Central Florida climbs rankings with deep roster

UCF's Ashley Holder has made big contributions for the Knights this fall.

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Like all good coaches, Emily Marron knows that the key to success is in a competitive schedule. It’s that thinking that led Marron’s Central Florida team west last week, to the Edean Ihlanfelt Invitational in Sammamish, Wash.

A few of Marron’s southerners saw hail for the first time in their lives while the rest of the field “acted like we were from a different planet,” Marron explains with a chuckle. UCF finished third, behind Pac-12 teams Stanford and Washington, the host.

“We went out there just to test ourselves against the West Coast teams,” said Marron, in her second season at UCF.

Marron looked at the postseason schedule ages ago, and found that the NCAA West Regional will be played at Tumble Creek at Suncadia Resort in Ce Elum, Wash.

“You never know if we get sent out in May,” she said. The Ihlanfeldt was a good just-in-case tournament, and UCF’s top-3 finish ties its best this season. The Knights also were third at the season-opening “Mo”Morial and fifth at the Merecedes Benz. They’re No. 22 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking, led by two new additions to the roster. Fanny Cnops, a junior transfer from North Carolina-Greensboro, is No. 66 and freshman Ashley Holder is No. 86.

Every climb in the ranking helps UCF garner a little more attention, which ultimately makes Marron’s job of building next year’s schedule a little easier.

“It’s hard for UCF,” she said. “We’re not a brand like these other teams.”

It also helps in recruiting. Marron used to be the easiest coach to spot at junior tournaments thanks to her day-glo yellow sneakers. She’s since retired those, and uses the university’s Orlando, Fla., base to her advantage. Orlando is a golf hub, and a good place for aspiring professionals – both players and industry members – to land.

UCF will end the fall season in Las Vegas on Oct. 27-29. The Knights are the highest-ranked team in the field at UNLV’s tournament, which is a stat Marron uses as a motivator.

“If we don’t win,” she said, “then we’ll drop in the rankings.”

The Knights should have their best lineup by the time they reach Las Vegas. Junior Monifa Sealy had to sit out of the Ihlanfeldt with an injured shoulder. The team’s finish says something about the depth of Marron’s roster. The addition of Holder, who Marron calls a “stress-free” freshman has been big for UCF. Then there’s the “Fanny factor.”

Marron recruited Cnops, from Belgium, while at North Carolina-Greensboro. Cnops then followed her old coach to UCF this year.

Cnops is a former Southern Conference freshman of the year who maintains high expectations for her career. Still, she’s the rare player, Marron says, who roots harder for her teammates than for herself.

“Depth is what makes you good,” Marron says in describing her team.

Single-minded pursuit of goals can have the same effect. Cnops and Holder are good candidates to become UCF’s first All-Americans in program history. There’s another team goal on the table, too. UCF has never garnered an NCAA Championship berth.

It could be a season of falling records in Orlando.

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