Nationals

Vols' Jones confident he can thrive in SEC

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Vols' Jones confident he can thrive in SEC

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) When his lack of Southeastern Conference experience came up at his introductory news conference Friday, Tennessee coach Butch Jones wasted no time responding.

``I'll be the first to tell you that Nick Saban and Les Miles had zero experience when they came into the league,'' Jones said.

Jones' chances of approaching their success will depend on how well he adapts to the conference that has won the last six national championships.

During his last two stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, Jones went 50-27 and won at least a share of four conference titles in six seasons. The SEC offers a much tougher test than the Mid-American Conference or Big East.

Jones relishes the opportunity.

``If you want to be best, you want to compete in the best,'' Jones said. ``Obviously the SEC is the best football conference in the country. I have many good friends that compete at this level - on the center stage - and I look forward to it.''

Lately, Tennessee hasn't been competitive at this level.

The Volunteers have gone 1-7 in SEC play each of the last two seasons. Jones is replacing Derek Dooley, who was fired after losing 14 of his last 15 conference games.

That makes this a new type of challenge for Jones, who inherited winning teams from Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Now he must rebuild a Tennessee program that has produced three straight losing seasons.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said at the start of the search he wanted someone familiar with the challenges of the SEC. Although Jones hasn't worked in the SEC before, Hart believes the coach understands the league well enough to succeed.

``I do think it's important - particularly in this league and we talked about this at great length - to understand this league and to understand the competitive nature of this league,'' Hart said. ``Butch talked about how good the Southeastern Conference is at the line of scrimmage. He talked a lot about that. He has an excellent grasp and an excellent plan on what he wants to do in that regard.''

That plan could include adding assistants who have competed in this league and have recruited in SEC territory before.

Jones' contract includes a minimum of $3 million per year to pay his assistants. Jones vowed to put together ``the best football staff in the country,'' though he also noted SEC experience wasn't essential for a coach to recruit effectively in this part of the country.

``Recruiting is a people business, so I want the best teachers and best recruiters no matter where we have to go get them,'' Jones said. ``I do think it's important that we have some coaches that know the lay of the land, but I really think if you're a great recruiter, you can recruit anywhere because it's all relationship based.''

Jones wants some staff members with Tennessee roots. He placed a priority on recruiting within his home state, a recent problem for the Vols.

``The first thing you want to do in any situation in recruiting is own your home territory, and Dooley did let that get away from him,'' said Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. ``It's a combination of a few things. Winning is the first. When Tennessee wins, those kids flock to Knoxville. When you've got a dynamic recruiter (Vanderbilt's James Franklin) across the state and Vanderbilt's the better program in state, you're going to end up having those kids either decide to look harder at Vanderbilt or just take off.''

The Vols don't have verbal commitments from any of Tennessee's top five 2013 recruits according to Rivals, and four of them have committed elsewhere. Rivals listed 10 four-star prospects from Tennessee in 2012. Only one signed with the Vols.

``We are going to win first and foremost with the great state of Tennessee,'' Jones said. ``We have tremendous high school coaches in this state. We are the state institution and we will own our state. We are going to be at every high school in the state, and our players are going to understand what it is to wear the `power T.'

``They're going to understand what it is to represent their home institution. I take great pride in that.''

Jones also takes pride in his track record. He believes his previous results show he can make Tennessee a contender, even if that resume doesn't include any stops at SEC schools.

The improvement might not happen immediately. Cincinnati went 4-8 in Jones' first season, but the Bearcats have gone 19-6 since. Jones used the term ``process'' - one of Saban's favorite buzzwords - to describe the project he's taking on at Tennessee.

``It's a process,'' Jones said. ``You have to look at the body of work. It hasn't been just performed at one institution. It's now been formed at two institutions along the way, and I look forward to the third here at Tennessee.''

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights pushed their remarkable expansion season into the Stanley Cup Final, beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

Alex Tuch also scored for the Knights. They lost Game 1 in Winnipeg before winning four straight to become the first expansion team since the 1968 St. Louis Blues -- when the six initial expansion teams were put alone in the West -- to get to the final.

Vegas will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals in the final. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference final 3-2, with Game 6 set for Monday night in Washington.

Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves.

Reaves, the bruising Winnipeg native acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins before to the trade deadline in February, snapped a 1-1 tie with 6:39 left in the second period when he tipped Luca Sbisa's point shot past Hellebuyck for his first goal of the playoffs.

Winnipeg got a power play early in the third, but couldn't muster much of anything. The Knights smothered much of the Jets' attack for the next 10 minutes, with Hellebuyck having to come up with big stops on William Karlsson and Eric Haula to keep his team within one.

The Jets pressed with under 4 minutes to go, with Fleury stopping captain Blake Wheeler on the doorstep, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Knights closed out their third straight series on the road.

The Jets beat the Knights 4-2 in Game 1, but Vegas snatched home ice with a 3-1 victory in Game 2 before picking up 4-2 and 3-2 wins at T-Mobile Arena.

The Knights, whose jaw-dropping inaugural 109-point campaign included a Pacific Division crown, swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, and knocked out the San Jose Sharks in six games.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in city's history with a five-game victory over the Minnesota Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in Game 7 on the road.

The usual raucous, white-clad crowd at Bell MTS Place -- not to mention the thousands of fans outside the arena attending a street party on a sun-drenched spring afternoon -- were silenced just 5:11 into Game 5 when Tuch jumped on Morrissey's turnover and fired his sixth past Hellebuyck.

The Jets were tentative to start and it got worse after the opener as Vegas dominated the next couple of shifts, forcing some good saves from Hellebuyck before Winnipeg got its feet moving.

After being outshot 7-1 in the first 7 minutes, the Jets finally pushed back and turned the tide with the next nine attempts on goal, culminating with Morrissey making amends for his early gaffe with 2:46 left in the period.

Bryan Little won a faceoff in the offensive zone straight back to second-year defenseman, who blasted his first career playoff goal past Fleury's glove.

One of Winnipeg's downfalls in the series through four games was an inability to maintain momentum. The Knights scored within 1:28 of a Jets' goal in each of the first four games -- a crushing 12 seconds after Winnipeg tied Game 3, and an equally gut-wrenching 43 seconds after the Jets knotted Game 4 -- but they managed to take the game to the locker rooms tied 1-1.

Both teams had chances in the second period before Reaves made it 2-1, with Jets center Mathieu Perrault just missing on a pass from Little that had too much speed.

Right after Reaves scored the second playoff goal of his career -- and first since 2015 with St. Louis -- Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers rang a shot off the post on Fleury.

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