Senior infielder Lauren Gibson exhibited a high level of dedication throughout her career with the Lady Vols. Now, in her last year of competition, she has earned numerous honors as a result of her efforts.

Gibson was a pre-season All-SEC selection and has worked hard to improve her game throughout the season. Now she is a top 25 finalist for the 2013 USA Softball player of the year and was named a national player of the week.

Originally from Chesapeake High School in Pasadena, Md., Gibson chose Tennessee, in part, because of the strong foundation laid by co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly.

"I just really liked the university, and the place in general," Gibson said. "A big catch was definitely the coaches and the girls. They made my visit a great experience."

Looking back on her time at Tennessee as both a softball player and a student in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Gibson acknowledged that — despite the many great moments she enjoyed — there were also many difficult days as a student athlete.

"The toughest part is balancing school and softball," Gibson said, "Most students get free time and for us, free time is usually our sport or weights. So the hardest part is figuring out how much time I can spend on sports and school."

Despite recent successes, Lauren doesn't hesitate when asked about her favorite moment as a Lady Vol.

"My favorite moment has to be winning the SEC tournament," she said. "It was one of the most amazing experiences."

As part of the Lady Vols softball team, Gibson has won an SEC tournament title and has been to the College World Series two of three postseasons. This season, however, Gibson has garnered national awards and recognition as she has helped lead Tennessee to a 42-6 record and a No. 2 ranking in the USA Softball national poll.

"Lauren brings competitive spirit every day," Ralph Weekly said. "She has all the skills. She's the kind of player that you only see once in a while."

As such a competitive player, it is hard to imagine that Gibson's career almost didn't make it past her first season.

Unknown to many, Gibson struggled to find her footing in Knoxville and she wants future Lady Vols to know that there's hope and that they can overcome the difficulties they will face.

"My freshman year I almost left because I got really homesick," she said. "Obviously, they need to push through because it always gets better," Gibson said. "If you keep pushing through and working hard, good things will happen."

Despite her early struggles, hard work and perseverance have resulted in a successful and enjoyable experience at Tennessee.

"It's been absolutely amazing, and the most fun I've ever had. It's going to be weird when I finally leave Knoxville," Gibson said.

Now, as she prepares to leave Knoxville, the senior wants to leave one last mark on the Tennessee softball program. She looks forward to another chance to play in the College World Series and a successful post season.

The Lady Vols will next take the field at home in Sherri Parker Lee Stadium against SEC opponent Arkansas at 7 p.m. on Friday. A win on Friday would set a new team record at 20 wins for their longest winning streak.