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SEC Announces 2023-24 Men’s Hoops Conference Opponents

The Southeastern Conference released each school’s conference opponents for the upcoming
2023-24 men’s basketball season Monday.
As part of the 18-game league schedule, Tennessee’s home slate features games against
Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas A&M and
The Vols have scheduled conference road trips at Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky,
Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.
In addition to its three permanent home-and-home opponents—Kentucky, South Carolina
and Vanderbilt—Tennessee will also play home-and-home series against Alabama
and Texas A&M during the 2023-24 season.
Dates, tipoff times and television information for the SEC portion of UT’s schedule will
be released at a later date.
Coming off a season in which it made a fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament and advanced
to the Sweet Sixteen, Tennessee is primed for another strong showing in its ninth
season under head coach Rick Barnes in 2023-24.
Barnes and his staff will deploy a new-look roster, led by Josiah-Jordan James, two-time
All-SEC guard Santiago Vescovi and point guard Zakai Zeigler, a two-time SEC
All-Defensive Team selection.
Additional returners include juniors Jonas Aidoo and Jahmai Mashack, sophomore
Tobe Awaka and redshirt freshmen Freddie Dilione V and D.J. Jefferson.
The Vols also added three newcomers with Division I experience via the NCAA Transfer
Portal in guards Jordan Gainey (USC Upstate) and Dalton Knecht (Northern Colorado)
and forward Chris Ledlum (Harvard).
Additionally, Tennessee welcomes three true freshmen newcomers in guard Cameron
Carr and forwards J.P. Estrella and Cade Phillips.

Tennessee Softball Adds Transfer Laura Mealer

Tennessee head coach Karen Weekley announced Thursday the addition of three-time
C-USA All-Conference honoree Laura Mealer to the Lady Vol softball program. A middle
infielder from MTSU, Mealer will join the team in the summer with two years of eligibility
“Laura brings us middle infield depth and an explosive offensive threat,” Weekly said.
“She has a rare combination of power and speed and has put up impressive home run and
stolen base numbers during her time at Middle Tennessee. Her competitive spirit will fit
in well with our team culture. We are excited to have another homegrown talent join the
Lady Vols.”
During her time with the Blue Raiders, Mealer started 115 games and hit .371 with
101 runs scored, 28 doubles, five triples, 22 home runs and 85 RBIs. She also helped
lead MTSU to its second C-USA tournament title in 2023 and earn a trip to the NCAA
A Tennessee native from Chapel Hill, Mealer led Middle Tennessee in batting average
(.388), slugging percentage (.697), runs scored (68), hits (78), RBIs (57), doubles (20),
home runs (12), total bases (140) and stolen bases (30) this past season.
Her totals for runs scored, total bases and RBIs are single-season program records.
Mealer garnered C-USA All-Conference First Team and NFCA All-Region First Team
accolades in 2023. She was named C-USA Second Team All-Conference as well as picking
up C-USA All-Freshman Team distinction in 2022.
Prior to MTSU, Mealer played softball and basketball for four years at Forrest High
School. She led her team to a Class-AA State Championship and a No. 3 ranking on The
Tennessean’s list of best Nashville-area high school softball teams in the 2021 season. It
was her second state title, also winning one in 2019.

Four Tennessee Student-Athlete Leaders Set to Visit SEC Headquarters

SEC Student-Athlete Leadership Councils and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
convening in Birmingham
Four Tennessee student-athletes are among leaders from throughout the Southeastern
Conference set to participate in a meeting of the SEC Student-Athlete Leadership
Council this weekend in Birmingham, Alabama.
Meeting attendees include representatives from all 14 of the league’s Student-Athlete
Advisory Committees (SAAC), Football Leadership Councils and Men’s and
Women’s Basketball Leadership Councils.
Representing Tennessee this weekend are football player Omari Thomas, track &
field athlete Mikele Vickers, women’s basketball player Tamari Key and men’s basketball
player Jahmai Mashack.
Thomas, an SEC Academic Honor Roll member majoring in Journalism and Electronic
Media, was as a starter at defensive tackle on the Vols’ 11-win Orange Bowl
title team last season. Thomas is also serving on the SEC Football Leadership Council
for the second straight year. He recorded 26 tackles, four pass breakups and two
sacks last fall.
A rising senior from Nashville, Vickers has been a member of the Lady Vol track &
field program since the fall of 2020 and competes in the horizontal jumps. She served
as a member of the 2021-22 VOLeaders Academy cohort that traveled to Rwanda for
the program’s annual cultural immersion service trip in July of 2021. On the track,
Vickers has contributed scoring performances at the SEC Indoor Championships in
each of the past two seasons, placing seventh in the long jump in 2023 and seventh
in the triple jump in 2022.
A rising redshirt senior, Key has started 93 of 99 career games at center for Tennessee,
shooting 59.4 percent from the field and averaging 8.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and
3.0 blocks. She holds UT records for most blocks in a season (119), highest block average
in a season (3.500), most blocks in a career (277) and highest block average in
a career (3.08). She also stands first for most triple-doubles in a career (2) at UT and
is tied for the most in a season with one each as a sophomore and junior. The 2021-
22 All-SEC recipient and two-time SEC All-Defensive Team honoree is a three-time
SEC Student-Athlete Leadership Council and SAAC Representative. Additionally,
she is a 2020-21 product of UT’s VOLeaders Academy and a member of the 2021-22
SEC Community Service Team.
Mashack is a rising junior guard who—in addition to serving on the SEC Men’s
Basketball Leadership Council—was also enrolled in UT’s prestigious VOLeaders
Academy this year and was recently selected as the SEC’s representative on
the NCAA Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee’s Student-Athlete Engagement
Group. A 2022-23 CSC Academic All-District honoree, Mashack made 13 starts last
season—including all three of Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament games—and earned a
reputation as one of the SEC’s best perimeter defenders.
During the two-day event, the Council will hear presentations from Blair Bloomston
of Game On Nation and Will Baggett of Emergent Executives. They will engage
the student-athletes on the topics of mental health and personal and professional development.
The agenda also includes conversations with SEC Commissioner Greg
Sankey and SEC Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Katie O’Neal.
The SEC Student-Athlete Leadership Council provides an opportunity for SEC student-
athletes to engage with campus leaders and conference office staff. Leadership
Councils for football and men’s and women’s basketball, along with SAAC, provide
a conduit of communication to the conference office on issues related to student-athlete
experience, student-athlete wellness and playing rules.

Transfer Sofia Cabezas Set to Join Lady Vols

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee women’s tennis head coach Alison Ojeda announced
on Wednesday afternoon that talented transfer Sofia Cabezas will be joining the Lady
Volunteers for the 2023-24 season.
“Our entire team is excited for Sofia to join the squad,” Ojeda said on the signing. “She
is already a very good player, but more importantly, she really fits our team culture. She
competes for every point and moves well, btu she also loves being a part of something
bigger than herself.”
Cabezas, who will be a senior, comes to Rocky Top after a three-year career at Iowa
State where she helped the Cyclones to their best year in program history in 2023, making
it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Team Championship and earning an end-of-year
ranking of No. 8. Cabezas was a Second Team All-Big 12 performer at No. 3 doubles and
claimed Big 12 Position Championships at No. 5 in singles and No. 3 in doubles. She
posted a 24-12 record during singles play and went 27-8 in doubles last year, setting the
third-highest mark in ISU program history for single-season doubles wins.
For her career as a Cyclone, Cabezas amassed 113 total victories and 62 doubles wins,
figures that rank No. 14 and No. 9 in school history currently. The Valencia, Venezuela
native clinched the Super Regional winner for Iowa State, defeating UCLA’s Sasha Vagramov,
6-2, 7-5, on Court 5 and picked up another point in the team quarterfinals matchup
against NC State at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida.
Prior to her time in the collegiate ranks, Cabezas was a top-100 juniors player in the
world, ranking as high as No. 94, and was a two-time Valencia Junior Open Singles
Cabezas joins Alana Wolfberg as the two newest members of the Tennessee women’s
tennis team. Both newcomers to the 2023-24 squad thus far have been transfers.

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