College golf is just a few short weeks away. To get you ready, Asher Wildman is breaking down the top 60 men’s and women’s teams. Today, it’s No. 38 on the board with the Chattanooga men and Louisville women.
2010-11 final ranking: 38
Coach:Mark Guhne (seventh year)
Top returnees: Stephan Jaeger, Steven Fox
Top newcomers: Freshman Liam Johnston of Scotland
Projected starting 5: Stephan Jaeger (Sr.), Steven Fox (Jr.), Davis Bunn (So.), Benni Weilguni (So.) and Chris Robb (So.)
Key losses: None
Key fall tournament: The Brickyard
2010-2011 recap: The Mocs had a solid year, even with three freshmen in the lineup, although they failed to win a team title last season. Chattanooga had a handful of chances to win a tournament but always fell short. Last season, the Mocs were runner-up or finished third five times. Despite the absence of a victory, Guhne still was impressed with what he observed. “Our top player (Stephan Jaeger of Germany) matured a lot and came a long way,” Guhne said. “Our three freshman from a year ago all had glimpses of greatness as well.”
Guhne’s team finished ninth at NCAA regionals to end the season.
Player to watch: Stephan Jaeger. Said Guhne: “He’s really coming in to his own. He is a very good ballstriker and has learned to take the big numbers out of play with better decision-making. The difference for him is his golf-course management.”
2011-2012 preview: Chattanooga starts the year with depth and, more importantly, experience. All five starters are back from last year’s team, and three of them are sophomores. “They each showed me something,” Guhne said. “Chris (Robb) won a tournament, Bennie (Weilguni) had four top 10s and Davis (Bunn) was consistent (73.5 scoring average).”
The Mocs are set at the top with four-year starter Stephan Jaeger, who finished the season No. 60 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. If he continues to progress, he can be at least a top-40 player by the end of this season.
Guhne is pumped about the depth he will have on his roster this season. “It’s going to be a dogfight each week for the fifth spot,” Guhne said. “As long as I’ve been here, we’ve never had a solid starting lineup 1 through 5 before.”
Incoming freshman Liam Johnston is expected to be the player pushing the returning starters for a spot. He is a top player from Scotland whom Guhne thinks can be a fixture in the lineup for the next four years.
Bottom line: With five starters back, including a strong No. 1 in Stephan Jaeger, Chattanooga should be set for a postseason run. The Mocs are experienced and still young with three sophomores who gained valuable experience last year. As long as Jaeger plays like he’s capable and the three sophomores take the next step with their games, expect to see the Mocs at Riviera for the NCAA Championship.
2010-11 final ranking: 38
Coach: Kelly Rothberg (13th year)
Top returnees: Anna-Karin Ljungstrom
Top newcomers: Freshman Emily Haas of Nicholasville, Ky.
Projected starting 5: Anna-Karin Ljungstrom (Jr.), Tara Lyons (So.), Maria Castellanos (Sr.), Maike Klein (So.), Katie Petrino (Fr.)
Key losses: Sara-Maude Juneau, Laura Anderson
Key fall tournament: Tar Heel Invitational
2010-11 recap: Louisville had a decent season last year, but it failed to consistently beat teams ranked ahead of them. The Cardinals were a combined 24-56-3 against teams ranked in the top 50 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. “Last season we couldn’t get all five players to play well at the same time,” coach Kelly Rothberg said. “We just never did it on the same day for three days in a row.”
Louisville finished runner-up at the Big East Championship before failing to advance out of the NCAA East Regional.
Player to watch: Katie Petrino. Said Rothberg of the redshirt freshman: “She has come a long way. She is very strong and long. Great short game and knows how to stay patient. She’s excited to compete after redshirting for a year.”
2011-2012 preview: The Cardinals lack depth at the Nos. 3-5 spots will show at tournaments this fall. Rothberg is hoping that a couple of underclassmen who redshirted last season, including Petrino, will be ready to step in and contribute. “The (lineup) is not set as of now,” Rothberg said. “We need to show that it’s just not one player each week, but that it’s a team effort.”
Louisville will rely heavily on Anna-Karin Ljungstrom to be their go-to player. Last season, the Swede finished the season at No. 140 in the country in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. “AK is very excited to lead our team on and off the course,” Rothberg said. “She has great course management and will know how to motivate her teammates.”
After Ljungstrom, the Cards don’t have another player that finished last season ranked inside the top 300. With a fairly difficult schedule, Louisville could find itself struggling with inexperience.
Bottom line: This could be a long season for Louisville, which is likely to drop in the rankings – perhaps out of the top 50 or 60. The lack of depth will be an issue and a trip to the postseason seems unlikely.