Saturday, October 21

Women’s golf hopes for NCAA success

Though key players left for professional tour, solid preseason run encourages team

Hungry for a national title after taking the runner-up trophy last year, the UCLA women’s golf team is looking past the departure of key players to one-up their 2009 campaign.

With the loss of two All-Americans in Maria Jose Uribe and Tiffany Joh to the professional tour, the Bruins open this season after a successful fall preseason run in which they earned four second-place finishes as a team. UCLA once again hopes for another national championship run.

Their solid play earlier this year earned them the second ranking in the country. With a good mixture of seasoned veterans and promising newcomers, coach Carrie Forsyth’s Bruins have the potential to run the gauntlet of an NCAA season.

Leading the Bruins on their 2010 campaign will be their senior captain, Sydnee Michaels. The 2008 Second-Team All-American who leads the team in NCAA experience will need to remain the anchor of a young squad in which she is the sole senior. With Michaels having led the team in scoring average (71.1) and having two top-10 finishes this preseason, her name will likely be atop the leaderboards frequently.

Forsyth said that Michaels’ experience and leadership will be “vital” to the Bruins.

“Our success as a team, a lot of that is going to be in part of what Sydnee’s going to be able to do in her senior year,” Forsyth said.

One player to watch for is sophomore Stephanie Kono. Having won two tournaments last season, the All-American had a breakout freshman campaign in 2009 in which she did not post a score above 77. Kono returned this fall in top form and never placed outside of a tie for sixth in three of her four starts.

But it appears that recent injuries will keep her out of the Bruins’ rotation at the upcoming Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge.

“Right now for Steph, it’s really about getting healthy. … As soon as she’s healthy and ready to go, I think she’s going to play great,” Forsyth said.

The absence of Kono from the lineup does create some concern, but the Bruins have other reliable scoring options in their arsenal while the sophomore is on the mend.

Junior Glory Yang has proven to be a serious contender in tournaments and has 15 top-20 career finishes, and eight in the top 10. Yang won her first collegiate tournament title last year by nabbing the Topy Cup.

Sophomore Brianna Do, who did not see consistent playing time last year, posted a 72.9 scoring average on all four tournaments this fall. She tied for sixth place at the Stanford Pepsi Invitational in October.

“Brianna, with her performance in the fall has really shown us that she’s going to be one of our top players,” Forsyth said. “If she continues to work on her game and improve, I think she will be in the lineup consistently.”

Junior Lalita Boonnoppornkul redshirted last season and posted a collegiate best two-over par 73 in the first round at the Stanford Pepsi Invitational.

And among the newcomers of freshmen Tiffany Lua, Stacy Kim, Ariana Patterson and redshirt sophomore Lee Lopez, Forsyth has only used Lua throughout the preseason.

“She’s been a great contributor for us,” said Forsyth of Lua. “She’s going to be someone that’s consistently making the team lineup, and she’s a really solid player.”

Arizona State and USC will figure to be UCLA’s toughest competition this season, as the Bruins’ finish at last year’s NCAA Championship was sandwiched between the Sun Devils’ championship win and the Women of Troy’s third-place finish. In the fall, the Bruins were runners-up to Arizona State at the Stanford Invitational in October and to USC at the Mason Rudolph Championship in September.

Anchored by some key veterans and with the luxury of a deep rotation, the Bruins are looking to stay together through the upcoming season.

“That’s kind of what we’re trying to do ““ push them to work a little harder, put in a little bit more, give a little more, and I think if we can do it, then we’re going to be successful,” Forsyth said.

With reports by Rebecca Lee, Bruin Sports senior staff.

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