January 5, 2023 

How Tennessee will navigate the loss of Marta Suárez

'It's just just another piece of adversity'

On Wednesday, Tennessee Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper announced that redshirt sophomore Marta Suárez would be stepping away from the team due to personal reasons, returning to her home country of Spain. She will continue her academic studies virtually.

In a press conference Wednesday, Harper expressed the teams’ commitment to supporting Suárez and explained that personal reasons could encompass many things.

“For personal reasons, she’ll be home, we’ll continue to support her best we can,” Harper said. “From a team standpoint, obviously, that’s another player that can play multiple positions that gives you a spark that will be without, but obviously, sometimes you need to support them in different ways other than basketball.”

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During a Dec. 4 game, broadcasters reported Suárez’s mother is battling breast cancer. Harper did not confirm this was the reason for her absence.

Suárez earned SEC All-Freshman honors in the 2020-2021 season, missed the 2021-2022 season due to injury, and this season has been averaging 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds in 14 games.

This news comes in the midst of a challenging Tennessee season, with a season-ending medical issue from center Tamari Key, absences from leading scorer Rickea Jackson, and a challenging schedule resulting in a plummeting in rankings.

“[The team] have been bending, not breaking through a lot of things. I think they do care for one another, and they hurt when their teammates are hurting,” Harper said. “It’s just just another piece of adversity that this group is going to have to work through.”

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When asked about who would fill in for Suárez’s absence, Harper cited Justine Pissott, Jillian Hollingshead, Jasmine Franklin, and Sarah Puckett as folks to step up in Suárez’s role. Harper also noted that her team has seen increased “buy-in” over the last weeks and seen following improvement.

And with Suárez’s absence as well as many others, this Tennessee squad’s identity lies in adversity.

Written by Gabriella Lewis

Gabriella is The Next's Atlanta Dream and SEC beat reporter. She is a Bay Area native currently studying at Emory University.

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