In the SEC, dwelling on the past can be dangerous.

To maintain the standard of what is arguably the best conference in collegiate athletics, you must practice and compete solely in the present.

This is the mentality with which the Lady Vols golf team is using to approach the upcoming season.

Instead of fixating on the graduation of seniors Erica Popson and Sara Monberg, the team is focusing on playing with a more competitive edge. To do this, the Lady Vols want to set the right tone from the beginning of the season.

"We just weren't very competitive all season last year," head coach Judi Pavon said. "We were mediocre from beginning to end. They took it seriously, but there was just no sense of urgency to get better, so we've kind of set the bar a little higher."

This is especially true for Chessey Thomas and AJ Newell, who, as upperclassmen, are expected to lead the team during the 2013-14 campaign that begins on Sunday for the Lady Vols with the Cougar Classic in Charleston, S.C.

"Chessey and AJ, they're just our most experienced," Pavon said. "They've played all these golf courses that we're competing on. They've been there. But I hope that they don't feel a ton of pressure. The other girls – these young players – they're just going to have to step up."

The Lady Vols have an eight-player roster this season, three of which are freshmen. The transition from high school to collegiate golf is challenging, but Pavon is not concerned about her players struggling to adapt.

"All three of them hit it pretty far and are really competitive," Pavon said. "It's different playing college golf, but it's just golf and they're experienced and they're good at it, so I think they'll be alright."

Hannah Pietila, a freshman from Brighton, Mich., enjoys the change of pace.

"It's nice to be around players that are good players all the time," Pietila said. "That's been the biggest thing. That's so fun for me. To have competition all the time is awesome."

Her sister, Emmie Pietila, sat out last season as a transfer, but the two have enjoyed playing golf for the Lady Vols together thus far.

"We've always been on the same team," Emmie Pietilla said. "We're both very competitive, so we have that, but we get over it. At the end of the night golf is over."

Among the new additions in the Lady Vols' golf family is new assistant coach Erika Brennan, who comes to Tennessee from a previous head coaching stop at Saint Leo University in Florida.

Brennan looks forward to competing in the SEC, and has enjoyed a smooth transfer this offseason.

"The transition has been absolutely incredible and I think that from the second I got here, people were very welcoming, kind of the 'One Tennessee' philosophy, which is pretty evident with everything," Brennan said.

"It's the best conference that exists in all of golf, and that's proven statistically with the number of teams that make it to the postseason each year," she continued. "So I feel like it's the premier stage to be able to coach at, and that's certainly evident with the talent of our girls that we have this year.

"I'm excited to see what they're capable of doing in competition. To be able to coach at this level really is a dream come true."