  That talk has subsided this year as Tennessee has climbed to a number six national ranking, to go along with an impressive 27-5 worksheet.

As Coach Warlick received pat after pat on the back for that win over Kentucky on Sunday, she was quick to thank her coach, friend and mentor Pat Summitt. “I want to say hi to Pat Summitt. I know she is home watching the broadcast.” As Coach Warlick uttered those words, the partisan Tennessee crowd erupted in a huge roar.

Replacing a legend is never an easy task, especially when you take the place of one as highly regarded as Coach Summitt.  Holly Warlick is a better fit than anyone else to fill Coach Summitt’s shoes; and if the Lady Vols can somehow “grind” out that ninth NCAA Championship, she will finally get the justification she deserves.  

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Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.

His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.

He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.

In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.

To contact Randy: rsmithsports@epbfi.com


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