By Brian Rice
Two of Tennessee’s most accomplished softball players walked across the stage on Saturday at the University of Tennessee, both taking their degrees before walking into careers in the sport they love.
Melissa Davin and Madison Shipman joined classmate Ellen Renfroe, who completed her degree in May as alumnae of UT, in finishing the drill academically, just as they did in decorated careers on the field that saw two Women’s College World Series appearances and an appearance in the championship series in 2013.
“The most important thing is that they are getting their degrees from the University of Tennessee,” co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “Our most important priority when we bring student-athletes to the University of Tennessee is that they graduate and that they graduate with the degree of their choice. I’m really proud of both Melissa and Madison and I’m honored to be there with them to watch them partake in the graduation ceremony.”
Both players wore the graduation robe with the “Student Athlete” sash bearing the same Lady Volunteer logo that adorned their playing uniforms. Shipman saw the connection as quite appropriate.
“It’s a huge honor. I’ve been looking forward to this day for the last four and a half years and I’m glad it’s finally here,” she said. “A lot of hard work, a lot of early morning workouts and a lot of late night studying, but I finally made it.”
Neither will stray too far from the playing field with their next step in life. Davin has already accepted a job as the director of softball operations at Fresno State University. Shipman will remain at UT as the volunteer assistant for the Lady Vols this spring.
“It’s an honor and a blessed feeling,” Davin said of getting her degree and stepping right into the professional world. “I’m excited. Every transition I had to make here, I want to be there for the kids at Fresno State so they know what to do and what not to do and try to help them.”
Shipman also has picked up professional experience in softball, winning the Rookie of the Year award this past summer in National Pro Fastpitch, where her USSSA Pride team won the league championship.
“It’s really awesome to be able to apply things we learned on the field and in the classroom in the real world,” Shipman said. “I think that’s the biggest thing with a lot of college kids. They want to use what they’ve been learning the last four years and apply it to their job. I’m really looking forward to the spring and working with the team out there on the field.”
Davin and Shipman join their classmate Renfroe in the coaching ranks as well. Renfroe is in her first year as the volunteer assistant at the University of Memphis.
It is a career path that is a source of pride for the coaching staff at Tennessee.
“I’m excited for their futures,” Weekly said. “It’s really gratifying for Ralph and I, as their coaches, to see them go on and move on into the professional field and watch them grow. We will always be here to support them in any way they need us.”