During the past few years, Middle Tennessee State and North Texas garnered all the attention in the Sun Belt Conference. This year, a new team is on the rise and is poised to make it to NCAA regionals for the first time since 2007. The Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette have had an impressive fall and will be looking to get off to a fast start in the spring.
In the fall, Louisiana-Lafayette never finished worse than fifth at a tournament. The Cajuns started the year with a third-place showing at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate, followed by a runner-up performance at the Kansas Invitational, third at the Wolfpack Intercollegiate and a T-5 at the David Toms Intercollegiate.
“I was very happy with the way the team gelled together this fall,” coach Theo Sliman said. “We put down a good foundation, and if we can get all five guys to keep playing well together, then I think we’ll do good things this spring.”
At No. 55 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, the Cajuns have an opportunity this spring to strengthen their national appeal or continue to be a bubble team when the season starts to wind down. “At the end of our fall meeting, we determined that our goal was for everyone on our team to just get one shot better,” Sliman said. “I just want each guy to work hard and continue to improve so that each stroke can help us be better as a team.”
When Sliman arrived at Louisiana-Lafayette, the Cajuns were an afterthought in the Sun Belt Conference. However, since 2008 the team has continued to improve and is now not too far behind its conference rivals in the Golfweek/Sagarins. At the end of the fall, North Texas was 40th and MTSU was 46th.
Sliman’s squad will have a good opportunity to help its postseason resume. The Cajuns’ schedule strength is ranked 112th in the country, but this year the team may have its best chance at winning a conference title for the first time in five years.
The Cajuns are led by two seniors who Sliman has said are great leaders: Andrew Noto, who closed out the fall with medalist honors at the David Toms, and Philipp Fendt, who was a member of the 2011 Ping All-Central region team. Sophomore Chris Weninger has played a major role in the team’s success, as well as junior college-transfer Brandt Garon, the Jack Nicklaus Award winner.
This year, the Ragin’ Cajuns have their eyes set on a Sun Belt Conference title, which Sliman says is a realistic goal. “A lot has to go right to win any tournament in college, but of course you have to get bounces to go your way,” Sliman said. “From a talent standpoint, I truly believe we are one of the top teams in our conference.”
It’s been a while since the Ragin’ Cajuns have made it to the postseason, but with a hot start to the spring, this team hopes to end a four-year postseason drought and add a conference crown to their shelves.