LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Effort and expectation are firmly in place for the 2006-07 Wyoming Cowgirl Golf program. Team members are anxious to get back on the course this spring and show that the bar has been raised as far as the level at which they are capable of competing.
Six letterwinners return from an improved team last season and four talented freshmen have been added to the mix, instantly upping the internal competition for the five team travel spots.
Second year head coach Josey Stender took her team to five tournaments during the fall of 2006 and had mixed results, but an overall positive direction for the program. UW players continued to lower their stroke averages and a milestone was achieved, when junior Laura Mengelkamp set a school record for low individual round during the fall's final round, scoring 69 (-3).
"Our focus this season is on realizing our potential and believing that we can play to that level," said Stender. "We return many of the same players from last year, just with higher expectations. Our returners have put in a lot of effort towards improvement, while on the flip side the freshman came in with the frame of mind that they could step right in and compete. That makes for a very positive team atmosphere.
"During the fall we played well early in tournaments, but then seemed to slip a bit as the rounds progressed, so one of our spring goals is to continue to play well at the start and then really maintain our focus and finish strong. With an increase in our overall talent level, we've been in situations where we play with an early lead, which is great, however, we need to learn to play out of our comfort zone and be consistent through 54 holes.
"I know this team can be tough mentally and physically, and that will help us play well regardless of the circumstance. I've seen that we can persevere in bad weather elements and I think that the hard work we've put into physical conditioning will pay off."
Wyoming is consistently led by the play of Mengelkamp, who after a fifth place finish this fall at the Lady Aztec Invite now has seven top-five finishes in her collegiate career, and 15 in the top-25. Laura was again UW's stroke average leader during the fall, 76.50, which ranks 16th in the Mountain West Conference.
The talent pool that makes up the remainder of UW's roster has steadily gotten better. Senior Michelle Camaione and junior Kaelee Aegerter both lowered their stroke averages last fall, and sophomore Mikala Henzlik, who finished fourth at the 2006 MWC Championship, has shown a growing confidence in her game. Freshmen Jonelle Martinez and Sarah Fogerty gave the Cowgirls some good rounds in their first collegiate go-around, and senior Kayla Morrison and junior Lindsay Bauknecht provide unprecedented depth to the Wyoming team. Freshmen Johnna Jeffries and Ashlee Lansang are redshirting this season.
"It is a huge advantage for us to have such a nice mix of young and old members of this team," notes Stender. "There is a fresh confidence from the younger players that carries over and the upperclassmen have been stepping up to the situation. Increased communication has helped on all fronts."
After playing five events last fall, Wyoming's spring schedule consists of six tournaments and one dual. For the first time, the Cowgirls will host an event in Arizona during the spring of 2007. UW will be the home team for the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic, scheduled for April 9-10 in Chandler, Ariz., at Ocotillo Golf Club.
"It was nice that we were able to shorten our fall season by one event," stated Stender. "That helped keep us fresh and anticipating the spring. We also played some different tournaments, such as Notre Dame, where we saw some teams we normally don't see and played a different style of course, which challenged us.
"This spring we will play a nice variety of events, but the highlight will be the tournament we'll host in Arizona. The team has really taken ownership in that home event and it should feature an even field playing a good course. Ultimately we would like to combine our event with the men's tournament and create a unique NCAA dual."
The season will culminate at the MWC Championship, which will be held April 19-21, in St. George, Utah. The MWC will again be a national power, with four of seven league teams heading into the spring of 2007 ranked in the Top 50 nationally according to Golfstat, led by New Mexico at #17 and BYU at #20. UNLV is the three-time defending MWC team champion.
"I expect that there will be no let down in the MWC this year," says Stender. "The conference remains very strong and our realistic goal will be to continue to close the gap and catch several teams."