Rachor, Vikings hope to return to postseason
Sept. 17, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By ANDREW LANG -- THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Last year's NCAA Division II women's golf postseason felt a bit different.
Regionals weren't the same, nor were nationals.
For the first time in 10 years, the Western Washington University women's golf team concluded its season following the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament.
"In the past, we have been a really good team," Western senior golfer Claire Rachor said in a phone interview. "The community is always so supportive and hopes for the best for us, so we want to show everyone we can (get back to the postseason)."
Rachor knows quite a bit about playing in Whatcom County. She led Bellingham High School to three state titles and won individual state titles in 2008 and 2009.
Now a senior at WWU, Rachor is looking to lead the Vikings back into the postseason picture.
"We have three new faces, and it feels like a brand new year," Rachor said. "After not going to regionals last year, it will be nice to get motivated and achieve our goals this year."
Rachor, the 2012 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year, headlines coach Bo Stephan's roster. Western has two other seniors besides Rachor. Kara Zitzman, a two-time second-team GNAC all-star, gives the Vikings a top-flight talent, and Kalee Gibbons, a three-year letter winner at Idaho State, joins WWU for her final year of eligibility.
"I think Kara and Anna are going to finish well in tournaments," Rachor said. "I've been gone all summer, and just coming back and seeing them play, I'm excited. They seem like they are going to be really strong this year. Kristen Hansen from Spokane looks great. I could say good things about all our players."
Saying the Vikings had a down 2011-12 season is a bit deceptive. Western still won a conference title, but with the string of success the women's golf program has had, not making regionals seems to be a bit of a let down.
"Bo just keeps getting really good players," said Rachor of the success WWU women's golf has had during the last decade. "Good players keep coming through, and the level of competition helps us all."
It has certainly helped Rachor. She was a standout when she stepped foot on WWU's campus, and she has established herself as one of the top players in the region.
Still, top-caliber golfers have their flaws.
"I want to work on my short game and my chipping," Rachor said. "That has always been my weakness. I can always hit the ball really strong."
It's Rachor's mental game that has undergone the largest improvement during her four years at Western.
"I don't feel like I ever have a blowup round," Rachor said. "I am able to keep under control, and that comes with experience, especially at the collegiate level."
In her final year playing in the town she's grown up in, Rachor is trying to make her season a special one.
"It's pretty exciting," Rachor said. "I still can't believe this is my fourth year. It has gone by so fast. I'm really excited to be co-captain with Kara. We've been great friends, and we have been looking forward to this for four years."
After making nationals as a sophomore, Rachor said a return trip to nationals would be the right way to cap of her golf career.
"As a team, I would love to go to nationals," Rachor said. "Kara and I really want to go for our senior year. I would like to be the GNAC Player of the Year again, place in the top five and hopefully be the medalist in the GNAC Tournament."
The Vikings begin their season Monday, Sept. 17, at the Angelo State Concho River Classic in San Angelo, Texas.
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