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



Covenant Ranked Regionally By The NCAA

For the first time in the program's NCAA Division III era, the Covenant volleyball team has achieved a region ranking from the NCAA. The Lady Scots are ranked No. 8 in this week's poll, the first one of the 2017 season. Covenant is off to a 15-7 start, including a 9-0 mark against the USA South. The Lady Scots have won seven straight matches, and 12 of the last 13 overall. ... (click for more)

Baylor's Avery Davis Named Division II-AA Soccer MVP

Several area girls were named to the Division II-AA all region soccer team.  Baylor forward Avery Davis was named the region most valuable player.   Also for Baylor  Mya McGee, Lainee Bohannon, Peyton Randolph, and Abbie Vibbert were named to the all region team. Honorable Mention All-Region is Rachel Smith and Maddie Reap from Baylor.   GPS's ... (click for more)

State Comptroller Says More Control Over Spending Needed At CVB

The state Comptroller’s Office is recommending the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) board of directors take steps to adopt detailed policies concerning how the CVB spends its money.   The Comptroller’s Office has completed a review of Hamilton County’s hotel/motel taxes which are all forwarded to the CVB. The annual report is required by Public Chapter ... (click for more)

County Commission Votes 7-2 For Rezoning For C&D Landfill At Harrison

The County Commission on Wednesday voted 7-2 to approve rezoning for a Construction and Debris landfill at Harrison.  Voting in favor were Greg Beck, Warren Mackey, Sabrena Smedley, Greg Martin, Tim Boyd, Randy Fairbanks and Jim Fields.   Opposed were Chester Bankston and Joe Graham.  Commissioner Boyd said it was just the first step in permitting for ... (click for more)

Vote No On The Rezoning For A New Landfill In Harrison - And Response (3)

County Commissioners, please consider the following facts when voting on the rezoning request for a new privately-owned C&D landfill in Harrison.  Use of this property for a landfill has been rejected by the county three times in the past (1971, 1984 and 2007).  In 1971 and 2007 the County Commissioners unanimously rejected the proposal.  In 1984 the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Mom Don’t Have…I Do’

It’s hard to know what goes through the mind of a five-year-old, particularly one who watches her mom go in and out of jail due to drug addiction. But little Sunshine Oelfke is obviously being raised right by her grandmother because the other morning, the five-year-old came into the kitchen before leaving for kindergarten with a baggie full of coins from her piggy bank. “I asked ... (click for more)