Women's spring preview: Mid-American Conference

Eastern Michigan's Alyssa Kwon

Eastern Michigan's Alyssa Kwon

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2Annie ParkUSC  69.73 
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The Mid-American Conference history books are consistent. Kent State has dominated the women's conference championship in the past, but there is another team on the rise behind the Golden Flashes.

For the past eight years, Eastern Michigan head coach Sandy Wagner has been delivering an equally consistent message to her players.

“Ever since I took this job eight years ago, I’ve been preaching to the kids that this will one day be a top-50 program,” Wagner said.

It’s getting closer.

Eastern Michigan returned this fall after what Wagner calls one of the best seasons in program history. The Eagles won three times in the 2011-12 season, and earned runner-up honors twice more. The only difference this fall was that all five players never combined on the same day to put up a winning team score. Wagner has worked hard to get her players thinking about their respective roles on the team. Eastern Michigan lost only one player at the end of last season, so there is familiarity on this roster.

As Eastern Michigan is on the rise, so is the rest of the Mid-American Conference. Together with Wagner’s goal to find a spot in the top 50 – which likely would get the Eagles into postseason play without having to depend on the automatic qualifier that comes with winning the conference championship – is the aim to disrupt Kent State’s long streak of Mid-American titles.

“They’ve got a target on their back,” Wagner said of Kent State.

In the meantime, Eastern Michigan embarks on the second half of its schedule, which includes team-favorite stops at the Red Rocks Invitational and Rio Verde Invitational. The Eagles have seen every tournament venue on their spring schedule except one: the Jim West Challenge in Blanco, Texas. It’s more familiarity for this team. Perhaps it could start a familiar streak of its own on the pages of the Mid-American Conference record books.

• • •

Where is stands now

Top of the class: Kent State

Best player in the fall: Josee Doyon, Kent State

• • •

Past champions

2008: Kent State

2009: Kent State

2010: Kent State

2011: Kent State

2012: Kent State

• • •

Conference capsules

Kent State (Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: No. 75)

The past two years have been rough on head coach Mik Morrow, graduation-wise. Lost some of the top players in program history, including Martina Gavier in the spring of 2011, then a trio of seniors in 2012 that included Mercedes Germino, Shamira Marshall and (daughter) Mandi Morrow.

Eastern Michigan (No. 92)

The Eagles won three times during the 2011-12 season, and were runners-up twice more. That said, the team should have been more of a factor at the conference championship. That could be this year’s story, especially since there were no seniors on last year’s squad.

Toledo (No. 108)

Varied fall schedule included stops at the Mary Fossum, MAC Preview and Rainbow Wahine. Won the 15-team Redbird Invitational to start the season, and was runner-up at the Rainbow Wahine to end it.

Ball State (No. 113)

Most important among Ball State’s three fall victories was the MAC Preview at this spring’s conference championship venue. This is a close and gritty squad, and has the mettle to break Kent State’s MAC streak.

Bowling Green (No. 133)

Only once in six fall starts did Bowling Green finish outside the top 2 – that was at the Mary Fossum Invitational (13th of 17). Perhaps one of the best fall records in program history. Still, Bowling Green knows how to play in contention and knows how to win.

Western Michigan (No. 150)

Best performance was at the Cardinal Classic, where Western Michigan finished second of 12 teams. Also scored well in the final two rounds of the Nittany Lion Women’s Invitational. The Broncos got close to scoring below 300 as a team in the fall, and could make it happen in the spring.

Akron (No. 160)

It bodes well for the Zips that their best finish of the fall was at the MAC Preview, where they finished fifth out of 15 teams.

Northern Illinois (No. 198)

Top-5 finishes in first two events to start the spring signal a good start. Now the Huskies need to resume that pace in the spring.

Ohio (No. 203)

Has fallen 24 spots in the rankings since this time last year. Should be noted, however, that Ohio has the highest team GPA in Division I golf.

Conference championship

April 26-28, Longaberger GC, Nashport, Ohio

Lance Ringler's prediction

Kent State. While the gap has closed this year between Kent State and the rest of the league, the Golden Flashes have won EVERY Mid-American Conference title, enough said.

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