What a year for Joan Cronan.
When the UT men's athletics department was searching for its new athletics director last spring, they marked University of Maryland athletics director Deborah Brooks off the list of finalists, because they thought it would be unfair to Cronan, UT's women's athletics director.
Then Cronan's teams went out and completely showed up the men's department. The Lady Vol basketball team finished national runner-up, while softball and track experienced breakout years.
So here's our salute to Cronan's Cronies with the second annual Daily Beacon Female Athlete of the Year nominees.
Volleyball: Kristen Andre (Sophomore middle blocker)
The second-team All-SEC selection led Tennessee to a 22-9 record, including 10 SEC victories, the most ever for a UT volleyball squad. She ranked fifth in the league in hitting percentage (.348). Among Lady Vols, she was second on the team in kills (358) and third in aces (20). Andre was also named to the SEC's Academic Honor Roll.
What they're saying: "You always hear talk about sophomore slumps, but Kristen certainly has broken that mold with her performance this season." - Coach Rob Patrick
Soccer: Vanessa Phillips-Bosshart (sophomore goalkeeper)
Losing the starting keeper off 2002's Sweet 16 team, Angela Kelly's Lady Vols were supposed to struggle in goal in '03. But Phillips-Bosshart put an end to those discussions.
Along with Kayla Lockaby, the sophomore was voted MVP by her teammates. She recorded a school-record 12 shutouts and finished second in the SEC among keepers, allowing only 0.73 goals-per-contest. The SEC Academic Honor Roll selection allowed only one goal in the SEC Tournament and pitched back-to-back shutouts in the Lady Vols' run back to the Sweet 16.
What they're saying: "She can do fitness drills and beat about half of our team in most everything I have them do. She is extremely fit in her goalkeeper fitness." - Coach Angela Kelly
Cross Country: Brooke Novak (senior)
Novak recorded five top-10 finishes, including third place at the SEC Championships. She was the first Lady Vol to cross the line in five of six UT meets, and finished 58th at the NCAA Championships, where the Lady Vols finished 24th. The three-time All-SEC performer's highest finish was second place at the Tennessee/adidas Invitational, and she led the Lady Vols to only their third conference championship in school history.
What they're saying: "People get really annoyed with me because I'm always trying to get out fast. I'm really impatient. I want to get there, get done and go home." - Brooke Novak
Swimming and Diving: Lauryn McCalley (junior diver)
The five-time All-American finished 12th at the NCAA Championships in the one-meter springboard, while finishing sixth in the three-meter event. The junior nearly single-handedly led the Lady Vols to a 28th-place finish at the championships, scoring 18 of UT's 23 points. The junior also collected 13 individual titles throughout the year.
What they're saying: "Lauryn has already had an outstanding career. The year will be exciting as she prepares for the USA Olympic Trials with an eye towards representing her country in Athens."
Basketball: Tasha Butts (senior guard)
Shyra Ely may have been the All-American, but Butts held the team together with her inspirational play. The senior hit two consecutive game-winning shots during the Lady Vols' improbable run to the national title game, and she was drafted in the second round of the WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx.
Butts averaged 10.5 points and 5.4 rebounds-per-game while leading the team in assists (99). The All-Midwest Regional selection dropped 37 points on Vanderbilt, allowing the Lady Vols to finish the SEC regular season unblemished.
Golf: Violeta Retamoza (sophomore)
Retamoza nearly pulled off a victory at the SEC Championships, falling in a playoff to Vanderbilt's May Wood. The sophomore was named All-SEC First Team, and led the Lady Vols in stroke average at 74.42. Retamoza recorded three top-10's and six top-25's along the way, and led Tennessee to a fourth-place finish at the SEC Tourney.
What they're saying: "Violeta is a great collegiate player. She is very talented with a strong mental game. She can accomplish anything is she sets her sights on it." - Coach Judi Pavon
Softball: Monica Abbott (freshman pitcher)
The pitcher has rewritten UT's record books, and currently boasts a 39-6 record, including a no-hitter in her first collegiate start. Thanks to Abbott, the Lady Vols are in second place in the SEC's Eastern Division.
Abbott has a minuscule 0.79 ERA, with 497 strikeouts in just 292 innings. The freshman has thrown 18 shutouts and 37 complete games, and currently sits in seventh on the NCAA's single-season strikeout total. The freshman was also recently named a finalist for USA Softball's Collegiate Player of the Year.
What they're saying: "Monica has proven to be all that she was advertised to be." - Co-coach Ralph Weekly after Abbott's fist no-hitter.
Track and Field: Nicole Cook (junior middle distance)
Cook won the 800-meters at the NCAA Indoor Championships with a 2:03.37, more than a full second ahead of LSU's Neisha Bernard-Thomas. Cook's performance vaulted the Lady Vols to a fourth-place finish behind second-year coach J.J. Clark.
Cook also ran on the national champion distance-medley relay team, and was the second leg of the fourth-place 4x400 relay team. Cook was also the anchor leg on the 4x800 relay team that won the prestigious Penn Relays this past weekend.
What they're saying: "Nicole came around at the right time and performed when it counted. That's what it's all about. She showed she is one of the nation's best athletes and demonstrated she has the ability to go on to the next level." - Coach J.J. Clark
Tennis: Sabita Maharaj (sophomore)
Playing at the No. 2 position, Maharaj was just named to the All-SEC first team. The sophomore is currently ranked No. 86 in the country in singles play for the 23rd-ranked Lady Vols, and sported a 13-4 spring singles record, including a perfect 8-0 mark in SEC play. She also teamed for an 18-12 doubles record.
What they're saying: "Sabita has worked very hard this year and there are many awards to come for her." - Coach Mike Patrick
Rowing: Varsity 8+ Shell
In the ultimate team sport, the Lady Vols Varsity 8+ boat has mastered the art of working together. Tennessee's top boat won the Chattanooga Head Race, the Head of the Tennessee, the San Diego Crew Classic and the George Washington Invitational Classic, and is currently ranked No. 14 in the nation.
What they're saying: "The Varsity 8+ has continued to evolve in the right direction. I am proud of how they have developed." - Coach Lisa Glenn
Newcomer of the Year: Monica Abbott, Softball
Coach of the Year: 1st place: Pat Summitt, basketball, 2nd Place: J.J. Clark, track and field, 3rd Place: Angela Kelly, soccer
Team of the Year: 1st place: Basketball (31-4, National Runner-up), 2nd place: Track and Field (Fourth place-finish at NCAA Indoor Championships), 3rd place: Softball (Currently 47-12 and in second place in the SEC's Eastern Division).