Knoxville, TN – After the Southeastern Conference Office unveiled this year’s league schedule on Tuesday, Tennessee Head Women’s Basketball Coach Holly Warlick announced her team’s 2013-14 slate. UT also revealed it will retire Candace Parker’s jersey on January 2nd prior to the LSU game.
The defending SEC champion Lady Volunteers, who were 27-8 in 2012-13 and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight, will play 18 regular-season games vs. teams that saw postseason action a year ago. That group includes 11 teams that made the NCAA Tournament and five that played in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Warlick’s squad, which enters the campaign ranked No. 3 in Charlie Creme’s espnW 2013-14 preseason top 25, already has four games being televised by the ESPN family of networks, including a pair of “Big Monday” home tilts vs. Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, an “ESPN Sunday” showdown vs. Kentucky and an “ESPN Tip-Off Marathon” match-up at North Carolina. The rest of the TV schedule and remaining start times will be announced at a later date.
Season tickets go on sale starting Tuesday, September 10th, and can be purchased by visiting UTTIX.com or calling 1.800.332.VOLS (8657).
Just as it did last season, Tennessee will play its first two contests of the campaign on the road, starting with an in-state foe, followed by an ACC school from a neighboring state.
The Lady Vols will pop the top on the 2013-14 slate in Murfreesboro on November 8th against Middle Tennessee, which the Lady Vols needed overtime to defeat last season, 88-81. A road trip to Chapel Hill comes next, as UT faces a talent-laden North Carolina squad in a contest that is slated to be televised on ESPN2 at 9:00pm Eastern time on Nov. 11th as part of the 24-hour “ESPN Tip-Off Marathon.”
“It’s a great schedule for us,” Warlick said. “I think it is challenging early, when we open with Middle Tennessee and North Carolina on the road. Middle took us to overtime on our home court last season, and North Carolina is a very talented team. Those are two pretty tough games right off the bat.”
The schedule features a trip to the Bahamas for the Junkanoo Jam at Freeport/Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island over Thanksgiving, UT’s first international travel since going to the Virgin Islands in 2010-11, and the much-anticipated recognition of Parker before UT opens its SEC slate vs. the Lady Tigers.
Parker’s banner will become the seventh honoring a member of the Lady Vol program, joining head coach emeritus Pat Summitt as well five other players whose jerseys have been retired. That group includes Warlick, Bridgette Gordon, Daedra Charles, Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings.
“Candace just exemplifies what it means to be a Lady Vol,” Warlick said. “She plays hard, she’s won championships, she’s won awards, she’s a great role model, she has her degree and she loves this program. She’s what a Lady Vol should be.
“She has represented our country and won gold medals, played in Europe, been named MVP, Rookie of the Year and All-Star Game MVP for the WNBA, won NCAA titles, you name it. Through all of that, Candace has never lost sight of where she’s come from and how hard the road has been to get there. I think she loves this program as much as anyone can.”
In addition to a rigorous 16-contest Southeastern Conference schedule, Tennessee will face 13 non-conference foes, including 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four participant Notre Dame. The Irish women will make a second-straight appearance in Knoxville on January 20th (7:00pm, ESPN2, “Big Monday”) after UT already has begun conference play. A trip to perennial power Stanford also is on the calendar for December 21st.
Besides having the marquee home match-up vs. the Irish, the Lady Vols will welcome non-conference foes Chattanooga (November 14th), Georgia Tech (November 17th), Tennessee Tech (November 21st) and Oakland (November 24th) to Thompson-Boling Arena during the first month of the season and Texas (December 8th), Troy (December 14th) and Lipscomb (December 29th) in month two. Lipscomb is coached by former UT graduate assistant and assistant Greg Brown and joins Oakland and Troy in making first-time appearances on the Tennessee schedule.
The home opener vs. the Mocs features the foe from Warlick’s first game as head coach a year ago (an 80-71 UTC win on November 9th), while the second home game is against the Yellow Jackets, the team Warlick recorded her first head coaching victory against last November 11th.
“It’s a solid home schedule for us,” Warlick said. “Notre Dame is a great home game for us, and I expect the atmosphere to be incredible in Thompson-Boling Arena for that “Big Monday” game. We also have three of our road opponents from last season, Chattanooga, Georgia Tech and Texas, in Knoxville this year. We know what all three programs are capable of doing.
“We also look forward to renewing our rivalry with Tennessee Tech (first meeting since 1991) and adding Oakland, Troy and Lipscomb to our schedule. We can’t express enough how much we enjoy playing in front of our fans, who have helped us lead the nation in attendance 18 times in the past 22 seasons.”
After playing Middle Tennessee and North Carolina to open the season, Tennessee won’t hit the road again until the Junkanoo Jam. In the Bahamas, the Lady Vols are scheduled to face Virginia in a Thanksgiving Day affair at 2:00pm ET on November 28th. Kansas State and SMU will battle in the other Lucaya Bracket game at 4:15pm ET, with the winners of those contests meeting for the championship at 7:00pm ET on November 29th. The losing teams play for third place earlier that day at 4:45pm.
“I’m excited about the Junkanoo Jam,” Warlick said. “We were looking for somewhere to go and hadn’t been to the Bahamas. Playing Virginia, who we lost to on the road two seasons ago, and facing either Kansas State or SMU (WNIT teams last season) in the second game, we think this will be a good tournament for us to compete and grow as a team.
“When you can take players out of the country to a tropical setting and enjoy that location while also focusing on playing basketball games, it’s a great thing to do. It’s a competitive tournament, so we’re going to be challenged on the court, but we’re also going to enjoy being on the island over Thanksgiving.”
The next true road contest and the final regular-season non-conference game away from Knoxville takes place on Dec. 21st, as the Lady Vols head to California to take on Stanford in Maples Pavilion. UT is 22-8 all-time vs. the Cardinal, but the Big Orange possesses only a 5-6 mark in Maples and has suffered losses in each of its last three trips there.
Following the Lipscomb game on December 29th, UT launches into league play. This marks the fifth year of the 16-game SEC schedule for women’s basketball and the second with 14 teams. The league slate is a single round robin with one permanent opponent and two random opponents.
The Lady Vols, who went 14-2 in conference play a year ago, will welcome LSU (Jan. 2nd), Ole Miss (January 9th), Florida (January 23rd), Arkansas (January 30th), Vanderbilt (February 10th, 9:00pm, “Big Monday”), Kentucky (February 16th, 1:00pm, “ESPN Sunday”), Auburn (February 20th) and South Carolina (March 2nd) to Thompson-Boling Arena. UK, USC, VU and LSU all were NCAA participants in 2012-13, while AU, ARK and UF competed in the WNIT.
Tennessee, of course, will have a road trip to Vanderbilt (January 12th), its permanent opponent. The Lady Vols also will travel to LSU (February 27th) and Ole Miss (February 6th), their two random opponents this season. Other SEC road trips include Georgia (January 5th), Mississippi State (January 16th), Texas A&M (Jan. 26th), Alabama (February 2nd) and Missouri (February 23th). UGA and A&M were NCAA teams last season, while Missouri played in the WNIT.
“The SEC is the toughest conference in the country,” Warlick said. “We had 11 teams in postseason play last year, so that tells you who you’re facing every game. We have two new coaches in the conference who will bring the quality of play up even more, so I don’t expect it to get any easier.”
Tennessee opens up the 2013-14 campaign with one exhibition contest this season. The Lady Vols once again will play Carson-Newman, hosting the Lady Eagles on Nov. 4th and marking the ninth-straight year the teams have met in the preseason.
Postseason play will begin in Duluth, GA, where Tennessee will try to win its fourth SEC Tournament title in seven seasons on March 5th-9th at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.
While Tennessee has its focus squarely on making the NCAA Final Four in Nashville on April 6th & 8th, the available paths to Bridgestone Arena have not been revealed. The NCAA will announce the sites for the First and Second Rounds and Regionals no later than Oct. 1st.
“The Final Four is our goal, whether it’s in Nashville or New Orleans like it was last season,” Warlick said. “We’re going to embrace it, because it is special to be there. I hope it gives us more incentive, more motivation to play for a national championship in our home state.
“We’re not shying away from it. It’s something we are talking about. It’s a great opportunity and should be a great motivation for our team this season.”
For the most up-to-date information about the Tennessee women’s basketball program, visit UTsports.com/w-basketball and follow @LadyVol_Hoops on Twitter and Instagram.