Two years ago the Seton Hall women’s golf team was not much to think about. Now, they’re trying to defend their Big East crown.
The team will participate in the 2015 Big East Women’s Golf Championship at the LPGA International course in Daytona, Fla., with hopes of reclaiming the title they won last season.
On their mind?
Not so much.
“Theres no way it can’t be in your mind, in a good way though, not pressure,” head coach Sara Doell said. “It’s the excitement around last year and what we did and we know what it feels like to win. We know what it feels like to lead wire to wire and I think it’s good to remember that we did it and we can do it. So it’s definitely in our minds—in a positive way, I don’t think it’s added pressure.”
This season has been a unique one for the Pirates. The goal has transitioned from improvement to how they can top last year’s unforgettable campaign. It is something that has been the topic of discussion all season for Doell and her team.
“We’ve talked about it a lot,” Doell said. “In the beginning of the year we discussed how everyone was going to say, ‘Are you going to win Big East again?,’ we talked about staying in the moment, staying in the present and since then we’ve won three tournaments, we’ve had two individual winners and we’ve just been focusing on the even that it’s on and this is what we’ve been practicing for—to get to this moment right here.”
The Pirates, who will garnish the one-seed in this year’s tournament, are led by seniors Ali Kruse and Erin McClure, who are two of the five returning members of last year’s championship team. They are two that have helped guide this team, along with Doell, through this year’s season.
“Ali and Erin, our two outgoing seniors, have led by example more than words,” Doell said. “They’ve played solid, they’ve had great attitudes, they’ve been really strong leaders.”
But for Kruse and McClure, this tournament marks the end of their respective careers at Seton Hall. But it is also a time to reflect on how far they have come with the program, as well as how much the program itself has grown.
“Freshman year I was struggling to make the starting five at times, and to transition here and see this team go from last in the Big East basically to winning last year and being favored to win this year, it’s been great to see us improve and see myself improve as the team improves as well,” Kruse said.
While the team is undoubtedly led by seniors Kruse and McClure, a lot of the team’s success stems from the head coach.
“It’s pretty incredible,” McClure said. “Coach has done a great job, we work really hard as team not only on the course but off the course and in the classroom and workouts. All that ties into the way we play and I think that building the team that we have right now we’re in a really good place and it’s exciting to see what we’re going to do next.”
What’s next, as McClure hinted at, is the quest to defend the title, which will not be easy according to Doell.
“Not only did we win last year but we’re ranked number one going in (to this tournament), so we have a big X on our backs,” Doell said. “But, I really feel that we’re going to do a great job. Our seniors have led us all year so I can imagine that (winning the tournament) happening again.”
While the goal is to win, especially in a tournament they have had recent success in, there is a much bigger process Doell is looking at.
“Obviously, we want to win, however, what is most important is that we just stay in the process,” Doell said. “I’m just looking forward to being on this course with them. We love this course and just the good feel we have around it and I’m just looking forward to seeing what they can do. I really believe we have a good chance, it’s just about executing now.”
The championship, which will span 54 holes over three days, begins Thursday, April 15. Each day of the competition will begin at 8 a.m. ET. As always, the winner of the tournament will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Championship.
“I’m just hoping to stay in the moment, stay present and just enjoy every moment of it,” Kruse said.
David Heim can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @davidheim12.