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Summitt appears at Lady Vols' opening practice

Associated Press Modified: October 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm •  Published: October 7, 2012

While Summitt's appearance gave Sunday's practice a familiar feel, plenty of change surrounds this team.

Tennessee doesn't return a single player who started an NCAA tournament game last season during the Lady Vols' run to a regional final. Junior guard Meighan Simmons, sophomore guard Ariel Massengale and Spani each started at least 15 games last season as the Lady Vols finished 27-9.

Spani and guard Kamiko Williams are Tennessee's only seniors. Simmons is the lone junior on a roster that includes four freshmen and one junior-college transfer.

Warlick expects all the newcomers to contribute this season as the Lady Vols adopt a quicker pace. Tennessee signaled the switch to this approach Sunday as they emphasized rebounding, defense and pushing the ball up the floor.

"Our half-court offense may suffer early and may struggle a little bit, but we want to get them comfortable with getting the ball, going and keeping a fast tempo," Warlick said. "That's what we tried to establish today."

Tennessee worked out for three hours Sunday in an attempt to strengthen its conditioning. Spani and Massengale called it one of the hardest practices of their careers.

"It was very fast-paced, high-intensity," Massengale said. "If that's the way we're going to play this year, that's how we're going to have to practice."

Warlick said she's utilizing the uptempo style to capitalize on her team's strengths. The Lady Vols are counting on athleticism and togetherness to make up for their inexperience as they attempt to return to the Final Four for the first time since their 2008 national championship.

"We really have a good camaraderie around us, a really good close-knit feel right now," Warlick said. "I love that. I haven't felt that in a long time, and I think it's well-needed for this basketball team."