The preseason No. 1 Tennessee Lady Vols softball team will not only see a change of faces this season, but they will also have a change of playing style.
Past Lady Vols teams have consisted of quick players that liked to hit the ball and run. This year, they hope to hit the ball and watch it fly over the fence.
All-American shortstop Madison Shipman, one of three seniors on the team, has noticed the change in approach to hitting among her teammates this preseason.
"This year's team is a lot different than last year," said Shipman, who had 11 home runs last season. "Last year, we had a lot of speed. This year, we're hitting the long ball. We're stacked all the way through our lineup. Everybody one through nine can hit it out. That's our strength."
Senior All-American pitcher Ellen Renfroe has also seen a difference in practices from past years.
"It's a little bit different look," Renfroe said. "Throwing to our hitters in scrimmage is a little bit more challenging, especially for me to make sure I keep the ball down, (and) keep the ball in the ball park. You can give up little bloops on the infield to slappers, but you've got to be careful with power hitters because they can hit the ball and get it out in a hurry."
The pitching staff will also have a new look this year after the departure of Renfroe's older sister, Ivy, who tossed 150 innings last season.
Sophomore Erin Gabriel is expected to the be the No. 2 pitcher behind Ellen Renfroe. In Gabriel's first season at Tennessee, she started eight games with 29 innings pitched and five wins before sustaining an injury that required surgery.
Cheyanne Tarango, a junior who also plays first base, will occasionally contribute to the pitching staff as well. Last season, she threw 39 innings with an 1.44 ERA.
Sophomore Rainey Gaffin, normally an outfielder, has not pitched at all in her career at Tennessee, but this year, the coaches made the decision to add her to their pitching rotation.
Seeing the hard work by all three pitchers behind her has inspired Ellen Renfroe to work even harder.
"There are girls who are going to give us hard innings in Erin, Cheyanne and Rainey," Ellen Renfroe said. "So it's definitely been a motivator for me just to continue to work hard and to give my best."
Both Ellen Renfroe and Shipman were selected on the top 50 watch list for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award for the second year in a row, an honor which Shipman is happy to be a part of.
"That's pretty awesome to me," Shipman said. "I actually saw (Ellen) in the training room this morning, (and) I was like 'Congrats!' It's an awesome thing. I just can't look to much into it because it's just preseason stuff, so I've got to focus on my game."
With the season just more than a week away, and a long month of training behind her, Ellen Renfroe admitted she's anxious to start playing.
"I'm ready," Renfroe said. "I think for any team really, the month of January is such a grind. You're practicing every day. You're working out in the mornings. You've got conditioning, cardio, everything that comes along with it just trying to get ready for the season.
"So I think we're all just ready to get out on the field and play."