Women's spring preview: WAC

Univeristy of Denver head coach Sammie Chergo watches her players at No. 9 during the 2009 NCAA Women's Golf Championships at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md.

In a conversation about conference powerhouses, Denver figures in prominently – or used to, at least. The Pioneers have won the past nine Sun Belt Conference Championships. This year, they’ve moved to the Western Athletic Conference.

Denver led the conference in the fall, but must figure Texas San Antonio and Texas State will prevent an easy postseason berth via the league AQ. Something else to consider: Veteran head coach Sammie Chergo will not return this spring. That puts a wrinkle in the team’s spring outlook, but only a minor one.

Chergo has been with this team for 15 years – since the Pioneers made the transition from a Division II program with no tradition to a mid-major powerhouse. Her ability to grow the program from the ground up is something of which to take note. It’s why opponents should heed her parting words that this team is mature enough to find success this spring without her.

“Meeting with my team yesterday was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Chergo said Feb. 4, the morning after her final player meeting. “They’re motivated and they’re resilient.”

Indeed, take a look at the team roster. Junior Tonje Daffinrud is the highest ranked player in the conference, sophomore Rachael Watton contributed a team score in all but one of 12 fall rounds and freshman Elyse Smidinger arrived in the mountains after dominating junior and amateur golf in Maryland. As a whole, the group is consistent. In four fall starts, the team score didn’t vary by more than six shots.

As for Chergo, no word yet on what the future may hold. The morning after last week’s final team meeting, Chergo woke up and, instead of dressing in her normal khakis and polo shirt, put on jeans and a Denver Golf t-shirt. Even as she starts a new chapter in her life, Chergo won’t completely turn her back on the Pioneers.

Don’t expect Denver to come up a bit short of its potential.

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Where it stands now

Top of the class: Denver

Best player in the fall: Tonje Daffinrud, Denver

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Past champions

2008: Fresno State

2009: San Jose State

2010: San Jose State

2011: San Jose State

2012: San Jose State

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Conference capsules

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