With less than two weeks before their season opener, the Lady Vols softball team is wrapping up spring practice and gearing up for the upcoming season.
The Lady Vols come into the season ranked No. 6 in the USA Today/NFCA preseason poll, which co-head coach Karen Weekly says isn't that surprising but will have no affect on the way the team plays.
"Well, I don't think it's a surprise given that we have a lot of returning players from last year and we did go to the World Series and had a good season," Weekly said. "I think this team expects to win. I don't think this team is going to look at the rankings and that they are going to change anything about their expectations coming into the season; this team wants to win, this team wants to perform better than they did at the end of the year last year and they expect to. That's what we want here at Tennessee, and that's what we strive for every year."
A big factor for the Lady Vols and the success of the season is the pitching of the Renfroe sisters, Ellen and Ivy.
"We're so excited just to see how this team is and the experience that we have obviously in the pitchers circle and every position really going into it," Ellen Renfroe said. "I'm really excited to see how this team performs because we know what it's like to be in those pressure situations, we know what it's like to go to the College World Series and the kind of excitement that comes along with it so we're prepared. We kind of know what it's like, so there really is nothing this year that we shouldn't be ready for. We're excited and ready to go."
With a high preseason ranking comes a tough schedule for the Lady Vols as they will play 19 games this season against ranked opponents or teams receiving votes, but Weekly feels that the team is prepared and looks forward to the road ahead.
"It's something we prepare for every year here," Weekly said. "You have to play the best if you're gonna beat the best and hopefully be the best at the end of the year, so we have to prepare ourselves for what's going to be a very tough SEC conference schedule. Then hopefully on into post-season you want to be battle-tested and ready for the toughest games you're gonna play at the end of the year, so we want to have a tough schedule and we look forward to it."
This Lady Vols team returns eight of 10 starters from last year's squad, and junior infielder Madison Shipman feels that that experience could go a long way toward a successful season.
"We all feel like veterans out there," Shipman said. "We've been through it and we know what it takes to get things done and that'll really help us throughout the year."
The Lady Vols' season officially starts on Feb. 7 against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds in St. George, Utah, for the Red Desert Classic.