This Week in UT Sports History – “Vol-entine” Edition

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    Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

    This Week in UT Sports History is a new weekly column written by new RTI contributor Lexie Little

    In this week’s edition of This Week in UT Sports History, rekindle your love for forgotten Vol favorites this Valentine’s Day with these memories from the Tennessee athletic archives dated Feb. 14.

    Feb. 14, 2014

    Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin received a grateful welcome when he traveled back to Rocky Top last Tuesday for a match-up with the No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers (22-1, 10-0 SEC). Martin, the Vols’ head coach from 2011-2014, and the Tigers (11-11, 2-8 SEC) lost to the Vols 72-60 in Thompson-Boling Arena, but a Sweet 16 banner hanging from the rafters reminded him of happier times, a winning season when Nicole Shea of dubbed him one of the “Top 100 Sexiest in College Basketball” just before Valentine’s Day 2014.

    The post mirrors troublesome coverage plaguing female athletes and coaches for decades, using gender markers and objectifying terms to describe those in sporting arenas instead of their accolades. Only this time, coverage subtly exploits male coaches, players and announcers.

    “It’s not easy to rock an orange blazer, but he can pull it off,” Shea said of Martin.

    In 2015, the #CoverTheAthlete campaign sought to expose the difference in covering male and female athletes with a video of professional athletes’ reactions to such fashion and gendered commentary in interview settings. The video stands to prove that complimenting the athlete’s prowess proves most important. Records prove Vol Nation remembers Martin primarily for his coaching, not his “Big Orange” blazer.

    The 2013-2014 Vols lost to Missouri the following day, Feb. 15, by a score of 75-70 in a road match-up, but they found redemption later in the season with a 72-45 win against the Tigers in Knoxville before a trip to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

    Feb. 14, 2014

    The same week, Tennessee Softball entered the USF Tournament in Tampa, Florida at No. 1 in the nation. Then-senior pitcher Ellen Renfroe had just passed older sister Ivy on the all-time complete-games list for Tennessee with 56 games entering the tournament. However, it was pitcher Erin Gabriel who got the win against Binghamton, 10-0. The Ohio native shut out the Bearcats in her first win of her sophomore season, striking out 11 batters in five innings. The Lady Vols finished the 2014 season 46-12 overall, only losing three games at home. Later in the season, No. 10 Tennessee missed the Women’s College World Series by one game, falling to Oklahoma in the Super Regional by a score of 8-2. The loss marked the first time the Lady Vols had not advanced beyond the Super Regional after stretching their postseason runs, previously winning in 2005-2007, 2010, 2012, and 2013.

    The 2019 Lady Volunteers began their season over the weekend, earning a record of 5-0 in the Kickin’ Chicken Classic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with the last game ending in an 18-0 shutout against Rider in five innings. The Lady Vols travel to Clearwater, Florida, where they will play Notre Dame at 10 a.m. Friday to commence the Clearwater Elite Invitational. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

    Feb. 14, 2015

    Staying in recent history on the field, the Tennessee Volunteers Baseball team entered its 2015 series against Florida International at No. 25 in the country. Farragut native Nick Senzel hit a line drive in the fifth inning to help his team extend a 2-0 lead to 5-0, eventually winning Game Two of the series 9-2. He played in all 50 games in 2015 as a sophomore. The Cincinnati Reds selected Senzel as the No. 2 overall MLB draft pick in 2016. Senzel missed the latter half of the 2018 season with Triple-A Louisville after tearing a tendon in his right index finger in June. Though Senzel and the Vols won Game Two, the team lost the first and third match-ups of the season, dropping out of the Top 25 and finishing the season 24-26 overall.

    The 2019 Tennessee Vols start their season Friday in a series with Appalachian State. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville. SEC Network+ and WATCHESPN will stream the game.

    Feb. 14, 2015

    On the same day, Tennessee Rowing took to the water for the first exhibition races in its 20th season as a UT program. 2015 marked the first year Tennessee competed in the Big 12 Conference for rowing after its tenure as a member of Conference USA. Tennessee and Alabama compete against Big 12 foes because other Southeastern Conference schools lack suitable water sources on which to train, rendering the possibility for an SEC rowing conference improbable. The Tennessee River bordering campus allows the Volunteers opportunity to compete.

    That weekend, the Vols faced UCF and Michigan in Orlando, Florida, on Lake Pickett. Tennessee went on to place third in the Big 12 Championships three months later. Tennessee has placed in the same spot in each of the last four Big 12 Championships.

    The 2018-2019 Tennessee team will compete in the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational regatta hosted by the University of Louisville on March 16 and 17. The Oak Ridge Rowing Association plays host to the schools as they compete on Melton Lake.

    This Year

    Tennessee Athletics invited Vol fans to send a “Smokey-Gram” to loved ones for Valentine’s Day. Fans could purchase a valentine delivery and 10-minute visit from costumed Smokey for $100. Visits, continuing through Thursday, include a single stem rose, chocolates, and a personalized card delivered by Smokey to locations within 10 miles of UT’s campus.

    Lexie Little is a journalist from Kingsport, Tennessee, who holds a Bachelor of Communication degree from the University of Tennessee with majors in both Journalism & Electronic Media and French & Francophone Studies. She's a contributor to RTI and writes the weekly column "The Week in UT Sports History." Lexie formerly worked as a feature writer for VIPSEEN Magazine and continues to freelance for various publications as she earns her master's degree from the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.