The Seton Hall women’s golf team is one day away from kicking off the Big East Championships on April 20, an event the Pirates have won three of the last four years.
Building up to this contest, the Hall turned in a season with three first-place finishes. The team also took part in the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational in Columbus, Ohio on April 14.
The Pirates were just a few hours away from Canton, Ohio, known as the home of the N.F.L. Hall of Fame, but for the Pirates, it is home to senior superstar Cassie Pantelas. Perhaps it is fitting, considering Pantelas may be on her way to a spot in the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Lady Buckeye Invitational was not the first time Pantelas played close to home, but the timing of it offered a chance to compete in her penultimate tournament in the area where it all began.
“It definitely was a nice homecoming, as a senior, to start where I am began everything,” Pantelas said. “It was a good time. I had a huge entourage; my brothers came, my aunt and uncle, my mom and dad, and then, a couple of my friends.”
The trip proved to be a refreshing moment of nostalgia and a call to Pantelas’ roots, which may be all she needs as she prepares for her final Big East Championship.
The Canton native was an underclassman for Seton Hall’s two Big East titles in 2015 and 2016; however, this season, she will be providing a veteran perspective for her teammates. The tournament may be her last, but her preparations have not changed and her outlook remains consistent.
“I don’t think I’m preparing any differently other than going into it knowing that I’m going to get to have fun and shine through after three years of the underclassmen role, and helping lead the team to a Big East Championship is what I’m looking forward to do,” Pantelas said.
Leading will be no issue to the collected and calm Pantelas, who has amassed double digit top 10 places and more than five top 5 finishes in her collegiate career.
Four years of collegiate golf has shown Pantelas that as much of an individual sport as golf is, that teammates, however young, are crucial to a team’s true success.
“We rely heavily on the underclassmen,” Pantelas said. “They’ve done a phenomenal job this year and last year. And going into the Big East Tournament, I think it’ll be great to have myself and the three sophomores who got the experience last year, and Mia [Kness], who’s a freshman. She’s just nice and steady all the way around.”
Pantelas has been a staple of the program, but as she prepares to depart, the team is being placed in hands of Kness and the rising juniors, who have proven throughout the season with multiple impressive performances the ability they have to lead moving forward.
Last year, Pantelas and some of this season’s impact golfers broke a three-year Big East Championship win streak with a fifth-place finish. For Pantelas, this was no indicator of the team taking a wrong turn.
It was instead a case of the team trying to integrate five new golfers into the seven-person team, without losing the culture of what had made the program successful for three seasons. To do that, though, took time.
“I think there’s a lot of times where you have rebuilding years where you might just take a bit of a turn,” Pantelas said. “But [we were] never really off track with the process and what we’re trying to do here at Seton Hall, especially in women’s golf, which is to stay true to our game, work hard, be determined, and ultimately have fun.
“I think this year we’ve magnified those, highlighted them and tried to really stay with our process throughout. If we do that going into the Big East Tournament, I think we’ll have nothing but success.”
The Pirates are likely to continue to grow in the post-Pantelas era, as Pantelas leaves as another program-impact senior. Despite her excitement for the event, the Big East Championship may not be Pantelas’ swan song if the Pirates emulate the success of her sophomore season and move on to more post-season play.
“I’m really excited, I think it’ll be nice – I don’t want to say ending because I’m looking forward to go to regionals after,” Pantelas said.
If she has anything to say about it, the Big East Championship will not be Pantelas’ last collegiate swing. Her combination of charisma and demeanor may be tough to fill, but from April 20-22, Pantelas and the Pirates will have at least one more chance to compete together before a new era of women’s golf at Seton Hall.
Kyle Kasharian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ItsKyleKash.