Tennessee (44-10) is among a league-record 11 teams from the SEC to make the NCAA field of 64. The Lady Vols earned a No. 7 seed and six of the top 12 seeds came from the SEC.
The Lady Vols will play Longwood (41-18) on Friday at 6 p.m. Eastern at Lee Softball Stadium on Friday. North Carolina State (33-18-1) and James Madison (41-15) will open the three-day Knoxville Regional at 3:30 p.m.
The team gathered at the softball clubhouse to watch the selection show, which aired Sunday night, in the film room. When Tennessee’s name popped on the wide-screen television as the No. 7 seed, a voice from among the players, presumably a younger one, said, “Does that matter?”
“YES!” Co-head coach Karen Weekly said to thunderous laughter from those in attendance.
Co-head coach Ralph Weekly said he was pleased with Tennessee’s seed, and he was grateful to host the regional. Weekly had anticipated who might come to town – he correctly predicted James Madison and N.C. State before the Selection Show began – and he noted he had also just watched a Longwood game and the Lancers have long ball hitters. Longwood, which is in Farmville, Va., defeated Winthrop to win the Big South Conference.
N.C. State is the ACC Tournament champion and James Madison was the runner-up in the Colonial Athletic Association.
“I’m excited for our kids,” James Madison coach Mickey Dean said. “You get a couple days to think about it and you wonder if you’ve done enough to get in. I felt like we had played our way into the field of 64. I felt like we had done enough, but you never know until you see your name called.”
This is the second selection to the NCAA tournament for JMU and the first-ever at-large bid for a CAA team. The Dukes received the conference’s automatic bid in 2009 and also traveled to Knoxville that year.
Reserved bleacher-back all-session tickets will go on sale at 8:30 a.m. Monday. If any tickets remain, single-session tickets would be available Friday at 2:30 p.m. when the gates open.
Fans can buy tickets three ways: Online at UTTix; in person at the Tennessee Athletics Ticket Office at the street level of Thompson-Boling Arena between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.; or by phone at 865-656-1200.
Season ticket holders have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to call or stop by the ticket office to buy their seat. Any seats not sold by that deadline will be released to the public at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
The SEC snared seven national seeds. Tennessee got the No. 7 slot, while Florida (52-7) was No. 2; Missouri Tigers (35-11), No. 6; LSU (40-14), No. 9; Alabama (42-13), No. 10; Kentucky (38-18), No. 12; and Texas A&M (39-15), No. 16.
The other four SEC teams to make the field are: Arkansas (34-18), Georgia (38-19), Mississippi State (32-22) and South Carolina (32-23).
Tennessee is on the same side of the bracket as Alabama, so if the seeds hold in the regionals, the Lady Vols and Crimson Tide would square off in a Super Regional in Knoxville.
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