Women's spring preview: Missouri Valley
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 Missouri Valley Conference:
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5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Top of the class: Illinois State
• Player to watch: Danielle Lemek, Bradley. The sophomore led the Missouri Valley in scoring average by more than two shots during the fall.
• Freshman to watch: Maria Alejandra Villalobos, Wichita State. If she continues to build on her success during the fall, the Shockers could be a formidable team come conference-championship time.
• Conference championship: April 20-22, Panther Creek GC, Springfield, Ill.
• Past champions (since 2009): Illinois State (2013), Missouri State (2012), Illinois State (2009-11)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
- Illinois State (133): The Redbirds, winners of five of the past six conference titles, finished ahead of four conference foes en route to a fourth-place showing at the Redbird Invitational to start the fall. And while the results after that weren’t good, Illinois State did play the 108th toughest fall schedule in the country. Senior Rachel Powers, and juniors Hayley Guyton and Brianna Cooper are as good a trio as you’ll find in the Missouri Valley.
- Missouri State (151): Depth is a strength for Missouri State and it starts with junior Megan Thompson, who finished the fall ranked 438th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. As a team, Missouri State finished sixth or better in three fall events before a tough 17th-place finish at the competitive Palmetto Intercollegiate.
- Wichita State (154): The Shockers went 10-4 against conference foes during the fall, and finished ahead of Missouri State twice, as well. This is a young team, though, led by sophomores Meghan Schuetz and Bryce Schroeder, and freshman Maria Alejandra Villalobos.
- Southern Illinois (156): The Salukis boast some depth, led by senior Cassie Rushing, and that translated into two team titles during the fall, at the UMKC Fall Invitational and the Blue Raider Intercollegiate.
- Bradley (170): Sophomore Danielle Lemek, Golfweek’s 323rd-ranked individual, was statistically the best player in the conference during the fall, posting a 73.25 scoring average and winning the UMKC Fall Invitational. As a team, Bradley began the fall with two top 5s before finishing outside the top 10 in its final two fall events.
- Northern Iowa (173): Northern Iowa didn’t finish better than seventh in its first four fall events, but a third-place showing at the Braun Intercollegiate gives this team some momentum going into the spring.
- Indiana State (175): Indiana State had four straight top 5s to start the fall, including three finishes of third or better, but tied for sixth and finished last among participating conference teams at the Braun Intercollegiate.
- Evansville (198): Evansville finished inside the top 5 in all but one of it fall tournaments, but it also played the 226th toughest fall schedule in the country. Freshman Kayla Katterhenry led the team in scoring average during the fall.
- Drake (202): The Bulldogs notched just one top 5 in five fall events. Senior Hadley Jennings led the team in scoring average during the fall.
- Loyola (213): Loyola finished the fall with the conference’s worst team scoring average, but it did close the fall with a bang by winning the Braun Intercollegiate.
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LANCE RINGLER'S TAKE
Each year this is the biggest event on the schedule for MVC women’s teams. It’s simple: win and you get in to NCAA regional play. And judging by the fall season, there are a number of teams who could win the MVC. The favorite is Illinois State, but if the Redbirds slip at all there are as many as six teams that could challenge for the MVC AQ in April.