The Lady Vols have officially begun a new era under first year head coach Holly Warlick and the players tipped it off with what many of the players considered one of the toughest practices in their careers.
On Sunday afternoon the Lady Vols partook in an up-tempo two-and-a-half hour long practice in which the team focused primarily on the defensive end of the ball.
"This was honestly one of the hardest practices that I've had in the three years I've been here," senior guard Taber Spani said. "What made it so hard was the tempo is completely different. We're so much faster and there is a lot of conditioning."
Warlick indicated that the team will get use to the defensive side of the ball very quickly and that it will be a major point of emphasis in every practice from here on out.
"We hit on the defensive end, we hit on the rebounding, and then we pushed the basketball," Warlick said. "Those were the three things we focused on today and that will be every day. We didn't get to our offense and our half-court offense may suffer early and struggle a little bit. But we want to get them comfortable with getting the ball and keeping a fast tempo."
The reason for stressing the new up-tempo pace on the court for the Lady Vols is due to the team's athleticism, said Warlick.
"We have athletes and we take advantage of our athleticism, our quickness and our physicallness," Warlick said. "We also have a lot of people who can handle the ball full court."
In the 2012-2013 campaign, the Lady Vols will have a new look to the roster after losing five starting seniors who played during the NCAA Tournament a season ago. However, the coaches and upper classmen feel confident about the athleticism and strengths their freshman and incoming players will bring, especially after seeing what they brought to the court in their first practice.
"I think they all looked good in their own particular way," she said. "I think we've got some defensive stoppers. I was very pleased with Jasmine Jones and her effort on defense, how physical Bashaara (Graves) was, Andrea's (Carter) ability to lead a basketball team and Nia's (Moore) presence inside."
While the Lady Vols are beginning a new era under Warlick, the feeling has not sunk in completely with the players yet.
"I think it won't fully sink in till really game time," Spani said on how the team is handling the change of former head coach Pat Summitt retiring. "Until we head into that first preseason game and she's not going to be in there giving the pregame speech is when it will fully sink in. I think now we are used to Holly and the other coaches lead practice."
Warlick feels confident about the entire Lady Vols coaching staff, which features two first-year assistant coaches Kyra Elzy and Jolette Law. The team is happy Pat Summitt is still involved with the team as head coach emeritus.
"It's going great," said Warlick about the Lady Vols new assistant coaches. "I couldn't be more pleased. They've been on the road working and their knowledge of the game is evident when they are out on the court teaching. These ladies are fortunate to have three great assistant coaches."
The Lady Vols are looking forward to making more progressions in their game and realize that they will have to go out and work hard as the start to the regular season is just a month away. They realize that they have many improvements to make during that time.
"I think we're in shape but we're not in basketball shape," she said. "We are learning very quickly but we are going slow so they can learn. We have to have an up-tempo and we're athletic so as coaches we have to make sure we use it. So far I'm very pleased with our effort and our energy. We really have a good comrodity about us and I love that."
Warlick also commented on the recent reports after Sunday's practice about Summitt supposedly being forced to retire at the end of last season.
"I'm responsible for this team so I haven't even addressed it," she said. "It's for the courts and outside the basketball court to decide. I've been focusing on recruiting and this team."