Ellen Renfroe and Madison Shipman have won award after award this season, and Wednesday morning the two Tennessee Lady Volunteer softball players got one step closer to winning the most prestigious award in softball.
The two seniors were named top 25 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. This award is given to the top college softball player in the country each year.
"It was really exciting," Shipman said at Wednesday's media availability. "It's just really exciting, and it's a huge honor."
Shipman has been one of the most dominant hitters in the country so far, batting .422 with a team-leading 11 home runs, tying her career-high for home runs in a season with 14 regular season games remaining.
"I'm actually trying not to hit home runs," Shipman said. "If I try to not hit home runs, then they happen, but when I try too hard is when I start popping things up."
Renfroe is coming off a national player of the week honor and has been one of the nation's top pitchers all year long, wielding a record of 22-2 and an ERA of 1.54.
She struggled at LSU last weekend, picking up her first two losses of the season, but bounced back strong on Sunday, throwing a shutout while only allowing three hits.
The announcement marked the third time Renfroe has been a top 25 finalist in her career.
"They are very deserving," co-head coach Karen Weekly said. "Both of those girls have worked extremely hard since they have been at Tennessee. They have been great role models and great leaders for our team.
"I couldn't be more proud of both of them."
This is the 11th consecutive year Tennessee has had a player named in the top 25, with Monica Abbot winning the award in 2007. Last year, Tennessee had two players named to the list, with Raven Chavanne making the top three.
"I think that says that Tennessee softball is about a lot more than just one player," Weekly said. "That we have a great tradition here. We have high standards and high expectations for this program, and we are committed to excellence."
The Lady Vols dropped their first series of the season this past weekend at LSU and are now hoping to put that behind them as they travel to Texas A&M this weekend.
For the first time this season, Tennessee struggled both on the field and at the plate and lost two out of three games to a scrappy LSU squad.
"I think that what happened at LSU was a culmination of some things we hadn't been doing well for probably three or four weeks," Weekly said. "You get their attention when you lose, and sometimes when you're winning they aren't really paying close attention. I think that really got their attention when we dropped those games."
Defense has been an aspect Tennessee has been able to hang its hat on this year, but Weekly said the Lady Vols lost focus during critical moments, committing seven errors against the Tigers over the weekend.
"We worked a lot on defense this week," Weekly said. "It's just about really focusing on us and playing our game. You're not going to slow a runner down by looking at them. You just got to see the ball into your glove and make a play."
Now, the Lady Vols are focusing on righting the ship moving forward.
"We used (the losses) as learning experience," Shipman said. "We try to just put that in the past and move forward from that."