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Lady Vols vs. UConn
By Tony McClean
Updated: March 6, 2008
NEW HAVEN, Ct.– Sports, whether it be colleges or the pros, can and are defined by special moments and special athletes. But most importantly, sports are also defined by great rivalries.
Name a sport and you can easily name it’s greatest rivalry. Whether it’s Red Sox-Yankees in baseball, Cowboys Redskins in the NFL, Celtics-Lakers in the NBA, or Canadiens-Maple Leafs in the NHL, the passion runs high for both fans and players.
When it comes to women’s basketball, one rivalry stands out: Connecticut vs. Tennessee. UConn vs. Tennessee, Tennessee vs. UConn. No matter how you say it, it’s still the fiercest women’s basketball rivalry and one of the fiercest in all of college sports.
Even though the teams didn’t officially meet this year, the passion of this rivalry still burns. In his new book, “Lady Vols vs. UConn: The Greatest Rivalry in Women’s Basketball”, BASN contributor Richard Kent explores the short, but very interesting history of a battle than began back in 1995.
Even though their first on-court meeting came that season, Kent explains that the seeds of that inaugural battle were sewn during the 1991 Women’s Final Four which featured the Lady Vols, the Huskies, Virginia, and Stanford.
Tennessee would defeated UVa 70-67 in overtime to win the title, while UConn was making its first ever appearance in the Final Four. “Sometime that spring, Geno Auriemma approached Pat Summitt on a recruiting trip and broached the idea of playing Tennessee at some point in the future”, Kent said.
“Summitt was receptive but no deal was put together yet the thought remained in the backs of the minds of both Auriemma and Summitt.” It would take another four years before the two schools would finally meet.
The bad blood began on Martin Luther King Day in 1995. ESPN had looked for a rival for Connecticut on that day, and this was the match up the network had brokered.
UConn very much wanted to play Tennessee, and Summitt said many times that the Lady Vols would play any team, any time. Not only did she make good on her word, she was willing to play the game on the Huskies’ home court, something the University of North Carolina would not do.
The game received tremendous attention from the media, and UConn ultimately won in dramatic style. The two teams met again that year in Minneapolis in March at the National Championship, which UConn won 70-64, and for the first time ever, a women’s college basketball game was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The rivalry has continued to grow year by year since then. Along the way, Kent discusses in depth some of the greatest stars in the history of women’s college basketball who have played in the series.
From Sue Bird to Tamika Catchings; Shea Ralph to Chamique Holdsclaw; Diana Taurasi to Candace Parker; the rivalry between Tennessee and Connecticut has featured and highlighted one the best rivalries in college sports.
“Lady Vols vs. UConn: The Greatest Rivalry in Women’s Basketball” is a complete examination of one of the most fiercest rivalries in college sports. Even many cynics of the women’s game will find this book and the details surrounding it fascinating.
This informative look back at the coaches, players, their careers and performances are legendary, and this book is a testimony to all of the dedicated, talented young women who have made this rivalry one of the high points of every college season since that January day in 1995.
Now we just need to get them to play each other during the upcoming tournament.