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OPENING TIPS Ratings and datings, weights and slates, knees and media freeze ON MENDED KNEES


THE DOOR TO THE WOMEN'S NATIONal championship this year is
swinging on creaky hinges. Of SI's top eight teams, three count
heavily on players who have had knee surgery in the past year.
Clarissa Davis of Texas tore ligaments in her left knee at a
Christmas tournament, and the Lady Longhorns fell with her, losing
two games in a row for the first time in six years. Auburn's Vickie
Orr played all of last season on tendinitis-ridden knees but had
surgery on both during the off-season. Ohio State's Nikita Lowry
suffered torn cartilage in her left knee in July. She is in
rehabilitation after surgery but will not be 100% as the season
The recent rash of knee injuries in the women's game has created
concern. ''We are cognizant of the problem,'' says Chris Gobrecht,
the coach at Washington. ''I think that what you're seeing is a
by-product of the improvement in the level of play. It's a much more
explosive game.'' Texas and Tennessee, two programs at the highest
level of women's play, have been particularly hard hit in recent
years. From 1983-84 through '85-86, four Tennessee players tore
anterior cruciate ligaments, leading school officials to install a
wood floor over the synthetic one in Stokely Athletic Center before
the '86-87 season; later they chose a wood floor for the new
Thompson- Boling Assembly Center, which became the Lady Vols' home
last December. Since moving to wood, Tennessee has had only one
player suffer a knee injury requiring surgery.