Holly Warlick. Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
Tennessee has served notice it will remain nationally relevant in the post-Pat Summitt era.
The next step is to become elite again.
After being picked to finish as low as fifth in the Southeastern Conference in Holly Warlick's debut season as coach, Tennessee instead won the league's regular-season title. But the Lady Vols believe they squandered a golden opportunity Tuesday by falling 86-78 to Louisville in the Oklahoma City Regional final.
Tennessee won consecutive national titles in 2007 and 2008, but the Lady Vols haven't returned to the Final Four since. That represents Tennessee's longest Final Four drought since the NCAA started running the women's tournament in 1982.
The Lady Vols still outperformed preseason expectations by going 27-8 and advancing to a third consecutive regional final.