For the first time this season, the No. 4 Tennessee Lady Volunteer softball team (33-5, 9-3 SEC) will face a ranked team in a true road game when they take on No. 21 Texas A&M (27-12, 8-7) this weekend in a three-game series.
The Aggies will return home after playing seven straight games on the road with a 4-3 record, including a sweep of fellow SEC foe Arkansas.
The Lady Vols' greatest concern is Aggie senior Emily Albus, who is batting .450 with 63 hits in 140 at-bats, all team-highs.
"Emily Albus, at the top of their order, is one of the best leadoff hitters in the conference, and she brings a lot of speed to the table," Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly said on Wednesday. "She's going to bunt and have great success with that. She's going to slap the ball, and we've got to do a good job of defending that."
Past Albus in the lineup, the Aggies have three others hitting better than .300 for the season, including senior Nicole Morgan, who is hitting .371 with team-highs in home runs (10) and RBI (43).
Last weekend, Tennessee dropped two of three on the road against an LSU team with a similar style to that of Albus.
After struggling to defend the Tigers' hit-and-run style of play, senior shortstop Madison Shipman said the team used those games as "a learning experience," which the coaching staff took as a positive out of the series.
"I think that's all that you're concerned with as a coach with a young team and with the grind that a season like this presents for young players," Weekly said, "but hopefully we only need to learn that lesson one time, and it won't bite us at the end of the season."
The Lady Vols' coaching staff have made some changes in the lineup this week for their trip down to College Station, Texas, in response to the team's defensive performances in last few weeks.
"We came out Monday and made some defensive changes that we think will help solidify our defense," Weekly said, "make for a more consistent lineup, but also get Rainey Gaffin's bat into the lineup on a consistent basis in the (designated player) slot."
Among those changes were putting freshman Megan Geer, who started at second base in the each of the Lady Vols previous 37 contests, into center field for Gaffin, and slotting in sophomore Hannah Akamine at second against Tennessee Tech on Tuesday.
The switches seemed to be successful as Tennessee crushed the Golden Eagles in five innings, 13-5.
The series against Texas A&M will begin Friday at 8 p.m., continue on Saturday at 5 p.m. and will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m.
ESPNU will broadcast both games on Friday and Sunday, which will be the Lady Vols' third and fourth games on TV this season.
However, Shipman said the team does its best not to get caught up in the cameras.
"I think we do really good not even trying to think that the cameras are out there watching us or anything like that," Shipman said. "We just go out there and play Tennessee ball."