PHILADELPHIA - The home of cheese steaks, the Liberty Bell and the First

Union Center has one more attraction this week: the Lady Vols.

Having worked long and hard throughout the season to get to Philly after

the departure of Chamique Holdsclaw and her point guard Kellie Jolly, the

Lady Vols have finally made it back to Kristen "Ace" Clement's


The 2000 Women's Final Four in Philadelphia is destined to make memories

and I get to go along for the ride.

After watching this team from start to finish of the regular season and the

first four games of the NCAA Tournament, I have come to the conclusion that

this team deserves to win it all for one reason: They have heart.

The first indication of that determination to win came against the U.S.

National team in the second exhibition game of the year. Rather than

folding against the top team in the world, Tennessee held on and freshman

Kara Lawson knocked down a last-second shot to win the game.

The next clue showing the Lady Vols' heart actually came on a loss to

Connecticut. UConn came to Thompson-Boling Arena and swept out with a

victory over Tennessee. The Lady Vols then settled into a funk which cost

them a beating at the hands of Georgia.

It was then that the "heart of a champion" clearly exhibited itself. A

switch moved Lawson into Clement's spot at point guard and Clement into

Lawson's offguard role. From that moment on, Tennessee has won 19 straight


Many of those games haven't come easily, but a player on the team has

always stepped up her game in time to pull out victories. Be it Player of

the Year Tamika Catchings in the Virginia game, All-American Semeka Randall

in the UConn game, or reserve guard April McDivitt against Florida, a Lady

Vol always makes herself known to the opponent.

When everything is said and done, the obvious desire of the Lady Vols to

succeed makes people want them to win. Any team that has heart and plays as

a whole, rather than disjointed parts, pulls at the emotions and makes you

happy to see them win.

Today, the Lady Vols take their act to the First Union Center for a

showdown with Rutgers. Given the circumstances and the history of this

program, chances are good that things will go well for the Lady Vols.

Regardless of what they win now, the Lady Vols have already beaten the odds

and made it back to the Final Four. The team is a winner, no matter if it

comes out on top or not.