During the month of January, Golfweek will preview the 2014 spring season for each conference. Check out all of the previews here.
Today, we look at the MAC:
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5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Top of the class: Kent State
• Player to watch: Jennifer Ha, Kent State. She’s the No. 49 player in the Golfweek/ Sagarin individual rankings, the reigning MAC Golfer of the Year and the defending MAC individual champion.
• Freshman to watch: Kelsey Murphy, Eastern Michigan. Murphy led her team in terms of scoring average in her first semester of play. She also nabbed a top-5 finish at the MAC Preview.
• Conference championship: April 25-27, Hawthorns CC, Fishers, Ind.
• Past champions (since 2009): Kent State (2009-13)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
- Kent State (31): Kent State only played three events in the fall, but that was enough for it to solidify its standing in the MAC. The team that’s won 15-straight MAC Championships won two of its three events, led by MAC Golfer of the Year Jennifer Ha. The junior won two events in the fall and posted an outstanding 72.44 scoring average. Kent State will be the class of the MAC until another team can step up to the plate.
- Toledo (80): Toledo took off in the fall, winning three of its five tournaments. It won the Redbird Invitational, MAC Preview and Rocket Classic. It did not perform well in the star-studded tournaments it played, but excelled against in-conference competition. Toledo’s top four golfers posted sub-77 scoring averages and accounted for nine total top 10s. Both of Toledo’s All-MAC golfers from one year ago return, including MAC Rookie of the Year Sathika Ruenreong.
- Ball State (103): Ball State posted two runner-up finishes and three total top 5s in the fall. The team boasts experience, as its four top golfers in terms of scoring average in the fall were upperclassmen. Junior Jenna Hague posted a blazing 73 scoring average, five top 10s and two wins. Hague is ranked No. 88 in the Golfweek/Sagarin individual rankings and she has proven to be a contender for the MAC title this year.
- Eastern Michigan (132): Last year’s MAC runner-up posted only one top 5 in the fall – a T-3 showing at the MAC Preview. Freshman Kelsey Murphy led the team in the fall, posting a 76.64 scoring average and a top-5 finish. Murphy will need to continue her success in the spring, as the Eagles lost two All-MAC performers from last year in Sarah Johnson and Alyssa Kwon.
- Bowling Green (150): Bowling Green had a solid fall, accounting for four top-5 finishes. The team won the Cleveland State Invitational and finished runner-up at the Rocket Classic. Bowling Green had four golfers post sub-78 scoring averages in the fall. Junior Shelby Wilson took medalist honors at the Cleveland State Invitational and sophomore Lily Bartell posted two top-3 finishes.
- Akron (160): Akron picked up one top 5 in the fall – a fifth-place finish at the MAC Fall Preview. Freshman Line Bengtsson led the team with a 76.45 scoring average. The rookie is one of two Zips to post an individual top 10 in the fall.
- Ohio (164): After finishing in last place at the 2012-13 MAC Championship, the only way Ohio can go is up. The Bobcats did not record a top 5 in the fall, but did not two sixth-place finishes as they were paced by a mix of upper and underclassmen.
- Western Michigan (179): Western Michigan finished its fall slate with its lone top-5 finish – a fourth-place showing at the Rocket Classic. The Broncos finished fifth at the MAC Championship last year, but lost their top-two contributors from that tournament. Sophomore Emily Salata and freshman Kaitlyn Watkins led the team in scoring average in the fall.
- Northern Illinois (205): Northern Illinois’ best finish in its four-tournament fall schedule was a fourth-place showing at the Kangaroo Fall Invitational. That was the team’s lone top 5 in the fall. The Huskies bring back four of their contributors from last year’s showing at the MAC Championship, where they finished eighth.
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LANCE RINGLER’S TAKE
If there is a new story in the MAC besides Kent State it would have to be Toledo. The Rockets are in the midst of one of its best seasons in program history, but will still be an underdog to Kent State once the conference championship begins. Kent State will most likely make it 16 consecutive MAC titles and the first for rookie head coach Greg Robertson.