May 2, 2011
CONWAY, S.C. – The Coastal Carolina women’s golf team begins its quest for its first trip to the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships when the Chanticleers take part in the NCAA East Regional May 5-7 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The East Regional, hosted by Stetson University, will be played at the LPGA International Golf Course May 5-7.
“I am really proud of the girls and their commitment this season,” Coastal Carolina head coach Katie Quinney said. “Going to Regionals for the third year in a row has been a goal of ours and now we need to put all our efforts towards advancing to the National Championship.”
This marks the fourth NCAA Regional appearance for the Chanticleers, who also earned a bid in 2005 prior to this string of three straight. It was also be the fourth time Coastal has competed at the NCAA East Regional.
“Daytona is by far the most familiar of the three regional sites because most of our girls have competed on the course before,” Quinney said. “Kaitlin (Higginbotham) played two Junior College National Championships there. It should also offer us the most familiar practice and competition conditions that we have had throughout the majority of the season.”
The NCAA East Regional field will feature some of the toughest competition of all the three sites. Third-ranked Alabama and fourth-ranked defending national champion Purdue lead a field that contains four Top 10 teams, eight from the Top 25 and 17 from the Top 50 as determined by the latest GolfStat.com rankings. No. 9 California, No. 10 Arizona State (winner of seven NCAA championships, including 2009), No. 17 Auburn (SEC champions), No. 18 Michigan State (Big 10 champions), No. 21 Vanderbilt, No. 22 North Carolina (ACC champions), No. 26 Florida, No. 29 Florida State, No. 31 Colorado, No. 34 TCU (Mountain West champions), No. 37 Louisville, No. 41 Mississippi, No. 44 FIU, No. 46 Texas Tech and No. 50 Coastal Carolina (Big South champions) are the other GolfStat Top 50 teams competing this weekend.
At-large selections Augusta State and Kentucky join A-Sun champion Stetson, Ivy League champion Yale, CAA champion UNC Wilmington, NEC champion Fairleigh Dickinson and SWAC champion Alabama State in completing the East Regional competition group. The six individual selections allocated to the East are Shena Yang (USF), Charlotte Lorentzen (Georgia State), Stefanie Kenoyer (Furman), Kelly Shon (Princeton), Maria Ronderos (Miami [Fla.]) and Leigh Whittaker (College of Charleston).
From this group, Purdue, Alabama, Arizona State, Vanderbilt, Florida State, Auburn and TCU all advanced to the 2010 NCAA championship round.
“The field seems to be the strongest of the three sites, but we have competed well against the majority of the teams,” Quinney added. “We are the 17th seed, but I believe our ability and potential at LPGA International gives us a great chance for enough upsets to advance.”
A total of 24 teams (eight from each regional) and six individuals (two from each regional) will advance to the finals. The championship finals will be held May 16-21 at the Traditions Club in College Station, Texas and will be hosted by the Texas A&M University.
“I believe that if we stay focused and relaxed, our best games will come through,” Quinney said. “This team has shown more than enough capabilities on very difficult golf courses with tough fields to know they have the talent to finish in the top eight.”
Below is a question and answer session with Quinney prior to the team’s departure for the NCAA East Regional.
What was the reaction of the team when the field was announced?
“They were actually at the Coastal Carolina Student-Athlete Excellence Awards Banquet, so I had to send a text to Sarah Sargent so that everybody would know. I do know that everyone was excited to go to the East Regional because we are much more comfortable in that area. The grass, the conditions and the heat will be very similar to what we are used to when we practice everyday and that should be a help.”
How would you describe the mindset of the team after a week of practice?
“I think everybody is actually pretty relaxed and I feel a lot better about their overall attitude this year as opposed to last year. We’re just trying to work around their academic schedules right now, but I think they are getting pretty confident and excited about playing.”
What are your thoughts on having such a young team?
“I am not worried at all about taking a young team to regionals. The way Courtney (Boe) went out and played at TPC on her way to winning the tournament says a lot about what type of player she is. Hopefully, she can draw a lot of confidence from that and the fact that she has been under par in several rounds this year. I expect her to help embrace our role as the underdog and go out and have a great tournament.”
What is the plan for the week?
“The girls finish finals Tuesday by 11 a.m., and we are going to practice for a while before we leave for Daytona. Hopefully, we will play a practice round close to noon on Wednesday, which is not the best time, but we will make the best of it. Then on Thursday we tee off at 12:30 p.m., so we have the late early start. It will all just depend on the wind and if it rains. It might be the best scenario to tee off late early, but it also might turn out to be a disadvantage. Nevertheless, we just have to play our best and stay relaxed and execute our game plan. We know we are good enough to make nationals as long as we just play our game and continue to do what we have done all year.”
What are some advantages you think you have?
“We are a young team and I think you can always draw on youth. Not many people would expect to see such a young team make it to nationals, but we hope to use that mindset to our advantage. Our girls always seem to play well anywhere in Florida and they never look out of their element at all. I just think going down to a place we have been before and playing in conditions we are used to should be beneficial to us. I expect some of the girls to have their families out there for support, which should allow them to play much more comfortable and relaxed.”
What is the key to reaching nationals?
“I think if we have a scenario where one of the girls has a great first round and really gets under par that it will give everyone a lot of confidence. Last year, our first six holes were not our best golf and they didn’t ever look like they were comfortable. We just need to come out and have a good first round where we feel like we are still in it. Obviously, you’re not going to win it on the first day, but you can dig yourself in a deep enough hole where you need a miracle to get out off. That is kind of what we did last year.”
How familiar are the girls with the course?
“Kaitlin (Higginbotham) has probably played it the most since she played her junior college championships out there. I know she really loves the course and is very excited about the opportunity. She really feels confident and comfortable on the course, which is another advantage we can use. Jessica (Alexander) and Brittany (Henderson) are also very comfortable on that course, and Alicia (Grier) has played the course and loves it as well. I just think we will go into competition feeling like we will have a little bit of a leg-up on some of the other teams.”
How satisfying has it been for you to take three straight teams to regionals?
“It’s been a lot of fun. The first year we went was the first time Coastal had been in a while, so it was kind of a new experience for everyone. Each year our seed has improved and have gone in a little bit more confident and prepared. Going to nationals is something these girls deserve, and I hope their hard work pays off.”
What does all this success say about the state of the program?
“I hope it says we are moving in the right direction. I know the last two years we would have reached regionals even without the automatic bid we earned by winning the Big South Championships. That was one of our goals at the beginning of last season. We wanted to have the ranking, have the strength of schedule and play well enough so that when we get to Big South it would just be icing on the cake. This year we had an even better ranking and hopefully next year we can be ranked even higher.”