Women's golf looks to repeat as ACC champions
Cavaliers begin season Friday at Mason Rudolph Championship
After a great season in which the Cavaliers won a second-straight ACC championship and reached the NCAA quarterfinals, the Virginia women’s golf team faces a difficult challenge for this upcoming year: the Cavaliers will have to replace their two top performers from last season, as All-American golfers Lauren Coughlin and Elizabeth Szokol have graduated.
Despite this challenge, Virginia, ranked No. 19 on Golfweek.com, still expects to contend for a third-consecutive ACC championship.
“We are fortunate to have a young, talented team,” coach Kim Lewellen said. “By our spring championship season we will be ready to compete.”
The Cavaliers will be led by senior Lauren Diaz-Yi, who finished last season ranked top-20 in the ACC for scoring average despite being slowed by a wrist injury in the fall. Diaz-Yi played especially well at the end of last spring, individually placing fourth overall at the ACC championships.
“It is truly an honor to be a part of a team that not only works hard but strives to go out and win,” Diaz-Yi said. “We have great coaches [who] create an environment that makes playing for such a team quite enjoyable. As far as team goals, I would love for us to keep defending our titles at ACCs and the Bryan Invitational, as well as strive for top three in every tournament.”
Virginia will additionally look to less experienced but highly skilled players to have big roles on this year’s team. The sophomore trio of Anna Redding, Morgan Gonzales and Katherine Patrick returns after making significant contributions as freshmen last season. Freshman newcomer Julia Ford, ranked as the No. 52 player in the nation for the class of 2016, will be an immediate contributor for the Cavaliers.
“Playing one first year and three second years is great for the future of the program,” Lewellen said.
Redding and Gonzales look especially primed to have strong years after achieving success over the summer. Both qualified for the US Women’s Amateur Competition, one of the most prestigious women’s amateur golf tournaments in the country. Redding was able to advance to the match play stage of the tournament, while Gonzales missed the cut for match play by one stroke.
“Being able to compete against the best amateur golfers gives us the opportunity to learn from how we perform against these individuals and find what we need to work on to better all aspects of our game,” Diaz-Yi said.
Lewellen also noted that these two players were key team members in last season’s ACC championships and NCAA Tournament, preparing them for increased roles on this year’s team.
“Anna and Morgan won a team conference championship last year and finished in the elite eight at NCAA’s,” Lewellen said. “So, they have the experience of championship college golf under their belt.”
The Cavaliers will begin their season this Friday in the three-day Mason Rudolph Championship tournament in Nashville, Tenn. Virginia fared well in this tournament last season, finishing in fourth place out of 17.
The Cavaliers will look to play sharply as they prepare to compete the following weekend in the Annika Intercollegiate, which is one of the country’s toughest fall tournaments. Each of the nation’s top five teams, including defending NCAA national champion UCLA, will compete at the Annika Intercollegiate.
“[Mason Rudolph Championship] is a great tournament,” Lewellen said. “But the real test will be the following week at the Annika [Intercollegiate]. That is an invitation for teams that finished well at the NCAA Tournament last year. We would like to play well this week, but more importantly use it as a gauge on what to work on to prepare for the Annika.”