Women's spring preview: Atlantic Sun

East Tennessee State's Sian Evans

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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 Atlantic Sun Conference:

• • •

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

Top of the class: East Tennessee State

Player to watch: Gabriela Wahl, East Tennessee State. The junior from Germany is the best player on the best team in the conference entering the spring.

Freshman to watch: Alessandra Kutz, Stetson. Kutz, ranked 304th by Golfweek, has shined for the Hatters, who have also gotten a sizable contribution from freshman Giula Vandenberg.

Conference championship: April 14-16, Jekyll Island (Ga.) Golf Club

Past champions (since 2009): East Tennessee State (2013), Kennesaw State (2012), Stetson (2009-11)

• • •

CONFERENCE CAPSULES

(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)

  • East Tennessee State (54): The Buccaneers are in good position to defend their A-Sun title this spring after a fall that included five finishes of sixth or better and a victory at the Lady Pirate Intercollegiate. Junior Gabriella Wahl, ranked 187th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, led the team in scoring average (74.8) and didn’t finish worse than T-26 in five fall starts. Seniors Sian Evans and Lourdes Lopez, and sophomore Vivienne Chin give the Bucs a strong, experienced top 4.
  • Mercer (73): The Bears won twice during the fall, at the Eat A Peach Collegiate and the LPGA Invitational, and also had two individuals win titles (Katy Harris and Mary Alice Murphy). Harris and Murphy were two of six Mercer players to log at least eight rounds in the fall. Lacey Fears led the team in scoring average (73.36) and finished the fall ranked 238th by Golfweek. Harris and Murphy were also ranked inside the top 337.
  • Stetson (101): In five fall events, the Hatters finished in the top 5 in four of them, including winning the Hatter Classic to close the fall. Freshman Alessandra Kutz led the team in scoring average (74.21) and her three top-10 finishes were tied with another freshman, Giulia Vandenberg, for the team lead. Two seniors, Mallory Viera and Jenna Hoecker, provide some experience for the Hatters, who won three straight A-Sun titles from 2009-11.
  • Kennesaw State (105): The Owls fielded a lineup of just four players during the fall, competing in just two tournaments and finishing 15th and ninth. The good news is that Kennesaw State will add two transfers this spring in Mette Kryger and Laura Estefenn. They will join a lineup that includes juniors Ines Lescudier, ranked 131st by Golfweek, and Kaew Preamchuen, the Owls’ two leading scorers during the fall.
  • Jacksonville (134): The results could’ve been better – the Dolphins didn’t finish better than seventh in four fall events – but Jacksonville has some talent, including juniors Jessica Welch and Natalie Schmett, who both finished the fall ranked 434th and 577th by Golfweek, respectively.
  • North Florida (152): The Ospreys will be playing with heavy hearts this spring after the death of Tess Huber, who died in a plane crash on Dec. 8. The sophomore was ranked 374th in Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, and led the team in scoring average (75.27) and top 10s (two) during the fall. No other players had sub-78 scoring averages for the Ospreys, who notched just one top 5 as a team in four fall tournaments.
  • Florida Gulf Coast (155): A share of first place at the Eagle Invitational was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing fall. Senior Briana Carlson finished 11th or better three times, including winning medalist honors at the Eagle Invitational, but FGCU had just one other player ranked better than 939th.
  • Lipscomb (195): Junior Samantha Kahn and sophomore Miriam Parker each won an individual title during the fall, and the Bison did finish second twice, but there was still a lot to be desired for a team that played the 231st-ranked fall schedule in the country.
  • South Carolina Upstate (212): Three top 5s in five fall events, but also consider that just one player – junior Rachel Reiling – posted a scoring average better than 80.31 in the fall.
  • Northern Kentucky (218): The Norse finished last twice and did not place better than seventh during the fall.

• • •

LANCE'S TAKE

Lance Ringler weighs in on the conference title race

We have seen upsets in the conference championship here the last couple of years, but East Tennessee State is the favorite now and should be come mid-April.

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