Tennessee Lady Vol sports

The past weekend in Lady Vol sports was very eventful. Get the wrapup right here.

*Softballers 'Card' a title

Freshman Catherine Card slugged a game-tying home run in the third inning, then singled home the go-ahead and insurance runs in the fifth inning as the Lady Vol softball team beat Syracuse 4-2 Sunday to capture the UNLV Mini Tournament title at Las Vegas.

Card was named the tourney MVP after batting .688 (11 for 15).

Christi Anch picked up the mound win after relieving starter Stephanie Humphrey. Tennessee (10-5) went 4-1 in the tournament. The Lady Vols beat Louisiana-Monroe 3-2 late Saturday to earn their finals berth. Stacey Jennings batted in all three UT runs with a home run. She also notched the mound win in relief of Humphrey.

The biggest news of the tournament, however, occurred Friday night, when Jennings pitched the first perfect game in Lady Vol history as UT beat Nevada-Las Vegas 3-0. Jennings struck out six in the seven-inning masterpiece.

*Lady netters nip Notre Dame

The doubles point proved decisive as the 11th-ranked Lady Vol tennis team edged No. 19 Notre Dame 4-3 Sunday at the Goodfriend Tennis Center in Knoxville. UT improved to 8-2, while the Irish fell to 4-4. The win was UT's first over a top-25 team for the 2003 campaign.

The Big Orange took a 1-0 lead after claiming a highly competitive doubles point. Senior Crystal Cleveland and sophomore Ashley Robards concluded their match first at No. 3 with an 8-6 victory over sophomore Sarah Jane Connelly and freshman Jennifer Smith. The Irish duo of senior Katie Cunha and rookie Kristina Stastny responded by upsetting UT's 22nd-rated combo of senior Vilmarie Castellvi and freshman Melissa Schaub at the top spot, 8-6.

UT junior Tammy Encina and sophomore Majen Immink nipped Notre Dame freshman Lauren Connelly and junior Alicia Salas in No. 2 doubles 8-5 for the point that would prove to be the difference in the match.

Castellvi, the nation‚s No. 4-ranked player, extended the Tennessee lead to 2-0 after she dispatched of No. 124 Salas at the top slot, 6-1, 6-1. The Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, native is now 21-3 versus ranked competition and 24-4 overall. She is also 9-1 at No. 1 singles and 13-1 this spring.

Notre Dame got on the board when junior Caylan Leslie pulled a 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Encina at two singles. Encina dropped to 14-9 and 6-4 at the second singles position with the loss.

The Lady Vols struck back with a win No. 3 singles thanks to Schaub, who notched her seventh victory in a row. The Lexington, Ohio, native defeated Cunha in straight sets, 7-5, 6-1, to improve to 15-8 and 9-1 at three singles.

Notre Dame lived up to its nickname and fought back once again, posting a win at No. 4 singles. Stastny took out freshman Sabita Maharaj, who was playing only her second dual singles match, by a count of 6-4, 6-3.

The Big Orange claimed the match when Cleveland posted her seventh-straight victory at five singles over Lauren Connelly, 6-2, 6-3. Cleveland‚s record now stands at 17-7 for the season and 8-2 in dual matches. It was the second time this year that the Delray Beach, Fla., native clinched a match for UT. Her first clincher came at Illinois on Feb. 2.

Cleveland's victory was also the 109th of her career and moved her ahead of Manisha Malhotra for fourth place on the school's all-time wins list. She needs six more conquests to tie Wendy Anderson for the third spot.

The remaining match at the No. 6 slot between Robards and Sarah Jane Connelly was decided in a third set super tiebreaker. Connelly took the first frame, 6-2, while Robards claimed the second, 6-3. In the breaker, Connelly prevailed by a 12-10 score.

A day earlier, UT routed Indiana 7-0. Freshman Sabita Maharaj debuted as a singles player and won 6-1, 6-2 at No. 4.

*Wells excels at SEC meet

Junior Kylee Wells brought home Tennessee's second individual title of the SEC Championships with her performance in platform diving at the meet's final day on Saturday, helping the Lady Vols place fifth.

Wells recorded a score of 452.95 and won the competition by overtaking LSU senior Barb Gorst on her final dive. Wells trailed Gorst throughout the finals but kept the pressure on by hitting a solid inward two and one half tuck on her second to last dive, then followed that up with a strong three and one half tuck in her final effort.

''I've been around long enough to know that anything can happen because there's such a great margin of error in platform diving,'' UT Head Coach Dave Parrington said. ''Kylee was very steady throughout the competition, which was instrumental in her victory.''

The performance marked a triumphant return to the conference championships for Wells, who did not compete at the meet last year due to injury. In her first collegiate season, Wells was named SEC Freshman Diver of the Year after placing fourth on the platform.

With victories by Wells and senior Jaime Sanger, Parrington's Lady Vol divers have brought home at least one SEC title in each of the last nine years for a total of 11 during that span. Their performances this year earned the program a pair of distinguished honors, as the SEC coaches voted Parrington as Women's Diving Coach of the Meet and Sanger as Female Diver of the Meet. Earlier during the championships, Sanger placed first on the 1m and second on the 3m.

Also recording a career-best SEC performance on the platform, senior Stacy Binyon (Southlake, Texas) placed fourth with a score of 386.15. The effort improves upon Binyon's previous best of seventh place at the 2002 SEC Championships.

A day after placing sixth and setting a school record in the 100y back, freshman Jacque Fessel (Cincinnati, Ohio) tied for sixth place in the 200y back with a time of 1:57.71, missing the NCAA automatic-qualifying mark by .01 seconds. Although not a school record, the performance does rank Fessel second in UT history for the event and is the fourth-fastest 200y back time ever recorded by a Lady Vol.

Freshman Noelle Bassi (Franklin Lakes, N.J.) clocked a 1:59.49, the seventh-quickest 200y fly ever by a Lady Vol, en route to placing seventh in the finals. Bassi also holds UT's fifth-fastest 200y fly time with her career best of 1:59.28.

Freshman Graciela Breece-Rodriguez (Boulder, Colo.) also provided some key points for Tennessee, competing in the finals of two events. Breece-Rodriguez joined Fessel in the 200y back, placing 16th with a time of 2:03.34. She also joined Bassi in the 200y fly, finishing 16th with a time of 2:03.74. Earlier in the prelims, Breece-Rodriguez had clocked a 2:02.85 in the 200y back, which ranks her 13th in school history for the event, and posted an NCAA provisional-qualifying 2:01.25 to move into 6th place in UT history for 200y fly.

Two Lady Vols registered season-best times en route to placing in the top 15 of the 1650y free. Freshman Kara Boland (Lafayette Hill, Pa.) finished 11th with a time of season-best 17:02.80, ranking her 18th for the event in UT history, while junior Raellen Arnold (Sevierville, Tenn.) placed 15th with a 17:17.51.

Home-standing Auburn won the meet with a total of 841.5 points, followed by Florida with 685, Georgia 648.5, Alabama 316, Tennessee 278, South Carolina 260, LSU 247, Arkansas 255 and Kentucky 212.

''Moving up to fifth place this year after placing seventh last season is really positive for us,'' Colella said. ''We have a lot of young student-athletes and this meet has been really good for us in terms of moving the program in the right direction.''

*Toyin wins Classic title

Lady Vol standout Toyin Olupona won the 55-meter dash with a 6.90-second clocking over the weekend in the UT Indoor Track Classic at Stokely Athletics Center. UT teammate DeeDee Trotter (6.97) was second.

Tennessee's Christie Elwin won the pole vault with a clearance of 3.70 meters. Lauren McNeil (3.55) and Kendra Rhyne (3.40) made it a 1-2-3 sweep for the Lady Vols.

Janine Tessarzik of Tennessee placed second in the shot put with a heave of 13.40 meters. She also placed runnerup in the weight throw with a toss of 17.64 meters.

UT's Kelly Flowers finished third in the high jump by clearing 1.59 meters.

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