We are counting down the top 30 women’s teams heading into the fall college season.
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11. North Carolina
2012-13 rank: 17
Go-to girl: Senior Jackie Chang
Season outlook: North Carolina surged in the middle of last season, starting a three-tournament winning streak at the Liz Murphey Fall Preview, one of the deepest fields of the regular season. The season tapered off midway through the spring, however, ending with a disappointing 10th place at the NCAA East Regional, where the Tar Heels failed to advance to the NCAAs in Athens, Ga., never even getting the chance to play at the site where they won in the fall.
Casey Grice, who led UNC with a 73.27 stroke average, won’t return this year, a big hit for the Heels. She graduated early and plans to play LPGA Q-School this fall. That means senior Jackie Chang will assume the leadership role, one she’s more than capable of filling. Chang played all 10 tournaments for UNC last year and posted three top 10s, including a T-8 at NCAA regionals.
Her supporting cast is led by fellow senior Katherine Perry, who took a step backward last year, posting only one top 10 after recording four as a sophomore, including a T-8 at the 2012 NCAA Championship. In addition, junior Maia Schechter and sophomore Elizabeth Mallett each played in at least nine events last season, combining for five top 20s. Leslie Cloots, a freshman from Belgium, also could contribute.
No doubt, head coach Jan Mann and her players would like to get off to a fast start to erase the sour taste from that early postseason exit.
– Julie Williams