In sports, life is not always easy on the road. The young Tennessee Lady Volunteer tennis team is currently realizing this.
Tennessee (4-5, 0-1 SEC) currently sits at 1-2 in the midst of a five-match road trip following a 7-0 loss to the then-No. 12 Georgia Bulldogs on March 1.
The Lady Vols have the opportunity to push their road trip record above .500 this weekend when they travel south to play the No. 49 Ole Miss Rebels today and the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Sunday.
"I think playing on the road makes it a little bit more difficult to focus – to get yourself prepared – for the match because you're not really at home and you're not used to playing on their courts," said freshman Victoria Olivarez. "There is a difference in playing on their courts and having to focus on school and keeping up with your academics as well as making sure you're eating right and doing everything you normally do in a week to play well."
But while her players expressed that the travel could be having an effect on their play, co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick doesn't believe the extended road trip has been detrimental to the team.
"It hasn't (hurt us) thus far, but since we're starting SEC conference play now it's all going to be different, so we'll see," Hahn-Patrick said.
As the calendar turns into conference play, the Lady Vols have begun to prepare for the amount of focus and effort that will be needed against their counterparts in the SEC.
"(The) SEC is definitely a tougher conference than the other schools that we have played," Olivarez said. "Stepping out on the court, you're definitely going to battle no matter who you play, no matter what spot you're at.
"It's definitely more of a challenge and difficult to play in the SEC."
With this being one of the most brutal winters in recent memory, Tennessee also finds itself at a disadvantage against its conference foes.
The Lady Vols have been forced to play inside for a majority of their season due to the weather, while their opponents—most of whom are located further south —have been able to play outdoors.
"There are more outdoor teams in our conference, so as we're starting conference play, the majority of the matches are outside unless there is inclement weather," Hahn-Patrick said. "So a lot of the teams that are in the south have probably been able to practice a little more outdoors and that is a transition and adjustment that we're going to have to make."
When the team takes to the court against the Rebels at 4 p.m., Tennessee will be staring down its third consecutive ranked opponent.
But while the Lady Vols admitted they are aware they will be in for a battle, Olivarez is confident that her teammates and she can come out on top.
"(The Rebels) do a really good job of getting the ball back and hitting it high and heavy," Olivarez said. "So if we can just go out there and grind and continue to work through the points and compete and fight like we always do, then we'll be fine.
"I think that our girls are not afraid to play against a team that is a little bit more experienced. It will be very even and hopefully we will come out on top."
Tennessee's match against the Bulldogs on Sunday is scheduled to start at 2 p.m.