The Tennessee softball team has played 16 games, spanning three weeks, but has yet to play in front of its home crowd.
That changes Wednesday night, as the No. 3 Lady Vols will play a doubleheader against Wright State to open the 2014 home season.
Tennessee (15-1) has spent the first part of its season playing in various tournaments, most recently spending a week in California. The Lady Vols participated in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic and the San Diego Classic, posting a record of 6-1 on the West Coast.
After all of the time spent away from home, the Vols are anxious to finally play in front of a friendly crowd and spend a little time in Knoxville.
"We're excited to finally have a home opener," co-head coach Karen Weekly said. "I even heard our California girls today, saying how glad they were to be back in Knoxville. I think that just goes to show how much they enjoy playing in front of wonderful fans."
Weekly said the time on the road was beneficial to the Lady Vols, as many of their younger players learned what to expect when post season play comes around.
Spending consecutive days in hotel rooms, Weekly said, prepares players both mentally and physically for the post season, when teams have no idea where they will be playing or how long they will be gone.
"It does benefit us to stay on the road that long," Weekly said. "We do it so we're prepared for the end of the season, for anything that comes our way, no matter where we're sent in the Regionals or Super Regionals."
UT follows the Wright State doubleheader by hosting a tournament this weekend where the team will play five games from Friday to Sunday.
Part of the advantage of playing at home for the Lady Vols will come in the form of their rabid fan base.
"We're expecting a great crowd," Weekly said. "Hopefully Wednesday night, but definitely this weekend."
However, a few Tennessee players got a taste of their real home on the trip. All-American shortstop Madison Shipman is a Valencia, Calif., native.
The senior made good use of her time back home, hitting five homeruns and driving in nine runs in seven games in California.
"It's always a lot of fun to go out to California," Shipman said. "It's always great to be back home. All the fans out here, the atmosphere, there's just nothing like playing at home.
"We're just really excited for this home opener, and to finally play on our own field."
Shipman said the time on the road has allowed Tennessee to learn about themselves as a team going forward, and prepared them to face SEC competition going forward.
"I'm really proud of the team so far," Shipman said. "We've learned a lot from the wins and from the loss, so we're just constantly building and trying to learn as we go."