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Huff’s toughest decision

Local product chose her senior season over chance to play for national team

Posted: July 19, 2009 10:49 p.m.
Updated: July 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Saugus graduate Tiffany Huff awaits a pitch while playing for the United States Junior National Team. Huff chose to have surgery to repair a torn labrum in preparation for her senior season.

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Tiffany Huff’s offseason has been about recovery.

The soon-to-be University of Tennessee senior and Saugus graduate is through five weeks of rehab for a torn labrum in her shoulder and on course to be healthy by the time her senior season starts in February.

She did, however, have to pass on an invite to play for the United States women’s national team to get ready for her final year with the Lady Volunteers.

“It was tough to pass up the chance to have the opportunity to be on the team,” says Huff, a catcher and first baseman. “Still, I knew that this is my senior season coming up, and I won’t get the chance to experience that again, but I might get another chance to be on the national team, so I decided to make the choice to have the surgery so I can hopefully be totally healthy by the time the season starts.”

Huff had surgery on her shoulder June 10 at UCLA, which was less than a month after the season ended and at the same time that the national team was holding tryouts.

The Lady Vols open play in February, and doctors have projected that the former member of the USA Junior National Team should be recovered by December or January.

Huff is coming off her best season at Tennessee, earning Amateur Softball Association of America National Collegiate co-Player of the Week honors during the first week of February.

She went 11-for-17 over the week with two homers and 15 RBIs over a five-game stretch to win the award.

Also, she earned second-team honors on the All-Southeastern Conference and All-American teams.

“I think that Tiffany found a higher level of dedication in the offseason before her junior year,” says Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly. “She’s an outstanding leader, which is going to be big for us since we have a large freshman class coming in. She really wants to be as active as possible in everything this team does, and she has been instrumental to this team since she became a part of this program.”

Huff’s senior leadership will be critical to the Lady Vols as Tennessee returns just three seniors and welcomes 10 freshmen.

Last year, the Lady Vols made the NCAA tournament and won two games before a pair of losses to Jacksonville State ended their season. At one point, they won 15 consecutive games thanks in large part to Huff’s contributions behind the plate, on first base and in the batter’s box.

“Last year was a good year with Tennessee,” Huff says. “I want this year to be even better. We have a good team so I’m looking forward to getting back out there even if I won’t be able to start practicing when the rest of the team does.”

The decision to pass on the opportunity was not easy, especially after having such a positive experience playing on the USA Junior National Team in 2006 and 2007.

“Being on the junior national team was great,” Huff says. “I got to travel with the team and we went to the Netherlands, which was really cool. It was exciting to get to play against national competition, and I’d like the chance to do it again.”

Weekly thinks that Huff will get the chance to try out again, and she will make the most of that opportunity.

“She has an excellent chance of making the team,” Weekly says. “Physically, she can do it all. For us, she’s our field general. She’s a great catcher and plays with a lot of confidence. She has all the traits of a strong leader so I think she is a major asset for any team.”

For now, Huff is focused on healing the arm that makes her such an asset behind the plate. She wants to get back on the field, where she says she patterns her game after San Diego Padres second baseman David Eckstein — by hustling to get the most out of her ability.

“I’m hoping to be the best leader I can be,” Huff says. “I want to get everyone off on the right foot. I’m focused on my leadership and building our team chemistry.”

Huff is also focused on her studies and life beyond softball.

She is majoring in special education and recently got engaged.

“After this season is done, I’m pretty much open to anything,” Huff says. “My boyfriend has a job in Knoxville so I might stay in Tennessee. Still, I know that USA softball could offer me with a chance to keep playing, and that they are building for the future so there’s still a chance of that happening.”

Weekly has faith that no matter what Huff winds up doing, she will be a success thanks to her drive that she carries on and off the softball field.

“To me the highlight of Tiffany’s last year here was how hard she worked during the offseason, heading into last year,” Weekly says. “She knows what she has to do to be a success, and she just goes out and does it.”


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