Country Inns & Suites Invitational
4 p.m. — Tennessee Tech vs. USC-Upstate
7 p.m. — UTC vs. Alcorn State
10 a.m. — Alcorn State vs. Tennessee Tech
12:30 p.m. — UTC vs. USC-Upstate
5 p.m. — USC-Upstate vs. Alcorn State
7 p.m. — UTC vs. Tennessee Tech
After getting a year of head coaching experience under his belt at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Travis Filar already feels more comfortable as the 2012 volleyball season begins today for the Mocs.
"I couldn't be more excited with our group of student-athletes," Filar said after practice Thursday. "I really think that we have a really solid core of eight returners and five freshmen added into that mix. The veterans have done a great job of setting the standard."
After a disappointing 5-26 record in 2011, with a 3-13 mark in Southern Conference play, the Mocs return to action tonight as the hosts of the Country Inns & Suites Invitational at Maclellan Gym. UTC will open tonight against Alcorn State before playing USC-Upstate and Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
Filar said that injuries to outside hitters Jennifer Kuroski, Briana Reid and Meagan Ernd have the Mocs thin at that position and will put pressure on senior Heather Parman to produce more at that position.
Senior libero Paula Passmore said health would be a key to UTC's fortunes this season and played a part in some of last season's losses.
"I think last year our problem wasn't so much adjusting to new standards but staying healthy," she said. "A lot of our adversity had to do with filling spots and sticking together, and we've grown from that."
Parman, a former GPS standout from Ooltewah, said she believes this team has a chance to improve significantly on last season and finish with a record above .500 and secure a berth in the SoCon tournament.
"I feel better than I have any year," she said. "I feel like we're very prepared and the whole team is on the same page. We have a great group of girls and great coaches, and I feel like this year can be a winning season for us."
Filar said he used the spring practice period to make changes in how his players approached their work, and he hopes that will result in better outcomes on the court this fall.
"We focused in the spring on our culture: how we're going to do things in the gym, how we're going to be in the weight room, how we're going to be in the locker room," he said. "Building team chemistry so we'd be strong coming into the fall.
"So I like where we are, and I really am exciting to compete and see what we do with an unfamiliar opponent across the net."
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...