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Men’s preview: Atlantic Sun Conference

The North Florida Ospreys may grab most of the Atlantic Sun Conference’s headlines. And rightfully so – they are ranked No. 5 in the nation and have three top-50 players on their squad, including star Sean Dale.

But don’t overlook another Florida team that played the fall season in near-flawless fashion.

The would be Brent Jensen’s Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, who are up to No. 84 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings after winning four consecutive events to close the first half of the 2011-12 season.

FGCU has been led by Brandon Pena, a senior from Clewiston, Fla. Pena, who finished in the top 10 of four of his five fall events, won the Cobra-Puma Invitational and finished second at the Mission Inn Collegiate Classic.

The Eagles had a rough start to the season, finishing T-10 at the St. Mary’s Invitational. Jensen, a St. Mary’s graduate, was unable to accompany the team to California because of a death in the family.

“I know that’s not an excuse, but I think there were just a lot of things going on that week,” Jensen said. “I wasn’t there to give any course knowledge, and everyone was also used to playing in Florida where there’s none of the dramatic elevation changes or anything like that.

“After that tournament, we got a lot more consistent and started getting contributions from everyone.”

In fact, they couldn’t get any more consistent, winning their final four starts: the Cobra-Puma Invitational, the John Dallio Memorial, the Mission Inn Collegiate Classic and the Stetson Invitational.

“I think everyone just started to realize what it takes to get better,” Jensen said. “They realized how to push each other on the course and push each other in the weight room.”

The spring season leading up to the A-Sun Championship in Braselton, Ga., will be more difficult as FGCU will play the JU Invitational and then travel to events hosted by South Florida, Central Florida and Florida Atlantic.

“I expect to work hard and be prepared,” Jensen said. “And hopefully we can beat some good teams along the way.”

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Top team from the fall: North Florida

Top player from the fall: Sean Dale, North Florida

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Past champions

2007: East Tennessee State

2008: North Florida

2009: Campbell

2010: East Tennessee State

2011: Kennesaw State

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Conference capsules

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Complete coverage

Wondering how your favorite conference is shaping up headed into the spring season? Who is our favorite to pick up the automatic qualifier? Check out our conference-by-conference break down with our complete coverage page here.

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