There is much familiar about the 2013-14 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team, which begins preseason practice Monday.
After a two-year "hiatus," to use former coach Wes Moore's term, the Lady Mocs are again the defending Southern Conference regular-season and tournament champions. They return six seniors and 10 total players from last season's squad that matched a program record with 29 wins.
The biggest change is on the bench, where 2013 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Jim Foster has taken over as coach. Moore left in April after 15 seasons, and 12 SoCon regular-season titles, to become the head coach at North Carolina State.
Foster was hired in May, and soon after offseason workouts began. Most of the returning Lady Mocs stayed in town during the summer, so they have an idea of what's to come.
"I feel like for most of us this will be a more advanced version of what we've been doing," said senior Ashlen Dewart, who led UTC last season with 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. "I think it hadn't really hit me yet that it's about to start. I'm excited for that first practice and I'm excited to see how we all work and how Coach Foster's coaching style is going to mix with us."
Foster has 783 wins in his 35-year career, which includes long stays at St. Joseph's, Vanderbilt and Ohio State. The Lady Mocs will play an up-tempo offensive style similar to what it used effectively last season, but it won't be as structured as it was under Moore.
"I want them to play basketball, and I want them to keep enhancing their skills so that they're more capable of playing the game -- not running plays, per se," Foster said. "I've told them up front, I don't want to stand up and coach every play, I don't want to call every set -- I want you to play basketball. I will give you my thoughts on what that means and I want you to do it."
The Lady Mocs were second in the SoCon, less than a point behind the leaders, in scoring offense (68.5 points per game) and scoring defense (54.9 ppg). UTC led the league with a plus-13.7 scoring margin.
Along with six seniors, UTC has six freshmen, though forward Ansley Chilton from Trenton, Ga., will redshirt this season. The Lady Mocs also have a pair of sophomores and juniors. The only players UTC lost from last season were two longtime starters, guard Kayla Christopher and wing Kylie Lambert.
For Dewart, who played her first two seasons at Appalachian State, Foster is her third collegiate head coach.
"Hopefully one day I'll be a coach and it's a good way for me to get a bunch of perspectives and different coaching styles,"she said. "Especially Coach Foster, I really like him as a coach and I think he's a great fit. He definitely knows his stuff -- I mean, he's a Hall of Famer."
UTC opens its season on Nov. 8 against Alabama at McKenzie Arena.
Center Wert commits
Ashlyn Wert, a 6-foot-5 center from Lancaster (Pa.) Country Day School, announced Wednesday on Twitter that she had committed to UTC. Wert averaged 5.7 points per game during her junior season, according to PennLive.com. UTC already has a commitment from Anna Claire Noblit of Covenant Christian School in Tuscumbia, Ala., the Alabama Class 1A player of the year in 2013.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.