Following a second season in a row without a Southern Conference championship or a trip to the NCAA tournament, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team is taking a different approach to its summer.
Six of the Lady Mocs' nine returning players -- plus transfer Ashlen Dewart, who sat out last season -- are back in Chattanooga, both for summer school and to work out together. Before Tuesday's workout, the players' second with new strength coach Cara Van Dorn, senior guard Kayla Christopher said UTC has to put in the work to get the program back on track.
"It's not just one year, it's two years that we've been off track a little bit," said Christopher, one of two seniors on the roster, along with Kylie Lambert.
In the past, the players typically came back during the summer whenever it suited them. In an effort to work on team chemistry and work on their games together, the focus this summer was on getting as many players as possible to be in town during July for voluntary workouts.
"Hopefully this six weeks or so together will help us maybe come back in a little bit better shape," Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore said, "and also maybe build a little cohesiveness among the team from working out together."
After Appalachian State thumped UTC 77-52 in the semifinals of the 2012 SoCon tournament, Moore talked about the need for his team to get stronger, tougher and more physical. The Lady Mocs' workouts in the spring were more spirited than in the past, and that is continuing this summer.
"Things are definitely more intense," Christopher said.
While not abandoning the systems that resulted in 11 straight SoCon championships before the current two-season drought, the Lady Mocs will be tweaking things offensively and defensively next season.
"It's going to be more intense defense and trying to get up and down the floor a little more," junior forward Taylor Hall said. "Coach said he wanted us to come back in great shape, and that's what we're trying to do.
Christopher said she's working on being a more vocal leader this summer, though it doesn't come naturally to her -- and the same goes for Lambert.
"I'm trying to step up and be the leader that I need to be, vocally and everything else," Christopher said.
Two freshmen will join the team once classes begin: four-star-rated shooting guard Tatianna Jackson and point guard Alicia Payne.