Following a loss at Samford on Sunday, the Lady Vols are looking to rebound this weekend as they face the No. 17 UCF Knights on Friday and the James Madison Dukes on Sunday.

Head coach Brian Pensky believes the way to do that is through an improved defensive relationship between the defense and midfield through to the front line.

"We want to be more connected on the defensive side of the ball this weekend than we were last weekend," Pensky said on Wednesday. "That was a little more of our focus today in training."

Defense will be key for the Volunteers on Friday. UCF (2-0-0) brings back seven starters from last season's team and represents what Pensky labeled "a pretty high-powered attacking team."

The Lady Vols were 2-1 against ranked opposition last year and are in the midst of carrying on that trend into 2013.

Tennessee has not suffered back-to-back losses since Oct. 17, 2010, a stretch consisting of 41 consecutive regular-season matches.

The Lady Vols said they have no intention of ending that streak as junior goalkeeper Julie Eckel has embraced the road challenges presented to the team.

"I'm expecting a lot of enthusiasm and excitement from our whole team," Eckel said. "It's fun going to other peoples' stadiums, because when you beat them, it's exciting. (Playing on the road) brings us together."

Though Tennessee has lost three consecutive games in the state of Florida, Pensky maintains confidence in his group.

"Our minds are going to be right and our bodies will be ready and we're going to compete to win," he said.

The match against UCF on Friday is the marquee game of the weekend, and the team is not overlooking its match against James Madison on Sunday.

Pensky described James Madison University as "a perennially top-50 RPI team" that brings in talent from all over the Virginia area.

"We're going to have to be ready for that challenge," he said.

Sunday's game against James Madison brings a different test to the Tennessee side, and signifies the second straight week the team will close its weekend with a mid-major opponent after playing a power conference team on Friday. The team is hoping to finish strong this weekend.

"The bounce back will have to be huge," Pensky said. "Last week we didn't bounce back Friday to Sunday very well."

The split weekend will prepare the Volunteers for SEC games, where fixtures on Friday and Sunday, with long trips in between, are not uncommon. Jeckel enjoys road games almost as much as home games but the junior said nothing compares to playing in Regal Stadium.

"We have the nicest facility in the nation," Eckel said. "We have a great fan base. It's an incredible environment to play in."

Assessing the team's progression from last week, Pensky is assured of Tennessee's mental readiness.

"There's a lot of focus, and that's good," Pensky said.

The Lady Vols will start the weekend action at 7 p.m. on Friday in Orlando, Fla. and will then head back to Knoxville to play at Regal Stadium Sunday at 7 p.m.