This Week in UT Sports History – April 6th-12th

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    Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

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

    The next time will be different when we gather in those places. In Neyland. In Thompson-Boling. At Lindsey Nelson and Sherri Parker Lee stadiums. At Tom Black Track, Jones Aquatic Center, Regal Soccer Stadium, and Goodfriend Tennis Center. In a corner booth in the darkened basement of Copper Cellar on Cumberland. In line at Gus’s Good Times Deli reading the clippings from Vol yesteryears on the wall. On the top level of the G10 parking garage with cornhole boards and Big Orange tents. Anywhere Vols gather.

    It will be different.

    “Rocky Top” might be louder. High fives might be higher. The “Spirit of the Hill” might be stronger. But one thing won’t change: the Volunteer tradition of making history.

    While waiting to return to those places, take a look back at that tradition in “This Week in UT Sports History.”

    April 8, 2008

    Number eight came on the eighth day of April in 2008. The Lady Vols, led by legendary head coach Pat Summitt, earned their second consecutive and eighth overall national championship title against Stanford to close out the 2007-08 season. After a nail-biting 47-46 win against conference rival LSU in the Final Four, the Lady Vols readily handled Stanford, 64-48, to end their postseason run with confetti and fanfare and yet another crystal ball.

    In steamy Tampa, Florida, Summitt’s strategized defense stretched Stanford’s offense into what The New York Times called “geometric dysfunction.” In addition to 12 points and eight rebounds, Lady Vol center Nicky Anosike snagged six steals as the team forced 25 total turnovers.

    “I always preach defense and boards win championships,” Summitt said. “[The team] bought in.”

    The eventual No. 1 WNBA Draft pick Candace Parker picked off four steals of her own, even with a dislocated shoulder. She drilled shots for 17 points and crashed the boards for nine rebounds for the Lady Vols and her coach, who had also dislocated a shoulder the month before while fending off a raccoon on her deck in Knoxville.

    That eighth title gave Pat Summitt as many national championships as Bobby Knight, Dean Smith, and Mike Krzyzewski combined at the time. She would not have the chance to match UCLA legend John Wooden’s 10, stepping down in 2012 amidst a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Most bets say Summitt would have reached 10 in her tenure, but eight remained enough to blaze a trail for women’s sports across the nation.

    In 2020, many Vol faithful find comfort in Summitt’s words as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic: “Left foot, right foot, breathe,” taking each day one step at a time.

    April 9, 2005

    During this pandemic moment, some golf courses across the country remain open for recreation (with the caveat that social distancing still applies). But 15 years ago, the 10th-ranked men’s golf team strolled the 7,002 yards at the Courtyard by Marriott Intercollegiate to finish the season in a crowded field. The Vols finished ninth at the tournament in Holly Springs, North Carolina, where home favorite and 12th-ranked Duke finished first at Devils Ridge Golf Club (par 72).

    Tennessee’s Ross McGowan, originally from Cheam, England, earned his third top-10 finish of the season, tied for eighth. Shooting 4-under-par, he led the Vols on the weekend. David Skinns came in at 20th, the second-highest finish for Tennessee. But it was McGowan who recorded a flock of birdies, five in the final round, along with a bogey at the fourth hole. He parred the last eight holes to finish out the weekend and improve his record to earn All-SEC 2nd team honors. He had finished the same tournament in 25th a season prior.

    Tennessee had finished in seventh overall in 2004 with 23rd-ranked Duke taking first place. Duke repeated as winners in 2005, though the tournament could have ended differently. Rain moved into the region, cutting the tournament short by a round. Another North Carolina team also finished in the top 2. Wake Forest tied for second with Georgia Southern at 15-under-par on the weekend, both just one point behind the Blue Devils. The 2005 season marked the last time Tennessee competed at the Courtyard by Marriott Intercollegiate.

    The Vols finished the season in 11th place at the NCAA Championships in Baltimore at Caves Valley Golf Club. Playing on the final day for the first time since 1981, the Vols earned their highest finish since 1995 when they tied for 16th.

    April 12, 2013

    The Lady Vols dominated the softball diamond in the early 2010s. With the sister duo of Ellen and Ivy Renfroe on the mound and a lineup of strong sluggers like Raven Chavanne and Madison Shipman in the box, Tennessee climbed to No. 3 in the country in 2013. The Lady Vols (35-6, 9-3 SEC) welcomed Auburn (27-15, 6-9 SEC) to close out their home season and celebrate seniors the weekend of April 12th. The series kicked off with a Big Orange bang as the Renfroes combined for 10 strikeouts, and Tennessee jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first three innings of a Friday night victory.

    Tennessee got on the boards early with four RBI, including a zinger double to center from Lauren Gibson in the bottom of the third. Auburn launched a late surge in the bottom of the sixth on a throwing error from first to third followed by a two-run homer out to center from Brooke Lathan.

    Ellen Renfroe entered the circle for the Lady Vols first, striking out eight and giving up two earned runs before older sister and senior Ivy provided relief. Ivy Renfroe picked up her first save of the season, striking out two Tigers in the seventh inning. With bases loaded, she struck out Branndi Melero, who watched a 2-2 pitch cross the plate, handing the Lady Vols a 5-3 win.

    The Lady Vols swept Auburn that weekend, following Game 1 with a 6-1 win in Game 2 and 6-0 win to close out the series. Tennessee only lost two games at home in 2013 – once to No. 1 Alabama and once to Arkansas – earning a record of 18-2 at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.

    That season, the Lady Vols made it all the way to the Women’s College World Series Championship against Oklahoma. They finished the season 52-12 overall, dropping two title games to the Lady Sooners, the first of which went into 12 innings and ended in a score of 5-3.

    Now, the only winner that matters is humanity versus the coronavirus. Stay home, stay healthy, and stay hopeful that those places on hallowed Hill in Tennessee will be open soon enough. It will be different, but it will be good to be home, sweet home.

    Lexie Little
    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.