Lady Vols to host Winthrop

The Tennessee softball team (47-14) will host NCAA Regionals for the fourth consecutive campaign, according to Sunday's announcement of the NCAA Tournament bracket via ESPNU.

The Big Orange have been chosen as the No. 13 national seed and will welcome three challenging squads to the Lee Softball Stadium in the form of Winthrop (36-17), Louisville (30-21) and Virginia Tech (44-15).

Times for each contest are still to be determined, but should be released Monday. Saturday's matchup between Friday's two victors will be broadcast live at noon ET on ESPN2/

"We're happy to be hosting what we consider to be a very difficult NCAA Regional at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "All three teams are quality opponents who have been here to Knoxville before, and who have given us tremendous battles during previous regionals. All three coaching staffs are very good and extremely experienced. This should be a very exciting regional for the fans.

"The name of the game is fast pitch, and we will see some of the premier pitchers in the country over the weekend. Our immediate goal is to figure out how to best compete with Winthrop on Friday. Karen (co-head coach) Weekly and I tell the players all the time that our hardest opponent is our best self. We need to prepare to play the best we can this weekend."

If the Orange & White advance through to the NCAA Super Regionals, they would face-off against a squad from the Ann Arbor, Mich., regional in a best-of-three series for a berth in Oklahoma City. Fourth-seeded Michigan (48-6) will face Wright State (33-24) in its opening round contest while Notre Dame (37-20-1) battles Kent State (44-10) in the other half of their bracket.

This visit to the "Big Dance" marks the sixth overall NCAA Regional trip (27-12 overall NCAA record) for the Lady Vols. It is also UT's fifth consecutive selection (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) to the field of 64 under the guidance of Ralph and Karen Weekly.

Tennessee has made three straight trips to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla., where the Lady Vols finished third nationally in both 2005 & 2006 and second overall in 2007.

Louisville takes on Virginia Tech on Friday, and Tennessee will battle Winthrop in game two. The Regionals are a double-elimination format.

Tennessee is one of eight SEC teams to make the field, tying a league-record.

The SEC Champion Florida Gators (62-2) earned the national No. 1 seed, while the Alabama Crimson Tide (51-6) earned the national No. 3 seed.

The Regionals run May 15-17 and 16-18, followed by the Super Regionals, May 23-24. The Women's College World Series is May 29-June 4 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Florida, Alabama, LSU and Tennessee will each host a four-team regional, while Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi State and Arkansas will travel. LSU earned the No. 9 seed, followed by Tennessee with the No. 13 seed and Georgia with the No. 15 seed.

Making their ninth appearance to the NCAA Tournament, the Gators will host Georgia Tech, Central Florida and South Florida. Alabama will make their 10th NCAA appearance as they prepare for Chattanooga, Jacksonville State and Florida State.

The LSU Tigers (42-16), also making their 10th appearance, welcome Mississippi Valley State, East Carolina and longtime in-state rival, Louisiana-Lafayette.

Georgia (43-22) will make their seventh trip to the NCAA Championships and will head to Chapel Hill and take on Campbell in the first round.

After missing the championships last season, the Auburn Tigers (37-20) return for their fifth appearance and will travel to College Station, Texas, to face Louisiana Tech in the first round.

Making their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance, the Mississippi State Bulldogs (40-20) will open against Hawai'i in Tempe, Ariz.

The Arkansas Lady Razorbacks (36-27) will make their third appearance, despite not advancing to the SEC Tournament, as they travel to Norman, Okla. to play Tulsa. This marks Arkansas' first appearance to the tournament since 2002 and the first time in SEC history that a team has advanced to the NCAA Tournament without competing in the SEC Tournament.

Since 1997, the SEC has had four teams advance to the Women's College World Series: Alabama ('00, '03, '05, '06); LSU ('01, '04); South Carolina ('07); and Tennessee ('05, '06, '07). The Lady Vols finished as the runners-up in 2007.

This marks the first time the SEC has ever had the No. 1 national seed.

The only other time the SEC had eight teams in the NCAA Championships was in 2004.

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