Staff Report: SPORTS

The Tennessee women’s tennis team (17-10, 3-10 SEC) will start its quest for the SEC Championship on Wednesday against Alabama (15-14, 2-11), hosting the tournament at Barksdale Stadium.

This time around, the Lady Vols look to finish the season better than the second round exit they earned last year.

The SEC tournament field is as deep as it has ever been, with Tennessee playing host to eight ranked teams this weekend. The 12th seeded Lady Vols will have to beat three ranked teams to earn a spot in the championship on their home court.

With a win on Wednesday, the Lady Vols would have a matchup with No. 10-ranked and No. 5-seeded Ole Miss (18-5, 9-4).

Winners of its last seven matches and eight of its last nine, Ole Miss will enter the tournament on a hot streak. The only loss the Rebels have suffered over the last month was to No. 2 ranked and tournament No. 1 seed Vanderbilt (19-3,12-1).

Vanderbilt has been potent over the last month as well, winning eight straight on its way to Knoxville to defend its SEC title.

The Commodores could make a case for being the best team in the country this year, having defeated No. 1 North Carolina in Chapel Hill earlier this season in a nail biter, 4-3. Featuring the recently named SEC Player of the Year Summer Dvorak, Vanderbilt will come to Rocky Top to attempt to win three matches this weekend and continue to assert its dominance.

Before they can think about a probable date with Vanderbilt in the semifinals, though, the Lady Vols will have to get past No. 8-ranked nationally and the No. 4 tournament seed Georgia (15-5, 10-3) on Friday if they earn their way there.

Riding a three-game winning streak, the Bulldogs look to make their 4-3 record on the road have little meaning when it comes to the post season.

The Lady Bulldogs took care of the Lady Vols on March 10 earlier this season, sweeping the Tennessee in that day’s action. The win propelled the Lady Bulldogs to beat current No. 12 Florida (16-7, 11-2) the next weekend.

Both of those wins came in Athens, so for the Bulldogs to make noise, it will have to be outside of their home courts.

With the deep field, there is not much difference between the No. 2 seed and the No. 5 seed, all ranking nationally between No. 6 and No. 12. Sporting a 3-5 record against current top 15 teams, including losing to Vanderbilt on Senior Day last week, the Gators are not looking to end the season anytime soon. Having a bye to the quarterfinals should give the Gators plenty of time to recover for another probable heavyweight matchup.

The No. 3 seed in the tournament and No. 6 nationally South Carolina (19-5, 10-2) might be the dark horse pick of the weekend. Having earned a double bye and defeated every other team besides the top two seeds in the tournament, the Gamecocks look to solidify the noise they have made this season.

Beating everybody in the conference besides the top two seeds in the tournament, The Lady Gamecocks will get their opportunity for revenge if they just take care of business.

The Lady Vols will take on Alabama at 2 p.m. in Knoxville to begin the SEC Tournament.

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