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Belles begin year at Tri-State Invite

Becki Dorner | Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Saint Mary’s opened its 2006 campaign with a seventh-place finish at the Tri-State Invitational this past Saturday.

The event took place at the par-73 5,828-yard Zollner Golf Course in Angola, Ind. The Belles recorded a cumulative squat total of 351, and Indianapolis took the team title with a final score of 308. Ball State followed closely in second place with a 310. The overall individual medalist was Indianapolis’ Kristi Piepenbrink, who finished with a two-under-par 71.

Saint Mary’s junior Katie O’Brien led the Belles with an 82 – good enough to earn her a tie for 20th place. A hole-in-one at the par-3 15th punctuated her back nine score of 38.

“We have such a young team and I am very proud of all of the newcomers for playing so well under so much pressure,” O’Brien said. “Tri-State is always a challenging course, especially for the newcomers who have never played it.”

Freshman Kate Dornbos recorded an 89, earning the second lowest score for the Belles in her first collegiate event. Alex Sei and Claire Orfanos finished with 90s and Bri Baker rounded out the Belles’ score with a 9. Orfanos and Baker were also competing in their first event of their collegiate careers.

Head coach Mark Hamilton acknowledged that the team’s performance not as strong as he had hoped.

“We had moments of brilliance but we were more rusty than we should have been after a summer of playing golf,” he said. “I was encouraged with what I saw from the freshman group. I expect strong performances from the once they get adjusted to the college scene.”

The young Belles undoubtedly have some big FootJoys to fill. Last year the team graduated four seniors, including MIAA league MVP and NCAA qualifier Megan Mattia, who departed last year after finishing 18th in the spring Division III national championships.

For O’Brien, who returns with Sei as one of the leading contributors from last season’s MIAA championship team, this year promises “a lot of potential.”

“I hope that our team can follow the success of previous teams and bring home another MIAA championship,” she said.

Saint Mary’s was recently named the third best college in the nation for female student-athlete golfers, behind only Princeton and Yale.

Hamilton reiterated that the team’s goal is to repeat as league winners.

“We need to work on consistency, stacking up the pars, and staying away from the big numbers [in order to repeat as champions],” he said.

The Belles’ next contest is the Ferris State Invitational this weekend.