As the Tennessee Lady Vols softball team prepared to host Texas in the Knoxville Super-Regionals beginning Friday, Head Coach Karen Weekly did not sit back and enjoy Tennessee's SEC regular season, nor the SEC Tournament Championship, nor SEC Coach of the Year honors, nor a new contract extension. She immediately went to work preparing to face the Longhorns. "I've been impressed from day one with Karen and her ultra-competitive mindset to be the best and how professional she goes about her business leading our softball program," said Tennessee Athletic Director Danny White.
The Lady Vols are looking to return to the Women's College World Series for the first time since 2015 and they have an excellent chance to do it.
Tennessee is 47-8 on the year and the Lady Vols could have their best all around pitching staff ever, led by former Meigs County standout Ashley Rogers, who is 17-1 on the year with the best ERA in the SEC. Rogers isn't the only pitching star for Tennessee. Payton Gottshall is 15-1 with a 1.52 ERA and whomever starts game one against Texas, Coach Weekly won't hesitate to make a change if they struggle because the Lady Vols pitching has been that good.
It's been a long road for Karen Weekly. She and her husband Ralph spent a quarter of a century as co-head coaches before Ralph decided to retire following the 2021 season. Karen has been the sole head coach for the past two seasons. Her tenure began at UTC in 1997 and the Mocs saw almost immediate success. After five seasons at UTC, she and her husband were named co-head coaches at Tennessee and 22 years and 990 wins later, they're still at Tennessee, only Ralph is now a "special advisor" for the program.
Tennessee is favored over Texas in their best two out of three series at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium, but nothing is a given. (Just ask baseball Coach Tony Vitello.) However, this Tennessee softball team is special. Plus, the Lady Vols are also playing at a very high level. They've won six in a row as they swept through the SEC Tournament plus the regionals and momentum is most definitely on their side.
Can they win a national championship? Of course they can but a national title has eluded the Lady Vols in the Weeklys' 22 years in Knoxville, despite four trips to the College World Series." Anybody who makes it through a regional is very, very, very good," said Coach Weekly. "These are the last 16 teams standing, so it's going to be a battle."
Tennessee was scheduled to face Texas in the Leadoff Classic earlier in the season, but it was cancelled due to rain. So, its a battle of the "UTs" and it should be a great series.
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org