CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s basketball team is in a familiar place this season – defending its Southern Conference crown. The defense starts with a strong home schedule, a tournament in the Pacific and a slightly shortened Southern Conference lineup.
Chattanooga fans will get a first look at the Lady Mocs against Lee University in early November. The Lady Flames will be making their debut as a Division II school, moving up from NAIA. The Lady Mocs will host Alabama, the first of three SEC foes on the schedule, in the home opener on November 8. From their UTC will drive up the road to take on the SEC Tournament Champion Tennessee in a Thursday night matchup on November 14.The Lady Mocs claimed their first DI win over UTK last season at the Roundhouse with an 80-71 win.
UTC will return to the McKenzie Arena to host Belmont, UAB and Auburn over an eight-day period before heading out to take on Missouri, Colorado State and the University of Hawaii in the Ala Moana Classic in Honolulu. The Lady Mocs won the tournament in 2006 and Alex Anderson was named tournament MVP.
After returning to the mainland, the Lady Mocs will remain on the road through December taking on non-conference foes Jacksonville State (12/10), Austin Peay (12/18) and East Tennessee State (12/21). The Bucs will be returning to the Southern Conference next season after departing the league in 2005. Chattanooga will open the SoCon season on the road at UNCG on December 14 followed by its last trip to Elon on December 16.
The New Year will bring the Lady Mocs back home to the Roundhouse which saw a renovation of the lower bowl seating over the summer break. Georgia Southern and Davidson will make their final visit to Chattanooga as a Southern Conference school with each departing at the end of the school year. UTC will next travel to North Carolina to take on Western Carolina and another departing SoCon school, Appalachian State.
A three-game home stand with Wofford, Furman and Samford will fill out the remainder of January. The Lady Mocs will take on the Wildcats and Eagles at the start of February followed by home contests against the Mountaineers and Catamounts. The final road trip of the season begins at Furman followed by Wofford and Samford before closing out the regular season at home against the Spartans and Phoenix in early March.
Chattanooga will join the rest of the league in Asheville, N.C., in defense of its Southern Conference Tournament crown March 7-10. The first two days of the women’s tournament will be held on the UNC Asheville campus at Kimmel Arena while the semifinals and final will be moved to the Asheville Civic Center.
From the top down, the Lady Mocs will have a new look despite returning 10 members of the 2013 Southern Conference championship team that posted a 29-4 overall mark, matching a school record for wins, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in 13 years.
Jim Foster, a 2013 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, replaces long-time head coach Wes Moore at the helm. Through 35 years at three different Division I schools, Foster has an overall record of 783-307 and is ranked 11th all-time in victories. He is the only coach to lead three different DI schools to more than 200 wins. (St. Joseph’s – 248-126; Vanderbilt – 256-99; Ohio State – 279-82). Foster is currently serving his fourth term on the selection committee for USA Basketball and is the Chair of the U19 National Team.
Joining Southern Conference Tournament MVP Ashlen Dewart (Spartanburg, S.C.), All-Conference selection Taylor Hall (New Tazewell, Tenn.), All-Freshman Team member Tatianna Jackson (Atlanta, Ga.) will be six freshmen. Moses Johnson (Greenforest-McCalep Christian Academy), Whitney Hartlage (Mercy Academy) and Chelsey Shumpert (Tilghman High School) will provide depth at the guard position depleted by the graduation of seniors Kayla Christopher and Kylie Lambert. Aryanna Gilbert of Columbia Central and Southhaven High School’s Jasmine Joyner will add to the depth in the blocks while Ansley Chilton of Dade County will redshirt the season.
Also returning for Chattanooga will be all-tournament point guard Alex Black (Memphis, Tenn.) along with fellow senior guard Meghan Downes (Newnan, Ga.) and posts Faith Dupree (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Destiny Bramblett (Radcliff, Ky.). Juniors Kayla Freeman (Carlton, Ga.) and Ka’Vonne Towns (Lilburn, Ga.) along with sophomore point guard Alicia “Red” Payne (Memphis, Tenn.).
The College of Charleston departed the Southern Conference this season for the Colonial Athletic Association leaving the Southern Conference with 10 women’s teams and an 18-game league slate. Davidson and Elon will join the Cougars in the CAA following this season while Georgia Southern and Appalachian State will be moving to the Sun Belt Conference in 2014-15.