To begin the 2017-18 season, the women’s golf team opened with a 14th place finish out of 17 teams in the WNMU Fall Intercollegiate, followed by an 8th place finish out of 10 teams in the Dixie State Fall Invite. On paper, it appears to be one of the worst starts in recent memory, especially for a team that was nationally ranked just two years ago.
And yet, the team feels that better times are upon them. Coach Lance Hancock explained what the primary focus at the start the season meant for the remainder of the season.
“The expectations coming into the year… they were very open-ended,” said Hancock. “We had four new freshmen coming in. We lost a lot of senior people… It was like ‘Okay, let’s see where we are.’ It was about building team unity. It was about getting the women to really enjoy playing golf and enjoy playing with each other. So the expectations were first and foremost to give us a strong team unit and see how much work we had to do to get competitive.”
Missing players from last season include Rima Antous, Lindsey Redmond, Haley Fuller and Mariah Fuller. Incoming freshmen, which make up the majority of the roster, include Michaela Cain, Sarah Marek, Summer Marshall and Christine Perez. Sisters Haley and Mariah Fuller were highlighted by Hancock as key players being missed out on, and while Mariah Fuller was a senior, their departures weren’t completely due to graduation.
“They weren’t necessarily feeling comfortable with others on the team. There was a ‘disconnect’ from the team. It never got better, so before the final tournament (last season), they informed me they weren’t making that trip. I don’t think they were necessarily ‘removed’ from the team, but you can say in a little sense that they quit the team.”
Team chemistry is often seen as a crucial asset and a difference maker in sports, and sophomore Emily Smith explained why developing that chemistry is currently the main goal for this team.
“We did have some issues last year,” said Smith. “We had some players that couldn’t work as a team. Even as an individual sport, we still need that team aspect. I think that makes a difference in our scores.”
While the results have not yet shown, two tournaments is a small sample size, especially for a young roster composed of four freshman and only one upperclassman. Junior Michelle Picca felt that the team is improved despite the results.
“This year, we definitely have a stronger team dynamic. Night and day compared to last year,” said Picca. “The freshmen definitely came in strong. I’m really proud of them… I think we’re definitely going to figure it out.”
The team only has one tournament at the end of October before the fall season is over. But Smith feels that the fall season is only the beginning of something special.
“We’re still kind of struggling and getting used to ourselves as a team,” said Smith. “I think it’s just a matter of practice and time that needs to be put in… the team is definitely better than last year. We have four freshmen, and they’re all people with good morals… In spring, we’ll bloom into a competitive team.”
The women’s golf team was originally scheduled to play its third tournament, the Sonoma State Fall Invite, on Oct. 16-17, but it was cancelled due to wildfires near Rohnert Park. The team will have its next tournament, the Cal State San Marcos Fall Classic, on Oct. 30-31 before the break until February.