No. 43: Va. Tech men, Denver women

Team flags at Karsten Creek for the NCAA Championship

Women's Rankings »

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Women's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1Washington 70.58 
2South Carolina 70.87 
3UCLA 71.23 
4Duke 71.35 
5Stanford 71.38 

Men's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Cheng Tsung PanWashington  66.95 
2Ollie SchniederjansGA Tech  67.53 
3Lee McCoyGeorgia  68.19 
4Charlie DanielsonIllinois  68.33 
5Hunter StewartVanderbilt  68.42 

Men's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1Illinois 68.91 
2Florida State 69.59 
3Oregon 69.67 
4UCLA 69.83 
5LSU 69.90 

College golf is just a few short weeks away. To get you ready, Asher Wildman is breaking down the top 60 men's and women's teams. Today, it's No. 43 on the board with the Virginia Tech men and Denver women.

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VIRGINIA TECH MEN

2010-11 final ranking: 43

Coach: Jay Hardwick (29th year)

Top returnees: Mikey Moyers, Blake Redmond

Top newcomers: Freshman Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe, freshman Trevor Cone of Concord, N.C., freshman Miles Curley of Rock Hill, S.C.

Projected starting 5: Mikey Moyers (jr.), Blake Redmond (sr.), Bryce Chalkley (so.), Scott Vincent (fr.), and Trevor Cone (fr.)

Key losses: Aaron Eckstein, Garland Green and Marshall Bailey

Key fall tournament: The Brickyard

2010-11 recap: Last season ended on a sour note for Virginia Tech and coach Jay Hardwick. After compiling an overall record of 101-51-1, the Hokies were rewarded with the chance to make it to nationals by playing a regional on the Pete Dye River Course, their home track. However, the team missed the cut, finishing sixth – three shots behind fifth-place Kent State – and failing to utilize its home-course advantage to earn a spot in the NCAA Championship. “I was disappointed,” Hardwick said. “We had the chance in our backyard, but just couldn’t do it.”

Before the postseason disappointment, the Hokies had shown improvement from the previous season, posting five top-5 finishes and lowering its team scoring average by two shots from the 2009-10 season, when Virginia Tech was ranked No. 61 as a team.

Player to watch: Blake Redmond. “How he stepped it up in the spring last year was really big,” Hardwick said. “He had a stroke average of 72.5 in the spring and really played solid. I think he’ll continue to get better, and be our captain who will step up and lead.”

2011-12 preview: The college golf world will know real quick where Virginia Tech will stand in the fall. Tech will have one of the nation’s toughest fall schedules and will be challenged each week, starting at the Northern Intercollegiate at Rich Harvest Farms, followed by trips to the VCU Shootout, Brickyard Intercollegiate, Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate and UNCG Bridgestone Intercollegiate.

“With our schedule, you cant take a week off,” Hardwick said. “With the .500 rule, you just can’t figure it out in the fall because you may be buried in the spring.”

Virginia Tech might have its up and downs early while relying on two freshman to contribute immediately. Two-time Zimbabwe Amateur champion Scott Vincent and in-state recruit Trevor Cone are expected to be in the starting five. The Hokies will have three returning starters and two freshman, but lack a consistent No. 1 player. “We’re not going to be a team with a superstar,” Hardwick said. “We’ll have eight guys on the roster, and they will all be able to compete each week.”

Bottom line: Virginia Tech will be challenged right from the start, not only by its schedule but by a lineup that will have two freshman and no go-to guy. If Hardwick’s Hokies can play reasonably well this fall, then they could gain confidence for the spring. But if Tech stumbles out of the gate, it could mean a long spring of trying to play catch-up for a .500 record and a postseason bid.

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DENVER WOMEN

2010-11 final ranking: 43

Coach: Sammie Chergo (13th year)

Top returnees: Sarah Faller, Kelly Drack

Top newcomers: Junior Melissa Martin (transfer from Colorado State), freshman Rachael Watton of Scotland and freshman Mieke Heyns of Canada

Projected starting 5: Sarah Faller (Sr.), Kelly Drack (Jr.), Tonje Daffinrud (So.), Melissa Martin (Jr.), No. 5 to be determined.

Key losses: Ellie Givens

Key fall tournament: Stanford Intercollegiate

2010-11 recap: Last season was a rebuilding year for the Pioneers, and their struggles were obvious. Denver had only one top-5 finish, a tie for fourth at New Mexico’s Dick McGuire Invitational, until winning an eighth consecutive Sun Belt Conference Championship. “Last year was an interesting year,” Chergo said. “We had a handful of years of success with top finishes at nationals, and then last year we had a transition year.”

The Pioneers ended their season with a 13th-place finish at the NCAA West Regional.

Player to watch: Freshman Meike Hyns. Said Chergo: “No one recruited her, and I think she’s going to be a top-50 player eventually. She originally was a tennis player, but four years ago started playing golf and two years started playing competitive golf.”

2011-2012 preview: After years of success with a core group of players, Chergo had nearly a whole new roster last season. This year, stability has returned to the Pioneers’ lineup, which is what Chergo likes to see. “We have the type of girls we like to have,” Chergo said. “We recruit girls who are passionate, hard-working and want to continue to develop their games.”

After redshirting last year, Melissa Martin will join the Pioneers’ lineup. The transfer from Colorado State was the Rams’ No. 2 or No. 3 player for most of the 2009-2010 season.

For Denver to return to the top 25, it will have to find a new No. 1 player. Junior Kelly Drack could be that player, but she will have to improve her record against players ranked in the top 100 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Last year, Drack was a combined 36-184-7 against the top 100.

According to Chergo, another difference-maker could be senior Sarah Faller, who has tasted success at Denver before and should help her fellow teammates improve and reach their goals. “She’s been on winning teams in the last few years,” Chergo said. “She has leadership and the drive to be great.”

Bottom line: It’s hard to see Denver take a big leap up the rankings unless their incoming freshman make an instant impact. Melissa Martin will be a steady scorer for the Pioneers, but the team still lacks a true No. 1. Denver has owned the Sun Belt Conference, but Florida International and North Texas are gaining ground. The Pioneers again will earn an invite to the postseason, but they will have difficulty winning the Sun Belt Championship for a ninth consecutive year.

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