Candace Parker, Kara Lawson to play for USA

Uncasville, Conn. – Tennessee All-American Candace Parker and former Lady Vol Kara Lawson have been named to the 2007 USA Basketball Women's FIBA Americas Championship Team.

Following a two-week training camp that saw the United States capture a pair of exhibition victories over rival Australia, the team, comprising 12 elite and talented athletes, was announced Thursday by USA Basketball.

The squad will compete in the FIBA Americas Championship, slated for Sept. 26-30 in Valdivia, Chile, in hopes of earning the lone Olympic berth from the FIBA Americas zone. Only the gold medalist in the eight-team tournament will advance to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The selections were made by the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee.

In addition to Tennessee's Candace Parker and Kara Lawson (Sacramento Monarchs), also named to the team were: Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx); Sue Bird (Seattle Storm); Rebekkah Brunson (Sacramento Monarchs); Swin Cash (Detroit Shock); DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics); Courtney Paris (Oklahoma ); Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix Mercury); Katie Smith (Detroit Shock); Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury); and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets).

Additionally, Candice Wiggins (Stanford University) was named as an alternate and will travel to Chile to train with the squad prior to the FIBA Americas Championship.

"This was a difficult decision to make," said Committee chair Reneé Brown, WNBA chief of basketball operations and player relations. "We feel that we have a veteran core group of players who understand how to win the big games, and we're confident that we've selected a team that has the experience, confidence, skills and will to win."

"I thought we had a great training camp that allowed us to build team chemistry," said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "Like Reneé said, it was definitely not an easy decision to make. Every player hustled and contributed in her own way during our training camp. I'm looking forward to the addition of Katie (Smith), Cappie (Pondexter) and Diana (Taurasi) to this already strong group. They'll add a whole new dimension to our team and will help us to achieve our goal, which is to win gold in Chile and, more important, qualify for the Olympics."

Seven of the the 12 players selected for the USA Team were members of last year's USA World Championship Team that garnered bronze. Augustus, Bird, Milton-Jones, Parker, Smith, Thompson and Taurasi were members of Donovan's 2006 USA World Championship squad. They also represent the USA's top five scorers at the worlds, and in fact are seven of the team's top eight scorers at the '06 World Championship.

The American roster of 12 also features six players who have Olympic gold medals. Bird, Cash, Smith, Taurasi and Thompson were members of the 2004 USA Olympic Team that captured gold, while Milton-Jones and Smith were also members of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team that claimed gold.

The USA Women's Senior National Team next heads to Chile for its final preparations for the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship. Contested Sept. 26-30, the tournament's gold medal winner will earn one of 12 qualifying berths for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The USA opens against Cuba on Sept. 26, followed by Jamaica on Sept. 27 and closes preliminary round play against Canada on Sept. 28.

The top two teams in preliminary Group A, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico, and Group B advance to the Sept. 29 medal semifinals. The gold medal, as well as the right to play in the 2008 Olympics, will be contested Sept. 30.

The United States owns an all-time 10-1 record and has captured gold in both Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in which it has participated (1976, 1980). The United States, because of being either the host country or the defending Olympic/World champions, earned an automatic berth and therefore did not have to qualify for the 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.

From 1976 through 1992, the Olympic Qualifying Tournament was a worldwide affair. However, starting in 1995 five Olympic qualifiers took place around the globe - one in each FIBA zone - in the year preceding the Olympic Games. In 1995, with Brazil already qualified for the 1996 Games by virtue of its 1994 World Championship title, Canada took the FIBA Americas Championship gold medal, Cuba took the silver and Puerto Rico brought home bronze.

The 1999 FIBA Americas Championship saw Cuba claim the top spot, Brazil earn silver and Canada collect bronze; while in 2003 Brazil won the gold, Cuba finished with silver and Canada was the bronze medalist.

Should the United States not return home from Chile with the gold medal, there will be one final chance to qualify for the Olympics at the 2008 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, slated for June 9-15 at a site to be determined.

Teams finishing in second, third and fourth place at the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament will have one final chance to earn a spot in Beijing's 12-country field at the 2008 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Those three countries, along with nine other national teams from around the globe who did not claim gold at the remaining FIBA zones, including two from Africa (silver and bronze medalists), two from Asia (silver and bronze medalists), four from Europe (second through fourth place finishers) and one from Oceania (silver medalist), will compete for the final five Olympic slots at the 2008 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The 2007-08 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team lists a total of 27 players on its roster, including eight Olympic gold medalists, five World Championship gold medalists and all 12 members of the 2006 USA World Championship Team.

Donovan is being assisted by 2006 WNBA Coach of the Year Mike Thibault of the Connecticut Sun and collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of Texas and Dawn Staley of Temple.

LADY VOL VOLLEYBALL: The Tennessee volleyball team (6-3, 1-1) will make its first league road trip this weekend, traveling to take on Auburn and Georgia on Sept. 21 and 23, respectively. The Lady Vols will attempt to tame the Tigers at 7 p.m. CT on Friday at the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum before battling the Bulldogs at 2 p.m. ET, Sunday at the Ramsey Student Center.

UT opened SEC play last week, hosting Alabama and Mississippi State. The Big Orange dropped a three-game match to the Crimson Tide, but rebounded nicely with a four-game victory over the Bulldogs. Sophomore setter Jena Berg and freshman right-side hitter Nikki Fowler both posted double-doubles in each contest.

Against the Crimson Tide, Berg finished with 44 assists and 13 digs, while Fowler added a personal-best tying 17 kills along with 11 digs. Each player repeated the feat just two days later, with Berg amassing a career-high 54 assists to go along with 17 digs and Fowler collecting 13 kills and 10 digs. On the defensive side of the net, sophomore libero Chloe Goldman had another terrific weekend, digging up a team-best 42 attacks in the two matches, including 16 on Friday and 26 on Sunday.

For the season, sophomore Leah Hinkey has been the team's most effective offensive weapon, amassing a squad-high 94 kills, .333 hitting percentage and 3.03 kills per game, while Berg has paced the team with 11.71 assists per game.

Other standouts include Fowler and junior Milan Clarke who are second and third on the team with 81 and 77 kills, respectively, and sophomore Kylie Marshall, who has a team-best 16 aces. Defensively, Goldman ranks third in the SEC with 5.16 digs per game (160 total), while Hinkey is currently fifth in the league with 1.39 blocks per frame (43 total).

Currently 9-4 on the season, Auburn split a pair of contests in the initial weekend of SEC play, with a five-game triumph at South Carolina and a three-game sweep at the hands of Florida.

The Tigers are led offensively by seniors Whitney Jacob, Jelena Sekulic and Rachel Shanks, while freshman Nicki Gerig paces the attack from the setter position. Jacob rates as the eighth most efficient hitter in the SEC with a .337 hitting percentage, while Shanks is seventh in the conference at 3.67 kills per game. Sekulic is not far behind, as she has amassed 140 kills this season, good for 3.11 per frame.

Defensively, junior Jessica Glover and Jacob are the team's top options with 146 digs and 48 blocks, respectively.

In its first year under head coach Joel McCartney, Georgia has improved by leaps and bounds after finishing 6-25 overall and just 2-18 in conference play in 2006. Proof of this improvement is found in the league statistical rankings, where UGA is found among the top three teams in five different categories, including second in hitting percentage (.297), kills/game (16.42) and service aces/game (2.29).

A trio of juniors in Maria Taylor, Brooke Peugh and Mara Martin and freshman Lindsay Gehan have led the resurgence. Taylor has been the most dominant hitter in the SEC this year with 5.05 kills per game, while Peugh ranks fourth in hitting percentage at .370. Martin, meanwhile, is third in the league with 12.39 assists per game and Gehan leads all players in the blocking category with 1.66 per frame.

LADY VOL SOCCER: The women's soccer team finishes up its five-match road trip and non-conference schedule this Friday at UNC-Greensboro.

The 13th-ranked Lady Vols will meet the Spartans at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 at UNCG Soccer Stadium in their only match this week.

The meeting is not the first between UT and UNCG, as the two teams had their initial meeting last season in the First Tennessee Lady Vol Classic. UT posted a 1-0 win over the Spartans on Sept. 8, 2006, en route to the Lady Vol Classic tournament title. Tennessee looks to remain undefeated against the Southern Conference after compiling a 7-0-0 record all-time against SoCon teams.

The Lady Vols took home their second tournament title of the season last weekend, notching a 2-0 victory over Nebraska before tying then-No. 17 USC, 0-0, to win the USC Tournament championship. The two shutouts were the third and fourth of the season for Tennessee, which is now 4-1-1 on the year.

The Orange and White remains undefeated against ranked opponents this season after junior goalkeeper Jaimel Johnson posted eight saves to hold the Women of Troy scoreless through 110 minutes of play.

Against Nebraska, the Lady Vols got the first goals of the season from senior forward Emily Redberg and junior forward Kylee Rossi. Sophomore midfielder Mick Imgram notched her second assist of the season and junior midfielder Leslie Vineyard dished out the first helper of her carreer on the second goal. For their efforts, Imgram, Johnson and freshman Tanya Emerson earned all-tournament team selections.

Kick off on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m. at UNCG Soccer Stadium. Live statistics will be available online at uncgspartans.com.


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