This weekend's Comcast Lady Vol Classic is what the UT volleyball team has been waiting for: a chance to prove itself at home.
With a 6-1 record coming into their home opener, the Lady Vols are anticipating their home debut to be a successful one, beginning with Thursday's 7 p.m. match against Austin Peay.
"Our goal is to win," Lexie Dempsey, sophomore setter, said. "We're looking forward to coming out and showing people that we are Tennessee and we are here to play."
After going 2-1 in the Cincinnati Invitational two weeks ago, last weekend the Lady Vols beat UT-Chattanooga, UNC-Asheville, UT-Martin and Charlotte to be named the Chattanooga Country Inns & Suites Invitational champions.
UT came away from the event with more than just team honors, as senior libero Ellen Mullins was named tournament MVP; Dempsey and freshman Jamie Lea were both named to the All-Tournament Team.
Despite the team's success on the road, Mullins, who was recently named SEC Defensive Player of the Week, is ready for the volleyball team's first home game in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"I'm excited for our fans to be here finally," Mullins said. "We've been away, people have been booing us, and they (the away crowds) are just so much harder on you when you're away. To finally be in our home gym is really exciting."
Mullins is one of the team's few veterans and knows what to expect from a UT volleyball game in Knoxville. But 10 players on UT's 15-person roster will be playing at home for the first time.
With leadership as strong as her defensive statistics, Mullins, who broke two school records for digs in Chattanooga, has some advice for the team's newcomers before this weekend's tournament.
"Just take it all in," Mullins said. "It's a great atmosphere to be here in Knoxville. Wear the orange, have our great fans, play with pride, and protect your home court."
Though the Lady Vols are well qualified to put up serious numbers this weekend as they have in the last two tournaments, there is another key component to this weekend's success—the seventh man.
"We win about 85 percent of our home matches," head coach Rob Patrick said. "One of the main reasons is because of the great crowds that we have. It's incredible.
"We need the best fan base in the country to come out. They're really the seventh man for us out there in helping us be so successful at home. And we can't wait to play in front of the best fans in the country, here in Tennessee."
The tournament opens on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. as ETSU takes on VCU in the opening game.
After Thursday's date with Austin Peay, the Lady Vols will play Wichita State Friday at 7 p.m., ETSU at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and close the tournament with a 7 p.m. match against VCU.