College Women

Golfweek’s Conference Challenge preview

Primm Valley Golf Club, site of Golfweek's Conference Challenge.
Primm Valley Golf Club, site of Golfweek's Conference Challenge. ( Primm Valley Golf Club )

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The women take center stage Sept. 13-15 at Golfweek’s Conference Challenge. The 54-hole stroke-play tournament at Primm (Nev.) Valley Golf Club’s Desert Course will include 18 teams from 18 different conferences. Eleven of the 18 teams in the field played in the postseason last spring and four teams are ranked in Golfweek’s preseason top 30.

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Team: East Tennessee State

Conference: Atlantic Sun

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 62nd

Top Returnees: Sinead O’Sullivan (232nd), Laura Jansone (254th), Mayte Vizcarrondo (317th)

Ringler’s Take: The Buccaneers return four of their top 5 players from a team that just missed regional play a year ago. Expect this team to be the favorite to win the Atlantic Sun Conference title.

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Team: Oklahoma State

Conference: Big 12

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 4th

Top Returnees: Caroline Hedwall (15th)

Ringler’s Take: The Cowgirls return just one player with experience from last year’s squad that finished fourth at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Head coach Annie Young will look to a couple of newcomers – Jane Rah and Victoria Park – to help fill the gap.

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Team: Portland State

Conference: Big Sky

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 146th

Top Returnees: Stephanie Johns (509th), Alexia Brown (739th), Danielle Ranallo (794th)

Ringler’s Take: The Vikings won the Big Sky Conference Championship two years ago, but after a disappointing fifth-place showing in 2008-09, look for a bounce back season. Portland State returns all six letterwinners from last year’s roster.

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Team: Coastal Carolina

Conference: Big South

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 83rd

Top Returnees: Aruka Felgueroso (143rd), Alicia Grier (651st), Carmen Jones (825th)

Ringler’s Take: Coastal Carolina will again lean heavily on senior Aruka Felgueroso, who might be one of the nation’s more underrated players. She will be measured against some of the best players in the country this week at the Conference Challenge.

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Team: Ohio State

Conference: Big Ten

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 27th

Top Returnees: In-Hong Lim (66th), Vicky Villanueve (123rd), Emma Jandel (211th)

Ringler’s Take: The Buckeyes have long been a top program and after finishing two seasons ranked outside of the top 30, the Buckeyes ranked No. 27 at the end of 2008-09. Expect to see Therese Hession’s squad continue to climb back up the ranks.

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Team: UC Irvine

Conference: Big West

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 30th

Top Returnees: Patty Chawalitmetha (198th), Joy Trotter (209th), Hillary Packard (261st)

Ringler’s Take: The Anteaters lost just one player from last year’s team that advanced to the NCAA Women’s Championship. However, she was pretty good – first-team All-American Jane Chin. The question this year: Can they get the job done without Chin?

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Team: Georgia State

Conference: Colonial

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 29th

Top Returnees: Iliska Verwey (149th), Sandra Maier (190th), Cathrine Madsen (194th)

Ringler’s Take: Georgia State has quietly been one of the best programs in women’s college golf. The Panthers typically play a schedule close to home, however this week they will be on a national stage and will have the chance to make a statement.

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Team: SMU

Conference: Conference USA

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 139th

Top Returnees: Sara Dodson (563rd), Jennifer Hooper (652nd), Kalie Presti (909th)

Ringler’s Take: There may be no program in college golf that has fallen faster than SMU. After finishing in the top 50 for five consecutive seasons, the Mustangs dropped outside the top 100 last year. Todd Selders hopes to get things headed back in the right direction.

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Team: Harvard

Conference: Ivy League

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 89th

Top Returnees: Christine Cho (236th), Claire Sheldon, Mia Kabasakalis (529th)

Ringler’s Take: Harvard won six times last year which helped the Ivy League school find a spot on the college golf radar. Can they make it two years in a row?

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Team: Ball State

Conference: Mid-American

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 114th

Top Returnees: Brittany Kelly (348th), K.C. Cain (517th), Rachael Pruett (520th)

Ringler’s Take: Ball State has been very close to cracking the top 100 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Led by junior Brittany Kelly, the Cardinals might crack the mark this season.

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Team: Drake

Conference: Missouri Valley

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 117th

Top Returnees: Olivia Lansing (168th), Kelly Godwin (488th), Kaitlyn Mauk (786th)

Ringler’s Take: In order for the Bulldogs to make noise this year, they will need another strong performance from the best player in the Missouri Valley Conference – senior Olivia Lansing.

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Team: UNLV

Conference: Mountain West

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 33rd

Top Returnees: Therese Koelbaek (50th), Natasha Krishna (98th), Alejandra Guacaneme (221st)

Ringler’s Take: The Rebels won twice last year and return their entire lineup. If UNLV can continue to get good play from two-time Golfweek All-American Therese Koelbaek and senior Natasha Krishna, expect better things this year.

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Team: Jacksonville State

Conference: Ohio Valley

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 116th

Top Returnees: Laura Cutler (453rd), Lucia Fernandez (513th), Ashley Cox (595th)

Ringler’s Take: Jacksonville State had won four consecutive Ohio Valley Conference Championships before finishing runner-up last year. Expect to see the veteran Gamecocks challenge to make it five of the last six saesons with a conference titles.

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Team: California

Conference: Pac-10

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 25th

Top Returnees: Pia Halbig (25th), Diane Kwon (215th), Roseanne Niven (544th)

Ringler’s Take: California lost a couple of key players at the end of last season, but add Joanne Lee, who sat out last year after transferring from USC. If the Golden Bears can find some help at the bottom of the lineup, expect to hear more about this team.

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Team: Chattanooga

Conference: Southern

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 44th

Top Returnees: Maria Salinas (158th), Emma DeGroot (159th), Kayla Stewart (264th)

Ringler’s Take: In just its second season of competition, Chattanooga advanced to the NCAA Women’s Championship. Now in its third season, this team will continue to climb the college golf ladder.

• • •

Team: Oral Roberts

Conference: The Summit League

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 68th

Top Returnees: Crystal Reeves (213th), Amber Hensley (352nd), Eve Santillan (397th)

Ringler’s Take: Oral Roberts has won 12 consecutive Summit League titles and you can bet Lance Watson’s squad is ready to rise to the occasion this season, too.

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Team: Fresno State

Conference: Western Athletic

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 75th

Top Returnees: Louisa Lies (360th), Lindi Covarrubias (365th), Hali Coppin (432nd)

Ringler’s Take: The Bulldogs lost their top player from a year ago in Taylor Siebert, but return their core, hoping to compete not only for the WAC title, but contend for an at-large postseason bid.

• • •

Team: Pepperdine

Conference: West Coast

2008-09 Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 14th

Top Returnees: Taylore Karle (53rd), Lisa McCloskey (85th), Kaitlin Drolson (118th)

Ringler’s Take: Pepperdine has been the pride of the West Coast Conference winning the last eight conference titles. This year’s team will again be the favorite. If the squad clicks at the same time, Pepperdine will do much more than just win its ninth conference title. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.