College Women

Women's spring preview: Horizon League

The Detroit women won three times in the fall.
The Detroit women won three times in the fall. ( Courtesy UDM Sports Info )

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Horizon League looks a little different in 2013. Perennial top dog Butler has left the conference, which is good news for the remaining seven teams. By claiming the conference championship the past two years, Butler earned the automatic qualifier spot into postseason. It’s up for grabs this year, and through the fall season, Detroit is the leading candidate to replace Butler.

Detroit has been close to claiming the AQ in the past. After winning its first league championship in 2010, then finishing 23rd at the NCAA Central Regional, Detroit finished with at least a share of runner-up honors the past two years. Detroit is the favorite for new powerhouse status in the Horizon League, but head coach Terri Anthony-Ryan has a scouting report for each of the other six teams in the league.

“I think the conference has really improved over the past few years.,” she said.

The Titans are a good bet for conference hardware because they won three times in the fall, including at their own event. Detroit finished 25 shots ahead of runner-up Youngstown State that week, then beat the Penguins on their turf the following tournament. As leading scorer Lindsey Lammers sat out of the next event, the MAC Preview, Detroit finished last among 15 teams. Anthony-Ryan calls that a “debacle week.” It wasn’t easy to get Lammers, a tough player who had endured two wrist surgeries in the past year, to the sidelines. Lammers had slipped on a wet bridge earlier in the week, and threw out her back.

When not on the injured list, Lammers recorded two individual victories for the Titans this fall. She’s the face of this team, but not the only player whose name you should learn.

“Everyone knows Lindsey, but she has six other players behind her,” Anthony-Ryan said. Four averaged below 80 in the fall.

Anthony-Ryan calls Detroit a better spring team than a fall team, which is good news for the Titans if they want another NCAA Regional bid. The league championship returns to Mission Inn resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., this year, but the tournament will be played on the Las Colinas course instead of the El Campeon course.

“For our mindset, I think it’s good for us,” Anthony-Ryan said of the change of scenery. “But you can’t look past anyone else.”

• • •

Where it stands now

Top of the class: Cleveland State

Best player in the fall: Kelly Voigt, Valparaiso

• • •

Past champions

2008: Butler

2009: Youngstown State

2010: Detroit

2011: Butler

2012: Butler

• • •

Conference capsules

Cleveland State (Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: No. 199)

Highlight of the fall was finishing second at its own Cleveland State Invitational. Twice came one shot short of posting the lowest 18-hole team score in program history.

Detroit (No. 202)

Three victories in four starts this fall. With Butler out of the Horizon League, this team could be poised to take its spot as top dog.

Valparaiso (No. 213)

Saved its best start for last in the fall, finishing second of 17 at the Dayton Invitational. The team broke 18- and 36-hole scoring records en route to that victory.

Loyola-Chicago (No. 215)

Struggled in full-field events. On this short roster, only one player, April Ohlendorf, has an average below 80, but the good news is that all seven players average below 83. A compact roster means inner-team competition, which is never a bad thing.

Youngstown State (No. 218)

Played mostly small-field events in the fall but saw a lot of inner-conference competition, so the Penguins shouldn’t have any surprises by the time they get to the Horizon League Championship this spring.

Wisconsin-Green Bay (No. 247)

Season-best finish came at the Western Illinois Invitational, where Green Bay finished second of five teams. Two Green Bay players finished inside the top 10. A very full fall schedule also included three last-place finishes, which leaves Green Bay room to improve.

Illinois-Chicago (No. 250)

Should work on gaining consistency in the spring season. Interesting fact about this team: It plays and practices out of Cog Hill Country Club, a top course in the Chicago area.

Conference championship

April 26-28, Mission Inn Resort, Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.

Lance Ringler's prediction

Valparaiso. With the departure of Butler, the Horizon League is wide open. It’s possible that just about any team in this league could win the title, but look for Valparaiso to continue to get better under the direction of second-year head coach Mat Blair. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.