January 24, 2024 – The Southeastern Conference released the 2024 SEC Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll on Wednesday, with the Lady Vols picked No. 1 by the league’s coaches. Tennessee received 137 points in the poll – including six first-place votes.
Georgia was picked as a close second with 136 points – the Bulldogs also earned six first-place votes. LSU was slated third with 106 points, while Arkansas (103) landed fourth. Auburn garnered 100 points to round out the top five.
In 2023, the Lady Vols captured the SEC regular season and SEC Tournament titles in the same season for the first time in program history, while also securing their first 50-win season and reaching the national semifinals at the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2013. The WCWS trip was the program’s first since 2015 and its eighth all-time.
Tennessee returns 17 players from last season’s squad – including seven of nine starters from a lineup that averaged 6.87 runs per game – best in the SEC and third nationally. Tennessee also ranked third in the country in on-base percentage (.419), 14th in home runs per game (1.30) and 17th in slugging (.516).
Milloy – a consensus first-team All-American – returns in 2024 for her final season on Rocky Top, while Gibson – a second-team NFCA All-American – looks to build on a breakout sophomore season. Veterans Puni, Giulia Koutsoyanopulos and Rylie West are back as well and are among a handful of returners who will vie for significant roles this season.
Tennessee will have to replace NFCA Pitcher of the Year Ashley Rogers but bring back Gottshall and Pickens in the circle. The duo helped guide Tennessee’s pitching staff to a 1.75 ERA – ranking No. 1 in the SEC and 10th-best in the NCAA – while also notching 23 shutouts.
Gottshall finished last season with a 16-2 record, while Pickens was named SEC Freshman of the Year and earned D1Softball Freshman All-America recognition.
UT will head to Texas as it begins its 2024 campaign with a season-opener at UT-Arlington on Thursday, Feb. 8, before playing a three-game series against Baylor in Waco.