Saint Mary’s golf entered the spring season with a chip on their shoulder. The Belles are customized to be the class of the MIAA. However, they finished third in both the MIAA Jamboree events in September and October.
“We didn’t play up to our ability in the fall. But they worked hard this offseason, ”said good Coach Jordan Koehler.
The Belles were also boosted by a tough schedule throughout the spring. They started off at the Washington University Spring Invitational in early April. They shot two of their better rounds of the spring then, finishing tenth in a very competitive field. The Belles continued playing in tough fields without the spring, and the loaded spring schedule prepared the three-time Defending conference Champions for this past weekend.
“We played a really tough spring schedule so I think that really helped us prepare for the last week of the conference,” Koehler noted. “Really good showing by our team. We had three of our best rounds of the spring this weekend. ”
Koehler singled out a couple of big-time individual performances for the Belles. Junior Isa Patacsil struggled in the first of the three conference tournament rounds. The Belles still jumped out to a 17-shot lead. Patacsil jumped back into the action with a career-best 78 on Friday afternoon in terrible weather conditions. “It was pouring rain about two-thirds of the round on Friday,” Koehler said. “Isa was able to lock in and find her focus and rhythm over the last two days.” Patacsil then fired a 77 on Saturday in the Belles’ clinching round.
Saint Mary’s Lone senior Sydney Hruskoci topped the individual Leaderboard in rounds one and three. She tied Belles’ junior Erin Bennett’s 80 on day 1. On the final round, Hruskoci cleaned up with a 74. “She’ll be the first to tell you she hasn’t had the spring season she was necessarily hoping for,” Koehler commented on Hruskoci. “Really came through for us, especially Yesterday. 74 is what she is capable of. ”
Meanwhile, Bennett fired two more top-10 individual rounds with an 85 and an 82 over the final two rounds. Sophomore Haley Angel put Forth three consistent rounds. She shot 82, 81 and 78, never finishing outside the top-three individual finishers. Junior Katherin Hopkins never finished outside the top-10 with three rounds of 81, 83 and 84.
The Belles won all three rounds of the event and set a conference record with a 960 over the three rounds. It broke Hope College’s previous record of 962. Over three rounds, Saint Mary’s ousted Hope by 56 strokes to cruise to the NCAA Tournament qualification. The Belles accomplished the feat with just one senior and a lot of inexperience.
“The biggest thing is getting everyone on our roster of experience. The three Juniors in my top five basically have the experience my freshmen do [due to COVID], ”Koehler said. “This is basically their first full golf season. The more tournament rounds and experience they get under their belts, the more confident they get. ”
Now, it’s to another NCAA Tournament for the Belles. Excluding the canceled 2020 tournament, it’s Saint Mary’s fourth straight tournament. Their best finish in that stretch is 14th. The Belles finished 17th last year, not making the cut. The top 15 teams qualify for the fourth and final round. Koehler emphasized the need for improving their short game ahead of their final tournament of the spring. “Chipping and putting. The course in Houston demands that you’re hitting greens, ”Koehler affirmed. “If you’re not, you’ll have some difficult ups and downs. It’ll demand a lot from our short game. ”
If the Belles can lock in their short game, they’ll be eyeing their best-ever NCAA Tournament finish. “Most of the pressure is off, but the job is not done. We definitely want to make the cut, ”Koehler said.