Women's spring preview: Sun Belt Conference
During the month of January, Golfweek will preview the spring season for each conference. Today, we look at the Sun Belt Conference:
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5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Top of the class: Texas State
• Player to watch: Alison Knowles, Louisiana-Monroe: The sophomore was nearly unstoppable in the fall, leading the conference in scoring average and winning three tournaments. She’s the No. 69 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
• Freshman to watch: Fatima Fernandez Cano, Troy: Cano notched the best scoring average in the conference for a freshman this fall.
• Conference championship: April 14-16, Loxley, Ala.
• Past champions (since 2009): FIU (2013), Denver (2008-2012)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
- Texas State (55): Texas State found its core of four players in the fall as it faced some of the country’s top competition. The four golfers that played all 12 rounds in the fall notched a scoring average between 74.75 and 76.33. Freshman Ali Cowan stepped up in the fall, landing in the top three in terms of scoring average for the team in her first semester. All-WAC selection Iman Nordin returns for the team as well. Texas State heads into Sun Belt play after finishing 3rd in the WAC last year and earning a trip to an NCAA Regional.
- Georgia State (58): Georgia State slated a competitive schedule in the fall and stepped up, nabbing three top 5s in four tournaments. The team features a four-woman senior class. Three of those seniors notched sub-75 scoring averages, including Maria Palacios, who shot two rounds in the 60s. The team looks to make a major jump from its seventh-place showing at the Sun Belt Championships last year.
- Louisiana-Monroe (98): The Warhawks started their stellar fall season with a 13th-place showing, but went on to rail off three wins and a runner-up finish. The team won the Fred Marx Invitational, Arkansas State Tournament and the Steelwood Preview. Sophomore Alison Knowles led the entire Sun Belt in scoring average in the fall at 71.54 and took medalist honors on three separate occasions. She fired a low round of 64 at the Arkansas State Tournament.
- Arkansas State (116): The Red Wolves had solid fall, earning top-5 finishes in three of their four tournaments. The team returns its top performer from last season – sophomore Abi Laker. Lake earned a third-place finish at the Oral Roberts Shootout and led the team in scoring average. The team’s top five golfers played all 12 rounds this fall.
- Troy (125): Troy nabbed two top 5s in the fall, led by junior Langley Vannoy and freshman Fatima Fernandez Cano. None of Troy’s golfers notched a sub-75 scoring average in the fall, but Vannoy and Cano both notched a top-5 finish in the fall. Troy is looking to improve upon its fourth-place finish at the Sun Belt Championship last year.
- South Alabama (126): South Alabama faced tough competition in the fall and its best finish came at the Steelwood Preview (third). The team had only one player post a sub-75 scoring average in the fall – senior Ashleigh Ryals. Ryals was one of three Jaguars to earn a top-10 finish in the fall. Five of the team’s golfers played in all four events.
- Arkansas-Little Rock (144): Arkansas-Little Rock’s most impressive tournament in the fall was a fourth-place showing at the 18-team Oral Roberts Shootout. The team returns all two contributors from its sixth-place showing at the Sun Belt Championship last year. But one of those returning players is junior Sofia Berglund, who earned a top-10 finish at the championship last year and a team-leading scoring average in the fall.
- Western Kentucky (149): The Hilltoppers are a young team – five of their six golfers are underclassmen – but they have talent. Sophomore Ellinor Hagg led the team with a blazing 71.93 scoring average in the fall and five top 5s. Haag led the team in five of its six fall tournaments. The team nabbed four top 5s as a team in tournaments with at least seven teams in the fall after coming in 10th at the Sun Belt Championship last year.