College Women

Women's spring preview: Southland Conference

Oral Roberts' Alheli Moreno
Oral Roberts' Alheli Moreno ( Courtesy Oral Roberts Athletics )

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

For the past two years, conferences across the country have been shaken up as teams shuffle in and out. In the Southland Conference, an opportunity opened up when the top two teams in the league – Texas State (ranked No. 37 by Golfweek) and Texas San Antonio (No. 41) – left for the Western Athletic Conference.

Still, the Southland might have one of the most interesting new dynamics of any conference in the country. With two powerhouses gone, another moved in to potentially take its place this year. Oral Roberts joined the Southland after winning 14 consecutive Summit League Championships. That’s every championship since women’s golf was added to the league in 1998.

The scouting report on Oral Roberts is varied after the fall. The team didn’t win, but a runner-up finished at its own ORU Shootout and a third-place finish at the MSU/Payne Stewart Memorial signal good things. In four fall starts, Oral Roberts only saw five Southland teams. Lamar twice finished ahead of the Golden Eagles, but that’s the only conference team that Oral Roberts didn’t outscore.

Oral Roberts lost five seniors at the end of last season, but youth looked good on the Golden Eagles this fall. Three players on this year’s roster averaged just above the 77 mark, and within a few tenths of each other, to lead the team. One of those players, Alheli Moreno, was among Oral Roberts’ top 5 scorers last season.

The Golden Eagles need the Southland AQ to continue its streak of postseason appearances. That bid into NCAA Regionals has yet to translate to a spot in the NCAA Championship. It should be the next item on the Oral Roberts to-do list.

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Where it stands now

Top of the class: Central Arkansas

Best player in the fall: Julia Roth, Central Arkansas

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Past champions

2008: Texas State

2009: Texas A&M Corpus Christi

2010: Texas State

2011: Texas San Antonio

2012: Texas San Antonio

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Conference capsules

Central Arkansas (Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: No. 93)

A very strong season for the Bears. Finished second at the Golfweek Conference Challenge then won the Drake Creek Invitational and the Lady Red Wolf Classic. With Texas State and Texas San Antonio out of the conference, Central Arkansas seems the heir apparent.

Texas A&M - Corpus Christi (No. 104)

The highlight of a varied fall schedule, which included stops in Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida, was a runner-up at the Harold Funston Invitational in Huntsville, Texas. Still, only one player (Vanessa Johnson) ranked inside top 500.

Lamar (No. 107)

Won the Oral Roberts Shootout, and also garnered an impressive third-place finish at the Chris Bannister Gamecock Classic.

Oral Roberts (No. 120)

Finished runner-up to Lamar at is own Oral Roberts Shootout. New member of the Southland Conference after leaving Summit League last season. Earned that league’s AQ in 2012 for the 15th consecutive season.

Sam Houston State (No. 125)

Shelby Hardy is a bright spot on this roster. The senior won her fifth individual title at the Alabama-Birmingham Fall Beach Bash, becoming the winningest golfer in Sam Houston history.

McNeese State (No. 138)

Best finish of the fall was at the Hatter Classic to end the season. Lina Langergren is the best player on this squad. She was the low Cowgirl in every event but one. Lots of players on this roster.

Stephen F. Austin (No. 186)

Some work to do to become a contender in the spring. Only finished in the top half in two of four events this fall.

Conference championship

April 15-17, Frisco Lakes GC, Frisco, Texas

Lance Ringler's prediction

Lamar. This will be close. Central Arkansas has the best player in the league in Julia Roth, however Lamar is the deepest team and that will be helpful come conference championship time. Winning the league title is the only way for a team in this conference to get to the postseason. A lot at stake in Frisco, Texas in mid-April. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.