The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team held its first practice of the 2019-20 season Thursday, and when Eboni Williams was asked what she thought would be the biggest difference, she paused before answering.
"We just needed a reset," the 2018-19 Southern Conference freshman of the year said. "I think our mindset just needed it."
As preparation for Katie Burrows' second season as head coach of the Mocs began in earnest, reset might have been the proper word of the day. The Mocs were an uncharacteristic 14-17 (8-6 in league play) last season, but a young and talented roster that was set to lose only two seniors had plenty of potential.
However, in addition to Shelbie Davenport and Molly Melton, the Mocs lost junior Arianne Whitaker and sophomores Brooke Burns, Rochelle Lee and Mya Long as they transferred. They combined for 54 starts last season, when they were four of UTC's top seven players in minutes played.
The offseason is over, though, and those on the current roster are getting ready with a little more than a month remaining before the Mocs open at Belmont on Nov. 6. The trip to Nashville will follow a home exhibition against Division II member Lee University on Oct. 29.
"We're very excited for the start of camp," Burrows said. "You sort of know what to expect, but there are obstacles and surprises that hit you from time to time that I think I will be able to handle a little better this year.
"As far as the culture of the team, things seem to be moving along a little better than last year, and part of that is because I have been here and they know what to expect."
The roster shakeup wasn't a total surprise to Burrows, a former UTC player and assistant who worked for predecessors Wes Moore and Jim Foster. While she doesn't blame any of the transferred players for the team's losing season, she believes having everyone on the same page can only help this season.
"Any time there is a (coaching) change, you can expect some turnover," she said. "As an assistant I am a different person than I am as the head coach as far as expectations. It's not wrong, it's just different, so those who are no longer with us, them needing a change is not wrong.
"They just maybe didn't mesh well with me. Some people maybe don't align with what I see as what we need to do, and that's OK. Those that agreed with it are still here, and that's going to be a big thing for us. There were a couple of surprises, but for the most part you could see it coming and I wish them the best at their new schools."
Burrows will lean heavily on senior guard Lakelyn Bouldin, the All-SoCon player who has been a mainstay since coming to UTC after a standout prep career at Van Buren County. Bouldin started all 31 games last season while averaging a team-best 13 points, and she wants to end her Mocs career on a high note.
"My freshman year we were really successful and won the SoCon, but the last two years we haven't been as successful as we hoped," she said. "That experience has given me a different outlook that I can pass along to our younger players.
"We have a lot of dynamic players, and this is going to add a lot of personality to our team. There are going to be some growing pains, but overall I think this is going to be a fun group."
Junior forward Bria Dial and sophomore guard Morgan Hill return after each started 18 games last season, and they're joined by returning post rotation player Abbey Cornelius, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who made six starts.
Senior guard NaKiea Burks returns after battling injuries, and sophomores Pare Pene and Liz Wood are also back. Freshman guards Dena Jarrells and Audrey Canter, a walk-on player from Silverdale Baptist Academy, are joined in the new group by sophomore transfers Brooke Hampel, Kallie Searcy and Ruona Uwusiaba, who are awaiting word on their eligibility for this season.