Randy Smith: Lady Vols Softball Looks For 1st NCAA Crown

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

When my friends Ralph and Karen Weekly were in town last month for the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame Banquet, they had just returned from a trip out west for a big pre-conference softball tournament. The tournament’s final round was rained out, and Tennessee returned home with a record of 14-1 and ranked number two in the country. As of today, Tennessee is 35-6, 12-4 in the SEC and currently ranked fourth in the polls. They should have no problem getting back to the NCAA Women’s World Series, but beating seven other teams to win the national title is a tall order.

Tennessee has been to the World Series six times under the former UTC co-head coaches. They had one of their finest seasons ever in 2013, finishing 52-12 and coming in second nationally behind champion Oklahoma. When you make the final eight, and then the final four portion of the national tournament, it’s mighty hard to win it all. Ralph Weekly told me he hasn’t been discouraged just yet. Former U.T. women’s basketball head coach Pat Summitt told Coach Weekly that she took a team to the NCAA tournament five times before Tennessee won the first of their eight championships. Prior to those first five NCAA appearances, the Lady Vols also showed up in the old NAIW tournament a total of six years as well. This could be the year the softball Lady Vols finally get over the hump and bring home the big trophy.

It’s been a long haul for the Weeklys. They met when Ralph was coaching softball at Pacific Lutheran on the west coast. Karen was a former All-American at Pacific Lutheran and the two have been coaching together since 1997 at UTC. In fact, Karen was the Lady Mocs head coach for one year while Ralph was away as an assistant coach with the U.S. Olympic Softball team. I still can’t imagine any other married couple I know who could work that well together for that long.

Tennessee was ranked number one in the pre-season national polls before the season started. Ralph took that particular honor well in stride. “It’s not where you start it’s where you finish,”  Weekly said. “I know a lot of people are saying that and I think we could be very good, but all that means is we have a lot of work to do.”

Working hard is nothing new for Ralph and Karen. When they took over at Tennessee in 2003, they inherited a program that was dormant. The Lady Vols were 24-35 the year before and immediately improved to 35-25-1 in their first season. After three more years, their hard work paid off. U.T. finished runner-up in the country in 2005, followed by back-to-back third place finishes nationally in 2006 and in 2007. In all, Tennessee has been to six NCAA College World Series in the last nine years. By the way, Ralph has a couple of national titles under his belt as his Pacific Lutheran teams won a pair of NAIA national crowns in the 1980s.

He still wants the big one however. He and Karen have come really close a couple of times, including last year. We all truly believe he will get it done and 2014 would be as good a time as any to do it.  After all, as Ralph said, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”


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

University Of Mobile Defeats Dalton State Soccer

The (RV) University of Mobile Rams came to Dalton and knocked off the young (19) Dalton State Roadrunners, 1-0.  The fans were still filing into Lakeshore Park Thursday night when the University of Mobile’s Pierre Mangold kicked the only goal of the game with only 48 seconds played. “We were not ready to play the match,” said Dalton State Coach Kerem Daser. "It’s ... (click for more)

PHOTOS: Silverdale Defeats Grace For District 5-1A Crown

Chattanooga Putting World Class Guitar Collection On Display At The Choo Choo

A world class guitar collection is set to go on display permanently at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. "Songbirds," which is built around the collection of Lookout Mountain businessman Thorpe McKenzie, was introduced to the public on Thursday night. Invited guests at the Choo Choo heard Nashville guitar star Doyle Dykes perform in the Choo Choo's new Revelry Room. He played some ... (click for more)

Father Killed By Train Just After Pushing Daughter To Safety In East Brainerd

A 31-year-old man was killed just after he pushed his 10-year-old daughter to safety in an encounter with a train on a trestle in East Brainerd on Thursday afternoon. Police said two pedestrians were walking on the train tracks on a trestle at Audubon Acres when a train came around a bend and struck one of them. Justin McCary was struck by the train as he pushed ... (click for more)

Regulations As A Whole On Signal Mountain

A few years ago I was flying over Chattanooga on my way to Atlanta.  The sun had just come up and I enjoyed picking out Signal Mountain’s location, on Walden’s Ridge, in the morning light.  What was amazing was that I could not tell that a town existed under the tree canopy.  I hope that the same can be said 10, 20, or even 50 years from now.  During last ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: We Must Learn To Tell

On July 4th of this year, FBI agents – acting on a tip -- arrested Alexander Ciccolo, a 23-year-old with known mental problems, as he carried a duffel bag full of automatic-attack weapons. Moments before, he had bought the illegal firearms from an undercover informant outside of Boston. As agents later scoured his apartment, they found bomb-making equipment including a pressure ... (click for more)