ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The UNC Asheville women's basketball team began practice of the 2012-13 season this morning with a 6 a.m. practice.


First-year head coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick is excited about the start of practice and working with her first team as a head coach.


"It's always exciting when practice starts and this is definitely an exciting time of the year," stated Kirkpatrick. "We've been working hard the past six weeks with preseason conditioning and workouts.


"Overall, this team has been very coachable and very accepting of what our staff wants to do," added Kirkpatrick. "Our effort has been just great, and we've made some progress since the start of school. However, there's still a lot of work to be done."


A big concern for the Bulldogs as practice is getting healthy. UNC Asheville has several players out with some nagging injuries, including senior guard Grace Blaylock and sophomore guard Brittany Gwyn.


"We need to get healthy. That's one of our big concerns right now," admitted Kirkpatrick. "Our backcourt is hurting right now without Grace and Brittany. We've got some other bumps and bruises, as well."


Asheville returns four starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's club. The Bulldogs are anxious to improve on last season's 7-23 campaign.


"The big thing for us right now is to just be more consistent in everything we do," admitted Kirkpatrick. "The effort and determination are there and that's good to see."


One area the Bulldogs are working on is their defense. Asheville was last in the Big South in points allowed last season with a 74.8 average.


"We're going to work hard on defense. I want our team to be more aggressive. We just need to get an aggressive mentality," explained Kirkpatrick. "Our team wants to play an up-tempo style on offense but that starts with defense."


The Bulldogs will practice for the next six weeks in preparation for their first game of the 2012-13 season. Asheville opens the season at home against mountain rival Western Carolina on Saturday, Nov. 10 starting at 4:30 p.m. The game with the Catamounts is part of the Asheville Collegiate Invitational that will also include a 2 p.m. game between UNC Greensboro and Charleston Southern.