Western starts season with eye toward nationals
Sept. 19, 2009
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
JOE SUNNEN - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
When the Western Washington University men's and women's golf teams tee off the fall season in the next two weeks in Arizona and Lacey, they will do so with the same goal of reaching the NCAA Division II National Tournament in the spring.
After each narrowly missed out on a trip a year ago, there's an even greater sense of urgency to finish the season competing for a championship and for returning the programs to national prominence.
"We're trying to establish ourselves as one of the elite programs in the nation," WWU men's coach Steve Card said in a phone interview. "I think we were there a couple of years ago, but we've dropped out of that level since. We belong in the upper echelon."
Members of the women's program feel the same way. The Vikings appeared poised to challenge for a national title last season until a disastrous final three holes at the NCAA Div. II West Super Regional saw their season end as they fell from second to fifth place. With a nice mix of youth and experience the WWU women think they can make another run.
"The way last season ended was heartbreaking," senior Breanna Carmichael said in a phone interview. "Our goal is to make it to nationals as a team. I think we can do it. I think we're a more balanced team than last season and that's going to help."
If either team is going to get out of the regional round this time around, balance will be the key. Both teams graduated their low-shooting superstars - Jake Koppenberg on the men's side, Kaitlin Parker on the women's - and each is hoping greater consistency will help replace their scorecard leaders.
"We don't have that one player who is going to shoot in the 70 to 71 range every time out anymore," Card said. "But I do think we do have four or five players who can shoot in that 72-73-74 range. That's what we're going to have to do to compete at the level we hope to."
Both teams are also welcoming some high-profile transfers with ties to the area who could make an immediate impact. The women's team added former Bellingham High School standout Katie Sharpe, who comes to WWU from Santa Clara University. Another former Red Raider, freshman Claire Rachor is also on the team.
"I'm very optimistic for this year," WWU women's coach Bo Stephan said in a phone interview. "I think we have a very talented group. Obviously the goal is just to keep building and improving each week."
Playing for the men's team this year will be former Burlington-Edison standout Xavier Dailly, who comes in from Washington State University. Both join solid groups and make the competition for playing time that much tougher.
"I really want to start off hot and help this team right away," Dailly said in a phone interview. "I really want to play a big role in helping this team get back to nationals."
The biggest challenge for both teams, at least in the early going, might be figuring out which five will be competing at each tournament. Both coaches expect good competition for traveling spots and both think it will make their teams better.
"We have 10 quality players and when you can only play five that means there is going to be some good competition for those spots," Stephan said. "There is going to be some shakeups this year, but I think that will be good."
If it helps the Vikings reach the national tournament they likely won't care. They'll take their first step toward that goal in the next two weeks.
"We are all very excited about this season," Carmichael said.
Western Washington Vikings Sidebar Links
|Email this article||Printer-friendly format|