ATLANTA — Holly Warlick punctuated her opening remarks after Friday's season-opening loss at Chattanooga with the following thought:
"As long as we learn from this," Tennessee's first-year women's basketball head coach said, "it's OK."
She revisited the same sentiment after further assessing UT's stunning 80-71 loss.
It's not OK, though, if the lesson learned was that Tennessee's personnel might not be suitable for the pressure defense Warlick intends to play this season.
The No. 20 Lady Vols (0-1) will be guarding against that and other sobering thoughts beginning with today's game at No. 22 Georgia Tech. Tipoff is 2 p.m. The game is not televised but is available online on ESPN3.com.
The challenge figures to be tougher against Tech, which set a school record with 26 victories last season. The Yellow Jackets return guards Tyaunna Marshall, a preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team selection, and Sydney Wallace, who scored 32 points against eventual national champion Baylor in last season's NCAA tournament.
Tech will introduce seven freshmen and a new home, McKamish Pavilion.
"I think this team is probably one of my most exciting teams to watch since I've coached at Georgia Tech," said Tech coach MaChelle Joseph, who's starting her 10th season. "They can do so many things athletically; even I'm surprised by what they do sometimes."
Warlick considers her team to be athletic as well. Yet seemingly overmatched Chattanooga was the aggressor on Friday. The Lady Mocs scored 52 second-half points, shot nearly 47 percent from the floor and recorded 17 assists while committing only 13 turnovers.
Warlick complimented UT freshman point guard Andraya Carter's ball pressure and fellow guard Meighan Simmons had her moments, gathering a team-high three steals. But the Lady Vols' perimeter players generally were un
able to establish the proper tone for the team's defense.
Seniors Taber Spani and Kamiko Williams were ineffective and played just 29 minutes collectively. Sophomore point guard Ariel Massengale's most noticeable play was being victimized in the second half by Chattanooga guard Alex Black's wicked cross-over dribble.
"We have to put pressure on the ball,'' Warlick said. "(Chattanooga) was walking up the ball with no kind of pressure whatsoever."
The Lady Vols made a strategic concession in the second half, falling back into a zone alignment for several possessions. By game's end, their defense was under siege at all positions.
Warlick still believes that her players and pressure defense are a worthy match. But she's open-minded if results prove otherwise.
"We're capable of doing it," she said after Saturday's practice. "But if we keep getting beat and beat and beat ..."
For now, the situation is Warlick's concern. She doesn't want the players worrying about it. After Friday's jittery performance, she doesn't want them to worry, period. As she told them in the team huddle after Saturday's practice: "What are we nervous about? You came here not to just practice. You came here to play the games."
Chattanooga coach Wes Moore was gracious enough to give Warlick a vote of confidence after Friday's game, saying, "Holly was the right choice."
Of Tennessee, he said: "I believe they'll get it done."
It's more important what the Lady Vols believe.
"What we talked about and stressed in the locker room was we're going to have some tough times," Spani said. "And we're going to have hopefully a lot of great times. But, no matter what, we have to be one team."