By Frank Gale
The Lady Vols and the Vols both failed to win on the road last weekend. The men almost suffered a fatal blow to their NCAA Tournament hopes with their second loss to Georgia but, with a weak tournament field this year, they lived to fight a while longer.
Meanwhile, Jordan McCray continues to make a case for SEC Player of the Year, but it will take a total team effort to get to the “Promised Land” on selection Sunday.
The Lady Vols claimed sole possession of the SEC regular season title with their win at home against Texas A&M last Thursday. A great accomplishment for a team picked in the preseason to finish far from the top of the SEC. This week head coach Holly Warlick was named SEC Coach of the Year for the way she guided this team in her first season as the Lady Vols head coach.
Coach Warlick had a few players also join her in receiving SEC accolades. Junior Meighan Simmons was named the SEC Co-Player of the Year. She also joined freshman Bashaara Graves on the First Team All-SEC squad. Graves also was honored as the SEC Freshman of the Year. Lost in all this was Cierra Burdick being named the SEC player of the week.
Now, it is on to the SEC Tournament where the No. 1-seeded Lady Vols will play today at 11 a.m. CST against the winner of yesterday’s Arkansas-Florida game. The Vols will have Kamiko Williams back, but it is looking doubtful that Isabelle Harrison will be ready to play this weekend.
All the injuries this season have made the accomplishments of this team even more outstanding. If the SEC had an award for trainer of the year, Jenny Moshak would have won that honor hands down.
A lackluster performance in the first half Wednesday against Auburn was offset by a great second half and the Vols won going away 82-75. They will have to play a complete game on Saturday when Missouri (22-8) makes a house call to Rocky Top.
Missouri has struggled on the road this season, while the Big Orange has posted a 12-3 record in the friendly confines of Thompson-Boling Arena. With the extra emotion of Senior Day, the Vols should be ready to tame these Tigers. If you can’t make it to Knoxville, ESPN has the game at 3 p. m. CST.
Spring football practice starts tomorrow under new head coach Butch Jones. Besides instituting a new offense and defense, Coach Jones will be handing the “keys’ to the offense to a new quarterback and replacing his most productive receivers. As for the new defense, they have but one direction to go after last season.
March is a very busy and special time of the year for sports fans. Hopefully, by the end of the weekend, the Lady Vols will have another banner to hang in the rafters and the Big Orange will be headed to the SEC Tournament in Nashville with all their post season options still in play. Go Vols and Lady Vols!!!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)