When the No. 4 Lady Vols take their home court for the first time this season against UT Chattanooga tonight, they will not only be looking to extend their win streak to three, but for redemption as well.
Some of the emotional scars of an 80-71 loss on the road to the Lady Mocs in last season's opener still remain.
"When you lose your first game, you want that back," second-year UT head coach Holly Warlick said. "Obviously we want to win this game, but to do so we need to come out and give the same effort that we have in our first two games. If we do that, things will take care of themselves."
So far in the 2013-14 season, Tennessee has avoided any early season let-downs, as it came out victorious in two road tests against Middle Tennessee and No. 12 North Carolina.
With a more experienced roster, the team believes they are much further ahead than they were at this point last year.
"I think the difference is we have more experience and are more poised and confident this year," Warlick said. "We have a really strong team bond that hasn't been there in the past. You can feel it from the team and it has a lot to say with our success right now."
In their first two games, the Lady Vols' defense has frustrated its opponents, holding them to 27.9 percent on field goal attempts (38-of-128) and forcing 42 turnovers.
"We have a greater sense of urgency this season and are playing with a lot more energy," guard Andraya Carter said. "We take pride in our defense, and rebounding and (that) has been something we've been working on since day one. We understand those areas of the game are two of the most important and we have to be great in both to get where we want to be."
While there will be more comfort playing against Chattanooga in the friendly confines of Thompson-Boling Arena, the Lady Vols realize that the game will be no easy challenge against their in-state opponent.In fact, first-year head coach Jim Foster's team has already notched a victory over an SEC opponent this season.
Led by senior forward Taylor Hall's 24 points and four assists, the Lady Mocs (1-0) notched an 82-70 victory over Alabama on Nov. 8 at home.
Hall also scored the same amount in their upset victory over a Tennessee team in its first game of the post-Pat Summitt era."Chattanooga is going to run some different looks this year from last, but they are still the same team," Warlick said. "They are very well coached and are a very versatile team. They can shoot the ball from outside and are strong inside. We know they are going to be a difficult team."
Junior point guard Ariel Massengale, who posted a career high 20 points in Tennessee's 81-65 victory over the Tar Heels on Monday night, said the team is well past its loss last season to Chattanooga.
"It's always something that is in the back of our minds, but we are definitely not dwelling on that," Massengale said. "That was last year and we are a new team and this is a new season."
The Lady Vols (2-0) are excited to be back home in front of their home crowd when they tip-off at 7 p.m.
"I don't have any doubt that we have the best fans in the nation," Carter said. "We are really excited to play in front of them and are determined to beat (the Lady Mocs)."