WWU eyes return to post-season play
Sept. 11, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Led by Claire Rachor (Sr., Bellingham), the 2012 conference Player of the Year, the Western Washington University women's golf team is focused on returning to post-season play following its first miss in 10 years.
Last season, the Vikings won a second straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship, but narrowly missed out on a berth in the regional tournament.
Prior to 2011-12, WWU had reached post-season play nine straight years, five of them ending at the NCAA Division II National Championships.
"As always, we're setting our goals high this season," said coach Bo Stephan (8th year), who was named GNAC Coach of the Year for the second straight time. "The girls are excited to have an opportunity to get back in action and play their way back into a situation where they can receive a postseason bid. We've got a lot of great experience back, and a talented group of newcomers who are excited about getting an opportunity to contribute."
Twice a first-team GNAC all-star, Rachor averaged a team-leading 77.3 strokes per match last fall. She led a 1-2-3 sweep for the Vikings in a 19-stroke victory at the 2012 conference tournament.
"Claire had a great season last year and really did deserve a chance to play in the postseason," Stephan said. "Her leadership ability will be invaluable this year." Graduation claimed two first-team GNAC all-stars from last year's squad, Alexandria Taylor and Sophie Elstrott. They placed second and third, respectively, at the conference tournament.
Besides, Rachor, two other seniors back for the Vikings, are Kara Zitzman (Woodinville/Redmond), twice a second-team GNAC all-star, and sophomore Anna Bourland (Bainbridge). Also returning is redshirt freshman Emily Koryto (East Lansing, MI).
WWU is relying on a pair of transfers and a freshman to offset its graduation losses.
Joining the Vikings are junior Katya Case (Enumclaw), the 2012 Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges medalist at Bellevue CC; senior Kalee Gibbons (Molalla, OR), a three-year letter winner at Idaho State; and Kristen Hansen (Spokane/Mead), who tied for eighth place at the 2012 Class 4A state tournament.
"Katya (Case) has tremendous experience and a great demeanor on the golf course," said Stephan, "and Kalee (Gibbons) seems very happy about a change of scenery her senior year and I know she will provide good leadership on the team as well.
"Kristen (Hansen) was a great addition to our team and will be our only freshman this year. She was a great player at the high school level and I look for her to provide an immediate contribution to the team."
WWU is ranked No.23 in the Golf World National Golf Coaches Association NCAA II Preseason Coaches' Poll.
The Vikings open the fall portion of their season at the Angelo State Invitational on Sept. 17-18.
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