The start of the spring semester means a new beginning for everyone. The winter break is over and students are returning to campus with new schedules and new classes. The weather is slowly but surely starting to warm up and college sports are getting underway again. In Tennessee, several teams will kick off their spring season in the coming months.
Here’s a look at all of the biggest sports in Tennessee this spring.
Both the Vols and Lady Vols basketball teams will complete the second half of the season this spring, although their trajectories couldn’t be more different.
The Lady Vols are currently the No. 5 team in the country, ranking first in the SEC with a perfect 6-0 conference record. Head coach Kellie Harper has given the Lady Vols their best start since the 2007-08 season, playing basketball on a par with many of the late Pat Summitt’s teams—dominating teams with defense and rebounding.
Senior Rae Burrell recently returned from a knee injury that has sidelined her since the first game of the season, and she is working her way back into the starting lineup.
The Lady Vols have games coming this spring against No. 9 UConn (February 6) and No. 1 South Carolina (February 20) for the SEC tournament in March.
However, the men’s team is doing everything they can to keep their heads above water. After starting the season with a 9-2 record, the Vols have lost three of their first five conference games, punctuated by a 28-point blowout in Kentucky.
Consistency was the thorn in the side of the Vols. When the Tennessee defense was number 2 in the country, the attack was as quiet as ever. When they finally broke out offensively against Kentucky, the Tennessee defense took a huge step back.
The Vols will play against Rick Barnes’ former Texas team on January 29 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, hosting Kentucky Seeking Revenge on February 15 and hosting current No. 2 Auburn on February 26.
The Tennessee baseball team is looking to build on a historic season in Tony Vitello’s fifth season on Rocky Top. The Vols made their first College World Series appearance since 2005, but were eliminated with losses in their first two games against Virginia and Texas.
Success won’t be so easy for the Vols in 2022, as they lost four of their five starting infielders to the MLB Draft. Super senior Evan Russell tried at catcher in the fall hoping to fill the gap, and redshirt senior Luc Lipcius will anchor first base for another season. The Vols will rely on their experienced outfield and a promising pitching staff, supported by transfers Chase Dollander and Seth Halvorsen, to ease the growing pains of a question-filled lineup.
The baseball season kicks off on February 18-20 with a home series against Georgia Southern.
Tennessee softball will look very different in 2022. After 20 seasons at the helm of the Lady Vols, Ralph Weekly stepped down as co-head coach. His wife and former co-head coach, Karen Weekly, will step into the role.
Tennessee returns most of its starters from last season, starting with star pitcher Ashley Rogers. Rogers was an All-SEC First Team player a year ago, leading the SEC with an ERA of 1.32. She wants to build on that in her final season.
Tennessee’s two best hitters, Kiki Milloy and Amanda Ayala, return to lead the charge, along with some key transfers. Tennessee’s battery will look different as catcher Ally Shipman is transferred to Alabama, filling a gap in the middle by newcomer Kelcy Leach.
Tennessee softball will begin the 2022 season at the Felsberg Invitational in Miami, Florida, February 11-13.
The men’s tennis team looks set to build on one of the most successful campaigns in the program’s history in its fifth year under head coach Chris Woodruff. Last year, the Vols won the SEC tournament title, made a run in the NCAA Championships semifinals and finished the year as the No. 4 team in the country.
Most of last season’s production of the Vols returns, starting with graduate student Adam Walton and senior Pat Harper. Together, the duo achieved 31 doubles victories, including the Individual National Doubles Championship.
Teaming up with talented undergrads Shunsuke Mitsui and Johannus Monday, the Vols enjoyed a successful fall season and started their spring campaign on the right foot, beating the No. 5 TCU in Fort Worth, Texas in a dramatic 4-3 win on January 16. .
The women’s tennis team is moving in the right direction under head coach Allison Ojeda. The Lady Vols were picked to finish fifth in the SEC after a season where they went 8-5 in the SEC game. The Lady Vols are ranked number 22 in the ITA Preseason Coaches Poll for this upcoming season.
Nearly half of Tennessee’s roster is made up of underclassmen, but the group is led by the talented Elza Tomase, who was the fall 2021 ITA Ohio Valley Regional Singles Champion. Lady Vols’ schedule includes seven matchups with top-25 teams, and they opened their spring season with seven wins at the Tar Heel Invitational in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, January 7-9.