KNOXVILLE, Tenn. It's an arena with history ingrained in each seat. The walls echo of last minute buzzers and screaming fans. From the rafters hang the names of the great ones. Perhaps one of the most storybook tales to come out of Thompson Boling Arena is that of the Lady Vols. In it's second year, a whole new coaching staff is ready to show Big Orange Country what they can do.
"We've been practicing for about a month now, and kind of having our training camp part of the season, so we're just very, very ready to play a game," says assistant coach Dean Lockwood.
But it's not going to be easy. Disappointing rivals and surprising fans the Lady Vols went from getting picked to finish 5th nationally last year to again the favorites to win the SEC title.
"There's a big target on our backs. Everybody knows. There's no surprises. We came in and won the SEC. We were picked to win it again. Now the expectations are much higher," says assistant coach Jolette Law.
"We really try to put the girls in tough situations. Put their backs against the wall. We try to tell them that there's a difference between being the hunted and the hunter. This year we are the hunted so that comes with big expectations," says assistant coach Kyra Elzy.
Despite all the hard work and the talent on the roster -- there is still one thing this team needs -- their fans.
"The juice that it gives our players, and I'm going to tell you as a coach that has been here going on to my tenth season with the Lady Vols, it never gets old," says Coach Lockwood.
"I love the atmosphere. I love the fans. I think we have the best...no. I know we have the best fans in the nation," says Coach Law.
Even former players tell you how much a difference an arena full of screaming orange support can impact a game.
"Playing on this court, in this arena, in front of the fans, it's an unbelievable experience," says Coach Elzy.
These coaches also admit they have kept an ear to all the commotion happening across the way in Neyland Stadium.
"They're putting in a foundation, and that foundation is solid. You're seeing a team that's playing with great unity of purpose. They're playing for one another. They're playing for Tennessee, and I think that's a tremendous thing that Coach Jones is building," says Lockwood.
"I think he's doing a phenomenal job. He's playing hard. The atmosphere around here, the buzz is back, and I just think that right now Coach Jones is going to be here to stay, and I'm glad he's on our side," says Coach Law.
"Coach Jones is awesome. I say he's the man," says Elzy.
As the Lady Vols get pumped to help fans transition from football to basketball -- they accept perhaps their biggest challenge on the court.
Run drills with the Local 8 News This Morning Team.
After one practice they see something in all the missed shots, awkward dribbling, and struggling defense; Lady Vol fans for life excited for the start of a news season!
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