Novak's on track ... stays unbeaten
Redshirt freshman Brooke Novak remained unbeaten in the 3000 meters and sophomore Dee Dee Trotter posted an NCAA provisional qualifying mark in the 400 meters to pace the Lady Vols Sunday at the Gator Invitational track meet in Gainesville.
Novak, from Kaukauna, Wis., finished in a career-best time of 9:52.13 to edge Auburn's Erica Braswell, who crossed the line in 9:53.74 at the University of Florida's O'Connell Center. The Lady Vol distance standout stayed unbeaten in individual races this season, duplicating her 3K victory at the SEC Challenge in Lexington, Ky., on Jan. 25 and her heat win in the mile run at last weekend's Penn State National Meet.
Through the first half of the race, Novak kept pace with a pack of about nine runners until Georgia Tech's Amy Dock, Braswell and the Big Orange runner opened up a sizeable advantage over the rest of the competitors. With two laps to go, Braswell went around Dock, and Novak followed close behind. Upon hearing the bell that signals the final lap, Novak kicked into a faster gear, and her opponent was unable to match the Wisconsin product's potent finishing speed.
''Brooke Novak has shown a lot of maturity this year,'' Lady Vol Head Coach J.J. Clark said. ''She is guiding the team with her good performances.''
In the 400m, Trotter wasn't afforded the luxury of running in the fastest heats, but the Decatur, Ga., product still managed to reel off a 54.76 and place seventh against a strong list of runners. That time, posted on Florida's 200m flat track, was the second-year performer's second provisional this season in the quarter. Sophomore Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.) nearly recorded a qualifying mark in her first college try indoors at that distance, recording a personal-best 54.93 and grabbing eighth.
The 4x400m relay closed out the day with a 3:47.90 effort to place fourth. The lineup, which included sophomore Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.), Cook, Trotter and freshman Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.), posted the team's second quickest pace of the year. With junior Christina Billings (Madison, Wis.) running in place of Ward last Saturday at the Penn State National Meet, the Lady Vols put together at 3:44.09 result.
Other noteworthy finishes included junior Janine Tessarzik (Altamont, N.Y.) taking seventh in the weight throw at 56-6/17.22m; senior Christie Elwin (Adelaide, Australia) securing seventh in the pole vault at 12-1.50/3.70m; junior Erin Anderson grabbing ninth in the 3000m in a season-best 10:18.61; and Trotter finishing 15th in the 200m at 24.65.
Heavy rains canceled the last day of the Triple Crown Invitational on Sunday at Treaty Park in St. Augustine,leaving the Lady Vol softball team with a 3-1 record at the event.
"We are sorry that the games were rained out because we felt that we had gained momentum from our three wins in a row," said Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly. "With 22 hits in our last two games, it was obvious that our kids were hitting the ball really well. We treat all of these games as a learning experience and we feel that we have improved as a team over last weekend."
"Karen and I were especially proud of freshmen Kristi Durant (Placentia, Calif.) and Stacey Jennings (Aurora, Colo.), who each hit in the .400-range and played well on defense. We were also happy that Angela Brewer (East Ridge, Tenn.) had six runs batted in and Blaine Teasley (Tucson, Ariz.) played extremely well in every facet of the game."
A trio of Tennessee players picked up all-tournament accolades: catcher/third baseman Durant, pitcher/outfielder Jennings and senior outfielder Teasley. Already boasting an eight-game hitting streak and leading the Big Orange with a .478 batting average on an 11-for-23 performance at the plate, Durant powered the Lady Vols with a .462 clip on a 6-for-13 effort in her club's four contests. She also threw out a pair of runners attempting to steal second base.
Jennings proved to be a double threat for UT, sporting a perfect 2-0 mark in the circle with a 1.79 earned run average, two complete games and 13 strikeouts in 15.2 innings. The right-hander also picked up her first career save in the quarterfinal round versus Jacksonville, enabling her to figure in every one of the club's wins on the weekend. Not to be outdone, the rookie rated second on the squad with a .444 showing, as she was 4-for-9 with a .556 slugging percentage. The Lady Vols' starting left fielder, Teasley, contributed a .364 average with a team-high four runs, as well as three RBI. Oddly enough, she was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, paving the way to a 2-1 triumph over Stetson.
The 11th-ranked Lady Vol tennis team came out on the short end of a 4-3 decision to14th-ranked Northwestern Saturday in the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships at Madison, Wisc.No. 9 UCLA nipped UT by the same score during the opening round on Thursday. On Friday UT trounced Tulsa 7-0. Thus, the Lady Vols completed their stay at the indoors with a 1-2 record and are now 5-2 overall.
As in the match with UCLA, the doubles point proved decisive vs. Northwestern. Senior Crystal Cleveland and sophomore Ashley Robards notched an 8-4 win over freshman Jamie Peisel and sophomore Kristi Roemer at No. 3 but the Wildcats won at the top two spots. The clincher came from freshman Christelle Grier and junior Jessica Rush, whose 8-6 victory over the No. 22-rated duo of senior Vilmarie Castellvi and freshman Melissa Schaub snapped the Lady Vol duo's 12-match winning streak.
Cleveland's victory at three doubles was a milestone, as it was the 100th of her illustrious career. Earlier in January, the Delray Beach, Fla., native recorded career win No. 100 in singles as well. She is only the fourth Lady Vol in school history to reach the century mark in both categories. Sisters Paula and Peta Kelly and 2002 senior Alison Ojeda are the other three to accomplish the exploit.
Rush extended the Wildcats' lead to 2-0 when she notched a 6-2, 6-2, victory at No. 2 singles over UT junior Tammy Encina. Robards dumped Northwestern junior Stacy Kokx at No. 6 singles, 6-2, 7-5, but Peisel upped Northwestern's lead to 3-1 when she defeated UT sophomore Breanna Kray 7-6, 6-4.
The Wildcats clinched the victory when 16th-ranked Grier ended No. 4 Castellvi's undefeated spring campaign with a 6-4, 6-2, triumph at the top slot. Grier has now handed Castellvi two of her four losses during the 2002-03 season. Her initial win came last November in the first round of the Omni Hotels Intercollegiate Indoor Championships.
Net note: The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) has tabbed Lady Vol senior Vilmarie Castellvi as its National Player of the Month for January. The nation's fourth-ranked singles competitor, Castellvi won a pair of individual titles and helped the Orange and White to a 2-0 start for the spring. She finished the month with a 6-0 singles record and a 5-0 doubles record.
The Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, native kicked off her undefeated month of play by grabbing the singles and doubles crowns at the Collegiate Tennis Kickoff in Las Vegas, Nev. She defeated four consecutive ranked opponents in the singles, all in straight sets. Two of her foes were among the top 20 and play for No. 1-ranked Stanford. In the doubles portion of the tournament, Castellvi and freshman Melissa Schaub claimed three straight contests for the title. The duo is currently ranked No. 22.