New volleyball facility is ‘game-changer’

October 25th, 2014

Coach Rob Patrick and the Tennessee women’s volleyball waited their turn.

They waited while a new aquatic center was built. And soccer and softball stadiums. Pratt Pavilion for basketball. Something was always getting improved upon at the football complex.

Friday, the wait ended. The Joan Cronan Volleyball Center was dedicated. For the first time, the Lady Vols have their own practice facility.

“This is the most needed facility on campus,” said Cronan, the retired women’s athletic director.

The building has three courts, offices and training facilities. It sits off Neyland Drive in the row with Regal Soccer Stadium and Lee Softball Stadium, two jewels of Cronan’s legacy.

The volleyball center came to fruition on the watch of Dave Hart, athletic director of the combined men’s and women’s programs.

“This facility is overdue,” Hart said, “in the sense that because of our situation with our reserve (fund) we couldn’t just dipin and do it.

“But like with so many other priorities, we had donors step up.” If ever a program needed a boost, it’s UT volleyball. The Lady Vols finished 1-17 in the SEC last year and are 0-8 in league play headed into Sunday’s home matchagainst Ole Miss. Games will still be played at Thompson-Boling Arena.

“This is a game-changer,” Patrick said.

“Pretty much every SEC team has a volleyball-dedicated facility so we were way, way behind.” After volleyball’s former home, the un-airconditioned, leaky-roofed Stokely Athletics Center, was condemned, Patrick had to squeeze in practices where he could, usually at Thompson-Boling or Pratt Pavilion.

The 2011 SEC championteam practiced at a former batting-cage facility off Middlebrook Pike, Patrick said.

“Any time we wanted to do any individual practice,” Patrick said, “we had to make four phone calls.

“Players would stay on campus all summer long and have very limited time for open gym.” Those days are finally over.

“Here,” Patrick said, “we can get three hours of practice done in two hours, literally. We can used that extra hour to recruit.”

From left, Tennessee president Dr. Joe DiPietro, athletic director Dave Hart, volleyball captain Megan Hatcher, former women’s AD Joan Cronan, chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Lady Vols coach Rob Patrick do the official ribbon cutting for the Joan Cronan Volleyball Center on Friday.

ANDREW BRUCKSE/UT ATHLETICS

Courtesy of: Mike Strange

Published By: Knoxville News Sentinel

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