CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Tina Thompson will start her second season at the helm of the Virginia women's basketball program on Tuesday, but the Wahoos will be without center Felicia Aiyeotan after it was announced last week her UVA career was over.
"Even last year, us losing her with her knee injury was tough and now kind of moving forward, knowing that we won't have her at all, even tougher," Thompson said at the team's media day on Friday.
Aiyeotan appeared in seven games as a junior last season, before a reoccurring knee injury sidelined her for the remainder of the season. She was later diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, which would effectively end her career with the Wahoos.
"It's difficult obviously to realize some of her hopes and dreams and goals that she had are gone," senior guard Jocelyn Willoughby said.
Thompson said on Friday she and others around the program have continued to work with Felicia to find options for the future to stick around the game of basketball.
"But more importantly for me the focus has not been basketball," Thompson said, "It's been her person and just her figuring out what next steps are."
Without Aiyeotan, the Wahoos bring back just three returners from last season in seniors Lisa Jablonowski, Dominique Toussaint and Willoughby. Moving forward the Cavaliers are using Aiyeotan's absence as one of their driving forces this season.
"It's more motivation for me," Willoughby said, "Not everyone whether it's someone who has a condition like [Felicia] or just an injury, not everyone has the opportunity, so that's the mindset I have had and hopefully the rest of the team has had as well."
Virginia opens their season on Tuesday at home against Bucknell at 7 p.m.