Lady Vols' non-conference schedule finalized and news from UT sports

Lady Vols' non-conference schedule finalized and news from UT sports

July 9th, 2017 by David Cobb in Sports - College

Mississippi State forward Victoria Vivians dribbles toward Tennessee center Mercedes Russell during a game in Starkville last February. Vivians led the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament's title game last season. In addition to playing Mississippi State next season, Tennessee will face 2017 NCAA champion South Carolina twice and Final Four participant Stanford once, the latter as part of a tough nonconference schedule.

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee's 2017-18 women's basketball nonconference schedule is highlighted by games against three teams that finished last season in the top 15.

The program released a finalized nonconference slate this past week that features a home game against Texas (Dec. 10) and road games against Stanford (Dec. 21) and Notre Dame (Jan. 18).

Texas finished last season ranked 14th in the USA Today coaches poll. Notre Dame finished at No. 5, while Stanford came in at No. 4 after a Final Four run.

Combined with two games against South Carolina and one against Mississippi State, the date with Stanford gives Tennessee four games against teams that made the 2017 Final Four. Sixteen of the Lady Volunteers' 29 regular-season games will be against teams that made the NCAA tournament last season.

It will be a challenging schedule for a transitioning roster. Tennessee lost two players to graduation, and another three have departed the program this offseason.

Four incoming freshmen from ESPN's top 100 for the signing class of 2017 will combine with six returning players to form Holly Warlick's sixth roster as coach of the Lady Vols.

The schedule begins with a home exhibition game against Carson-Newman on Nov. 7 and also includes three games in the Nov. 23-25 Cancun Challenge in Mexio.

Tennessee knows its Southeastern Conference opponents for the upcoming season, but the league has not released dates for SEC games yet.

Honoring Summitt

The state of Tennessee has granted the Pat Summitt Foundation an extension to generate pre-orders for a Pat Summitt Foundation specialty license plate. The new deadline to generate the required 1,000 pre-orders for the license plate to enter circulation is June 30, 2018.

A news release from the foundation said 583 license plates honoring the late Lady Vols coach have been ordered so far. Summitt died on June 28, 2016, five years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

The plate, which would feature a picture of Summitt and the foundation's logo, costs $35, with approximately $15.38 of that benefiting the Pat Summitt Foundation. Pre-orders can be placed at patsummitt.org/license.

"This license plate will be really special, as it will be the only authorized Tennessee plate featuring Pat Summitt," the foundation's executive director, Patrick Wade, said in the release. "These plates will provide a source of annual income for the Pat Summitt Foundation, which Pat established to advance her legacy of helping patients and caregivers and funding research for Alzheimer's treatments."

Serrano moves on

Kyle Serrano reached a deal to sign with the Houston Astros this past week, bringing his up-and-down Tennessee baseball career to an end after he had entertained the idea of returning to Knoxville to play for his father's replacement.

The Astros selected Serrano, a right-handed pitcher, in the 10th round of last month's MLB draft, but Serrano indicated he had interest in returning to Tennessee to complete his final year of eligibility. Serrano told Sports Radio WNML in Knoxville last month that he would not sign for less than $300,000.

His deal with the Astros, signed Thursday, came with a $203,000 signing bonus.

"It feels great," Serrano said, according to Houston's Fox 26 sports director Mark Berman. "I can't tell you how happy I am to be in the Astros organization. It still hasn't hit me yet."

Serrano's father, Dave, resigned in May after six years as the Tennessee coach.

Kyle left the team in the middle of conference play this past season for undisclosed medical reasons. His father's resignation cast further doubt he would return to the Vols.

New Tennessee coach Tony Vitello told Sports Radio WNML last week that Kyle had been "very respectful with us in communicating what his thoughts are."

Dave Serrano recently accepted a position as pitching coach at West Virginia University.

Representing UT

Five Tennessee student-athletes will represent the university at a joint meeting of the Southeastern Conference Student-Athlete Leadership Councils and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee next weekend in Birmingham, Ala.

Micah Abernathy (football), Kyle Alexander (men's basketball), Micah Bohon (swimming and diving), Ari Cogdell (track and field) and Mercedes Russell (women's basketball) will be among the group of 69 athletes from around the SEC at the event.

It's the first joint meeting of the groups since league commissioner Greg Sankey introduced them in 2016. The event includes meetings with Sankey and an assistant league commissioner who will review SEC and NCAA governance structure. The weekend will also include community service and career development events.

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com.