Road to Rocky Top presents 'opportunity' for Women's Basketball
Dec. 4, 2009
In the sixth-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols, the Texas Women's Basketball team faces a program that's won eight national championships, and annually leads the nation in attendance.
That could come across as intimidating, but Longhorns coach Gail Goestenkors sees it another way.
"This is a great opportunity for us," she says.
The Lady Vols set the NCAA record for attendance at a women's college basketball game in 2006 when more than 24,000 packed Thompson-Boling Arena for a showdown with Connecticut, and so far this year, they're averaging 13,000-strong.
When UT played at Tennessee in the annual matchup between the longtime power institutions two years ago, senior Brittainey Raven remembers the rowdy environment as "one of the toughest places I've ever played in college." But in their three years under Goestenkors, the Longhorns have learned that auxiliary factors are just conversation starters.
A game's tempo shouldn't be determined by the noise level, but by the effort on the court -- and that's something the Longhorns can control.
"We want to play Texas basketball," Raven says. "When we go out there, we're going to have to play at our level, and keep the intensity level at what we've been playing."
So, as Goestenkors says, this is another opportunity for the Longhorns to become better, and to expose themselves to the country in one of their 11 televised games of the season. UT showed their evolution last year, knocking off the Lady Vols, then the defending national champions, in Austin.
At the time, Tennessee was the seventh-ranked team in the country, and the highest-ranked opponent the Longhorns had defeated under Goestenkors.
"Now we need to be able to play well on the road as well," says Goestenkors, who also led UT to a road victory at No. 4 Baylor last season.
In three games against Tennessee, Raven is averaging 18 points, and junior Kathleen Nash is also adding 14.5 points per contest. Raven and Nash have combined to hit 9 of 19 3-pointers, and drained a pair of shots from beyond the arc during UT's 10-1 run that broke open last year's home-court victory.
The goal now is to carry over that focus and energy, regardless of the environment or spotlight.
"We have to be ready to play, and just go out there and do what we do," Raven says. "We can't worry about how loud the crowd is."