Lady Vols' Chavanne chasing College World Series title to cap off career
Tennessee third baseman Raven Chavanne already has earned just about every individual honor possible on the field and in the classroom. Now she wants a national team championship to cap her illustrious career.
Chavanne's final chance to give Tennessee a national title continues Thursday as the seventh-seeded Lady Vols (49-10) face No. 2 seed Florida (57-7) in the opening round of the Women's College World Series at Oklahoma City. This marks Tennessee's third World Series trip in Chavanne's four-year career.
"You don't play for the individual awards," Chavanne said. "When you get them it's a huge honor and you're proud of them because you worked hard. ... But I play softball to win a national championship. That's the ultimate goal and what I'd love the most out of my college career. That's what I'm striving for."
Chavanne has reached just about all her other goals. She graduated with a degree in political science this month after entering the spring semester with a 3.84 grade point average. She was selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America as the Division I softball Academic All-American of the year.
She also is one of three finalists for USA Softball national player of the year honors. Her .468 batting average ranks fourth in the nation. She is Tennessee's all-time leader in career batting average (.450), runs (243), steals (141) and on-base percentage (.516).
"A player like her comes along every 10 years," Tennessee co-coach Ralph Weekly said. "You don't get those players all the time. We were lucky enough to have Monica Abbott here, who owns most of the pitching records in the NCAA, and Monica stands alone. But Raven does, too."
Chavanne has made highlight-worthy plays all season. The most recent one came Friday in an NCAA super regional victory over Alabama, when she made a diving stop behind third base and then threw to first from her knees to save at least one run and end a threat.
Her speed sets her apart from just about any other player. Chavanne ran the 100-meter dash in 11.9 seconds and the 200 in 24.54 seconds as a track star at Newbury Park High School in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
"She's probably one of the top five speed players I've seen, and I've coached (on) two Olympic gold-medal teams," Weekly said. "She's just really fast. And she's got good size. Most of the real speedsters are little. She's very athletic and strong."
Chavanne also has plenty of drive. When she puts her mind to something, she generally follows through with plenty of zeal. While in high school, Chavanne was such a Harry Potter fan that she read each of the books in the trilogy multiple times. She now brings that same kind of dedication to the softball field.
"I've always been a really big reader," Chavanne said. "I was always reading books. I just liked (Harry Potter). ... I could knock out a book in like two days. It wasn't like I was sitting there reading it for years and years and years. I'd just read it in a day or two."
Chavanne likes telling good stories as well as reading them. That's evident from the anecdote she offers about the origin of her first name.
"When my mom was about to be in labor, my dad was in the waiting room and I guess `The Cosby Show' came on and they saw Raven-Symone's name in the credits," Chavanne said. "My dad thought it was a cool and unique name. He told my mom, `Hey, how about Raven?' She said, `Yeah, that's a cool name,' and they stuck with that. I'm the only one in my family that kind of has a different name. Everyone else's name is pretty generic."
The unique name is fitting for someone who has developed into a one-of-a-kind player. Now she wants to make sure she ends her career with the national title, one of the only goals to elude her thus far.
Once the World Series ends, she can relax and let it all sink in. She might even get to spend a little more quality time with Harry Potter, who hasn't received quite as much attention from Chavanne during her college years as she tried to balance classwork and softball.
"I've been focusing on school," Chavanne said. "I'm still into the movies and all that. I just actually got all the books in hardback. Now that I'm out of school, I can start reading them again."