Well, the MIAC Championships has been over for a few days, allowing me some time to reflect on our team's performance. Every time I think of the way we played this weekend, I swell with pride and satisfaction knowing that we played to our potential and stayed mentally strong throughout the championship, reaching our goal of a top-three finish.
Heading into the conference tournament, I really didn't know what to expect. It had been a bit of an uneven season for us this fall and we'd not been at full strength. With that said, I'd felt really good about our fall from a purely process point of view. We'd practiced intensely and the desire and motivation was there, we just hadn't come through with that low score.
Come Saturday morning, I felt the team was loose but focused, always a good sign before a big competition. As I watched and worked with the girls, I thought we were ready to post a low score. Playing with St. Benedict and Concordia, it appeared we were totally outplaying each team. My sense was off, though, as we really struggled putting and ended up posting a 349, which is still a solid score but I felt we were ready to post something more in the low 340's.
Saturday night we had a delicious meal at Louise Buckler's parents home, Robert and Anita (who are also Carleton graduates). It was nice for the team to relax, get a home-cooked meal and recharge a bit before Sunday. We checked into our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, and got a good night's rest before Sunday and round two.
Sunday was supposed to bring rain and wind, but the former never materialized. After a great breakfast, again at the Bucklers, we seemed ready to go. We played with tournament leaders Gustavus, St. Thomas and Macalester, which led us by three shots heading into play. I didn't feel like we played as well tee-to-green on Sunday as we had in the first round, but we scored a bit better and Laura Knutson was able to shave three shots off her first-round score, while Louise, Meghan Gajare and Traci Johnson all took one shot less in round two than in round one. St. Benedict and Concordia struggled, and we found ourselves three shots clear of Macalester heading into the final round.
Sunday night brought another team dinner at a player's house, this time Laura Knutson's parents, David and Paula, played host with some great pasta. Again, I thought it was great to stay together as a team in a relaxed setting.
Monday morning came, and we seemed a bit groggy on the van ride up to the course, but 36 holes of tournament golf can make one a little fatigued. The one thing about this group, though, is they're mentally and physically strong, and that factor certainly helped us. With the pressure of the final round and needing to hold off Macalester for third place, our players came through in the clutch. Katrina Wood posted another solid round of 79, and was only three shots out of the lead at the turn and if she could have made any putts during the weekend I think she could have won the tournament. Laura, meanwhile, had the round of the tournament, firing a four-over par 76, playing the final 11 holes in two-under par.
A little side story here that, as a coach, I found very cool. Laura was six-over par after seven holes and kind of down and freaking out a bit, worried about her score and just rushing, I thought. I told her to just slow down, be deliberate and to trust herself. Whether it was my words or whatever, Laura was able to get into the "zone" and just played beautifully down the stretch. She had very makable birdie putts on 8 or 9 of the final 10 holes.
Meghan also came through in that final round, firing a season-best 86 despite 40 putts. Meghan is our most powerful player and her ball-striking has really made significant improvements after we totally reworked her swing last fall. I'm hopeful this will mark a break-through for her and she can shoot in the 80s consistently as we move into the spring season.
We broke a ton of records at the MIAC Championships. It was a new 54-hole school record by a large margin, and the scores we fired were the best we've ever posted at the conference tournament. Katrina and Laura's 243 total were conference school records and the second-best 54-hole totals in school history (second only to Katrina's 2007 Jekyll Island Collegiate total). It was our best finish ever at the MIAC Championships, and the final-round 335 was one of the best scores in school history. (In my mind, it was the best round ever because of the moment.)
Overall, it was a very rewarding fall season. To end on such a high note gives us lots of energy and optimism in the off-season, and Meghan informed me she's starting the girls on their workouts tomorrow. It will be important for us to work hard in the offseason and take this momentum into the spring season, but it's also a nice time for the girls to become college students for a while.
I'll probably take a break from the blog as well, although I may check back in occassionally. I hope you've enjoyed some additional insights into our team this fall, and in the meantime keep it in the fairway!