Throughout the nation, there are 291 NCAA Division I women's softball teams that are comprised of more than 5,000 players.
In terms of the Team USA women's softball team, there are only 18 available spots, and two of them were occupied by former Tennessee players – second baseman Lauren Gibson and third baseman Raven Chavanne – this summer.
For Gibson, who had a career batting average of .361 during her tenure at UT and took home SEC Player of the Year honors in 2013, this summer marked her third with Team USA.
Chavanne, a three-time top-10 finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year, on the other hand, was in her first go-around with the team after not being able to participate in 2011 and 2012 because of lingering injuries.
This summer the duo traveled through North America competing in four tournaments – the World Cup of Softball VIII, the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship, the Mayor's Cup and the Pan American Games Qualifier – representing their country on the diamond.
"It's an unreal experience," Gibson said. "Obviously, it's amazing to be able to play for your country and it was just a lot of fun to play with a lot of girls that we either played against or played with in the past."
The summer started out a little rocky as the team was only able to grab bronze in the Canadian Open and silver in the World Cup, which Chavanne attributed to undeveloped team chemistry.
"We had chemistry, but we still had to build upon it," Chavanne said. "It would just be the little things, like if I go to cover third, (Lauren) knows where I like the ball, whereas someone else doesn't necessarily know and that can be the difference between someone being out and safe, so the first two tournaments we had everyone was still trying to get to know that about each other.
"By the time we got to Puerto Rico, we had been playing together for a month and a half or two months and that's when we went out there and dominated."
Dominate is exactly what Team USA did once they reached San Juan, not losing a single game and taking home two gold medals in the Mayor's Cup and the Pan Am Qualifiers.
"The Canada Cup and the World Cup didn't go as planned but being able to bring home two gold medals at the very end was nice," Gibson said.
While Gibson and Chavanne definitely contributed to those medals, they were helped by a supporting cast of the best softball players in the country including SEC foes from Florida and Missouri as well as members of the Oklahoma team that knocked off the Lady Vols in the national championship.
"It's really nice to have them on our side instead of the opposing team," Gibson said. "When you think about it, all the people you are playing with are the best in the country and each and every one of them are there for a reason. Sometimes when you're on a college team there's more pressure to get your job done, whereas for this I feel like every individual had less pressure on them because we all knew what everyone could do."
While the former Lady Vols have been playing for 18 years, they each said they took something away from this summer's experience.
"It taught me to enjoy the game again," Gibson said. "I want to be a coach when I'm done with school and everything, so it just taught me a bunch of things that I'll be able to use as a coach to talk to my players."
"It made me more calm," Chavanne said. "I learned that you can always learn from every single thing that goes on, whether you do something right or wrong, so I guess it kind of matured me mentally."
For now, Gibson is finishing up her degree in sociology with a concentration in criminal justice while Chavanne is still in the Knoxville area giving lessons for RBI Heads First, as well as working softball camps around the country.
However, the two are still preparing for the International Softball Federation Softball World Championships in August 2014.