As the Rutgers women’s team played its way through the second round of the Lady Paladin Invitational on Oct. 27, head coach Maura Ballard had to keep an eye on Hurricane Sandy as it approached the team’s home in Piscataway Township, N.J.
The team’s travel director and the Rutgers athletic department were doing the same, wondering how to get the team home safely, and if that would mean pulling the plug on one of the most prestigious tournaments on the Scarlet Knights’ fall schedule.
As Sandy made its way up the East Coast, Ballard had been communicating with her travel director back home about possible flight cancellations caused by the storm. Because the team arrived in Greenville, S.C., on Oct. 24 for the Lady Paladin, and already had missed three days of school, the concern was missing three more days of classes if air traffic to the Northeast ceased.
Rutger’s flight home was canceled at midday Saturday, and as Ballard coached, her travel director scrambled to book another flight. Ballard was pulling for any way to keep her team in the tournament, even if it meant driving home Sunday evening.
“If you get new flights booked,” Ballard had said, “I’ll do what I have to do.”
By the time the team came off the course after the second round – sophomore Kortnie Maxoutopoulis was the last in, with a 3-under 69 – Ballard had received word that she needed to load her team into a van and start the 14-hour drive home, one that those at home were concerned would be unsafe by Sunday evening.
“They were like little soldiers, getting in line for me,” Ballard remembers about her team’s resolve.
When they pulled out of Greenville, Maxoutopoulis was tied for second individually, but she raised no complaints. The team was in seventh.
“She deals with whatever adversity is sent her way,” Ballard said.
Rutgers had to trade in its 15-passenger van for a smaller vehicle that Ballard could take all the way home to New Jersey. It was tight, she says, but days spent playing the Futures Tour made her confident the team could fit all of its belongings.
Now the concern is what a withdrawal will do to Rutgers’ head-to-head record. For a team that has been climbing the rankings – Rutgers ended last spring at No. 164 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and currently is No. 130 (the Lady Paladin has not yet been figured in) – counting such a loss certainly would be harmful. If the Lady Paladin counts toward Rutgers’ ranking, it would count like a last-place finish. Ballard plans to make her case to the NCAA Women’s Golf Committee.
“I’ve really never been faced with anything like this where I had to pull out of an event,” she said.
Classes at Rutgers were canceled for Monday and Tuesday as Sandy moved through the area, and only three members of the team remain on campus in the dormitories.