After a crushing finish to 2012, the Lady Vols softball team is ready for 2013 to begin.
"I can't tell you how ready I am to start playing," junior Tory Lewis said. "We've been working on situations and scrimmaging one another for awhile and where that's been good preparation. We are ready to play someone else."
Tennessee, preseason No. 5, kicks off the year in Utah as part of the Red Desert Classic. Southern Utah, Idaho State, Utah State, South Dakota, BYU and Oklahoma State are the other participants.
"It is good to get back to playing other teams," junior Ellen Renfroe said. "We get to start against some good teams and (it) will be good to measure how well we have been preparing this offseason."
In 2012 Tennessee made it to the Women's College World Series but were bounced in two games. They are ready to avenge that finish.
"The end to last season was pretty disappointing," Lewis said. "It was great to have that experience, but getting that far and then ending the season in that way was not fun. I think it has motivated us during this offseason."
This offseason the team has focused on being prepared and attacking each game.
"We want to be ready and attack every situation head on," Lewis said. "Our biggest mantra right now is to attack. It's what we learned from our preseason program and go 100 percent all the time. When you take just one second off someone is right on top of you, ready to go, ready to take it from you."
The Lady Vols have four preseason All-SEC players — Lauren Gibson, Raven Chavanne, Madison Shipman and Kat Dotson — and an experienced pitching staff and a freshman to start molding for the future.
"We're going to have a different path pitching-wise this season," co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We have four really good pitchers and I think we are going to use all four of them this season."
Freshman Erin Gabriel was an ESPN High School All-American three times in high school.
"The SEC is all about pitching and offense," Weekly said. "If you can do that, you'll be pretty good. We may throw three or four pitchers in one game. We'll see what happens. We have a very talented pitching staff. We are very fortunate."
The program currently has 799 wins, but the Renfroe sisters are not fighting too much for the right to pitch in win 800.
"I would love to be in the circle, but Ivy (Renfroe) is senior so the coaches are going to let her step in the circle for game one and hopefully win that game," Ellen Renfroe said.
After two more tournaments to start the year, the first series of the season is against preseason No. 1 Alabama.
"Early in the season you want to see where you are at and build from that," Lewis said. "It will be interesting to see how fired up and ready we come out for an early season test.
"Sometimes you think 'hey give us a break with these hard teams,' but the people who take breaks are the ones who don't get it done at the end," Lewis said. "You always want to be pushing harder than the competition."
The Lady Vols' first game of the year is Feb. 7 against Southern Utah.