In the Southeastern Conference’s preseason media poll for the upcoming 2016-2017 season, the Lady Vols have been picked to finish third in the conference.
South Carolina — the defending conference champions of the past three seasons — tops the list, with Mississippi State, Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida rounding out the top five.
Last season, the Lady Vols finished seventh in the conference (22-14, 8-8 SEC), but a late-season push created yet another Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, despite having its worst seed (No. 7) in program history.
In coach Holly Warlick’s fifth season at the helm, Tennessee returns four starters from 2015, including redshirt junior guard Diamond DeShields.
DeShields was selected to the media’s preseason All-SEC team for the second consecutive season. The guard led the Lady Vols in scoring (14.3 points per game), steals (1.6 per game) and was second in assists with 2.3 per game.
With DeShields back to build off her success in her first year on Rocky Top and Warlick five years at the helm, the Lady Vols look to bounce back after a rather disappointing 2015 regular season. While the season was salvaged with stellar postseason play and an Elite Eight appearance, the team’s finish at seventh in the SEC is uncharacteristic.
As head coach, Holly Warlick has a record of 108-34 (50-14 SEC). According to UTsports.com, the record places her with the seventh-highest wins of a coach in its first four years in women’s basketball history.
The media selecting the Lady Vols to finish third in the conference is a sign of strength for the program. After a season of being a rare underdog in 2015, Tennessee is back among the teams who are set to compete to dethrone South Carolina of its three consecutive regular season conference titles.
The Lady Vols top off the 2016-2017 season on Nov. 7, in an exhibition game with Carson Newman at Thompson Bowling Arena. Tennessee opens regular season play on Nov. 11, at James Madison.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics