No. 35: UCF men, Kent State women
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. 35 on the board with the Central Florida men and Kent State women.
CENTRAL FLORIDA MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 35
Coach: Bryce Wallor (third year)
Top returnees: Greg Eason, Brad Schneider
Top newcomers:: Freshman McCabe Buege of Rogers, Minn., sophomore Ricardo Gouveia and sophomore Jose Pepito Joia (transfers from Lynn University in Florida).
Projected starting 5: Greg Eason (So.), Brad Schneider (Sr.), rest of spots TBA
Key losses: Connor Arendell and Nuno Henriques
Key fall tournament: Isleworth Collegiate Invitational
2010-11 recap: In Bryce Wallor’s second year as head coach, Central Florida continued to improve under his direction. UCF won three tournaments: the Adams Cup, Rio Pinar Invitational and Conference USA Championship for the third consecutive year. “I was impressed all year long,” Wallor said. “We won again at tournaments we won the year before and improved at every other tournament except one.”
The one tournament where the team failed to improve, however, was its most important one: NCAA regionals. With a T-10 finish, the Knights failed to advance to the NCAA Championship.
Player to watch: Greg Eason. Said Wallor: “Big, strong player who hits a real nice ball with a great ball flight. He is easy to coach and the best listener I have ever worked with as a coach.”
2011-2012 preview: The Knights will undergo a youth movement this year, but the youth they have is extremely talented. Greg Eason was voted the Conference USA Freshman of the Year and ended the season at No. 81 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. The sophomore will be UCF’s No. 1 player this season, and he has the potential to be a top-50 player by the end of this season.
Joining the Knights’ roster this season are two transfers from Lynn University, a top NCAA Division II program in Boca Raton, Fla. Ricardo Gouveia was voted the Division II Freshman of the Year last season, and he and Jose Joia – both from Portugal – were named first-team NCAA Division II All-Americans. “They are two seasoned international players,” Wallor said. “From Week 1 to the finals last year, those two were consistently contributing and turning in good scores.”
For the first time in his young career at UCF, has depth. “We are strong through the 4 and 5 spots this year,” Wallor said. “We’ve been about three deep the last two years, but that’ll be different this year.”
Bottom line: It’s clear that UCF has a go-to guy in Greg Eason, and senior Brad Schneider is a steady No. 2. What’s a little concerning is how wide open the next three roster spots are. If the two Lynn transfers can bring their success from the Division II level to Division I, then UCF could be a sleeper team this year. The Knights undoubtedly will be a postseason team again, but their winning streak in Conference USA could be in jeopardy. There are plenty of question marks in the lineup, but the chances of success are better than disappointment.
KENT STATE WOMEN
2010-11 final ranking: 35
Coach: Mike Morrow (14th year)
Top returnees: Mercedes Germino, Mandi Morrow
Top newcomers:: Freshman Jennifer Ha of Canada, freshman Natalie Goodson of Hudson, Ohio, junior Jackie Yanch (transfer from Indiana)
Projected starting 5: Mercedes Germino (Sr.), Mandi Morrow (Sr.), Shamira Marshall (Sr.), Erin Hawe (So.), Jennifer Ha (Fr.) or Jackie Yanch (Jr.)
Key losses: Martina Gavier, Sarah Bradley
Key fall tournament: Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational
2010-11 recap: Kent State has become one of the most-respected mid-majors in women’s college golf. That tradition continued again last season as the team won its 13th consecutive Mid-American Conference Championship under coach Mike Morrow. The Golden Flashes were selected to play in the NCAA Central Regional, only to see their season come to an end with a disappointing 14th-place finish.
“We were a good college team, but weren’t a great team,” Morrow said. “We never seemed to get three or four people playing at the same time.”
Kent State finished second or third a combined five times but failed to earn a victory until the MAC Championship. The past few seasons, Kent State has shown consistency – final rankings of No. 35 (2011), No. 33 (2010), No. 21 (2009), No. 15 (2008), No. 30 (2007) and No. 21 (2006) – but would like to become a consistent top-20 presence.
Player to watch: Mercedes Germino. Said Morrow of the Argentine: “She’s a real good player. Last year was just average for her, but she had four top 10s and is a top-notch college golfer. . . . You can expect to see big things from her in her senior year.”
2011-2012 preview: For starters, Morrow must find a player who can replace the graduated Martina Gavier. Mandi Morrow, daughter of the coach, is a senior and will be the highest-ranked returnee, having ended last season at No. 184 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Morrow said he will relying on three seniors to continue the program’s successful tradition. “When you have three girls that have played in just about everything for the last three years, then we need them to lead,” Morrow said. “I hope they all have great years, and (that) we can get the other two starters to contribute.”
One newcomer who could have an impact is Jennifer Ha. The freshman from Canada is expected to jump right into the lineup. “I think she’s going to be a consistent performer for us,” Morrow said. “If she and the rest of the pieces fall together, we could be a pretty good team.”
Bottom line: Kent State has been known for years as a solid program, but can’t quite get over the hump and solidify themselves as a top-20 team. This season, Morrow will have his hands full in trying to take that next step. With three experienced seniors, Kent State shouldn’t have trouble holding its own in bigger events. But for the Flashes to make a splash and earn a trip to nationals, they have to turn in four good scores per round, not just two or three like last season.