Lady Vols next giant on Cards’ check list
Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 7:00 pm
By JEFF LATZKE
AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Look out, Tennessee: The giant slayers of the NCAA women’s tournament are coming for you next.
After pulling off a stunning upset of top-ranked Baylor, fifth-seeded Louisville tried to put the euphoria behind them as soon as they woke up Monday, leaving behind dozens of congratulatory text messages and turning their focus toward taking down the eight-time national champions in the regional finals tonight.
“We know we’re going to have our hands full (tonight). We’re going to have to come out and play another great game,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said. “But why not? I mean, no one expected us to be here anyway. So what do we have to lose? I mean, again, I don’t think the pressure is on us.”
These Lady Vols (27-7), even with their impressive pedigree and No. 2 seed, don’t have nearly the air of invincibility of Louisville’s last opponent. Tennessee hasn’t been to the Final Four since winning the national championship in 2008, and the Cardinals (27-8) played for the title more recently, in 2009.
With longtime assistant Holly Warlick taking over for coach Pat Summitt, who won more games than anyone else in the sport, many outside the program started the season without expecting to hear “Rocky Top” at the Final Four.
That didn’t sit well with the players in Knoxville.
“They’ve just had a chip on their shoulder all year, and we’ve played the underdog role. In the past, there’s not a lot of times Tennessee has been playing the underdog role, and this team needed that,” Warlick said. “They needed somebody to tell them, ‘Look, you’re not really good right now and you have to work,’ and so they did.”
An eye-opening loss at Chattanooga in the season opener brought a renewed focus, and Warlick has guided her squad through some rough patches to win the SEC regular-season title and get back to the regional finals for the 26th time.
“It’s unique at Tennessee. We’ve created a monster because it’s great to win SEC championships, but our fans and everybody, if you don’t go to the Final Four and win a national championship, you’ve just had an OK year,” she said. “Now, that’s crazy. And I know I was a part of helping build that, but that’s crazy.”
Louisville’s players tried to clear their heads over breakfast and with a morning walk, leaving Angel McCoughtry — the star of the team’s 2009 Final Four run — to handle the aftermath of the Baylor upset in a Twitter dispute with Robert Griffin III, the Bears’ former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. The Lady Bears had won 74 of 75 games, going 40-0 on their way to last season’s championship, and had been heavy favorites to repeat.
Published in The Messenger 4.2.13