KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In front of a packed house at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium, Monica Abbott made her way to the circle, generating thunderous welcome from the home crowd.
That brief moment on Saturday had the feel of a game from 2007, when Tennessee featured the greatest pitcher in the history of collegiate softball -- a 6-3 unstoppable force 43 feet from home plate that would set the standard for excellence for all who would come after her.
On Saturday, the University of Tennessee honored Abbott with a jersey retirement ceremony before the No. 8/8 Lady Vols' 8-6 win over No. 5/4 Texas A&M. She was joined by her parents Bruce and Julie Abbott, her brother Jared Abbott and former teammates such as Tonya Callahan Mallinson, Sarah Fekete Bailey, Lindsay Schutzler Bell, Tiffany Huff, Nicole Kajitani, Caitlin Ryan and Katherine Card.
After watching the unveiling of her No. 7 on the left field wall and receiving a framed jersey, Abbott addressed the UT faithful. She shared her reasons for choosing to play softball for Tennessee nearly a decade ago.
"I chose to go to this school because I believed in the support of the athletic department, our coaches, my parents and the softball community," Abbott said. "I believed that we can be so much greater than we are and that the sport of softball can grow into something so much bigger and better than we ever dreamed of."
During Abbott's time at UT from 2004-07, Tennessee reached the Women's College World Series three times (2005, 2006, 2007) and helped rocket the UT program to an elite status. The Salinas, Calif., native captured nearly every major NCAA Division I pitching record in the process. Abbott believed in the amazing feats Tennessee softball could achieve and served as one of the key catalysts that took the Lady Vols to new heights.
Click here to view the photo gallery from Monica's return to Rocky Top!
Original Article: University of Tennessee Softball